Afropunk is where melanin and metal music collide.
The two-day festival of blackness that is Afropunk took place Saturday and Sunday at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, N.Y. In its 11th year, the event continues to create a space for left-of-center musicians and their fans to, well, just be.
This year’s acts included CeeLo Green, George Clinton, Ice Cube, Fishbone, Afropunk veteran Janelle Monáe and the Internet. Since the festival’s inception in 2005, it has strayed a bit away from the entirely punk and heavy metal ethos—as evidenced by many of this year’s acts (read: Ice Cube)—still, the festival completely defies the notion that black music is narrow and limited.
In fact, black music is vast, just like the festival’s attendees.
We asked some Afropunkers to define their blackness. Here's what they had to say, along with a few candid photos:
Reign Apiim, 27, Pittsburgh: “I don’t define my blackness at all. My blackness is everything. Everything is blackness.”
Sabrina Lynch, 35, London, by way of Jamaica and Grenada: “My blackness is who I am. My blackness is how I live my life, and how I force people to change their perceptions of what blackness is—whether I’m in London or in New York or traveling the world.”
DJ mOma, New York: “My personal blackness is the resilience that I’ve gained from an everyday struggle. It starts from the time that you’re a little kid living in the Western world. You might not even know it. You’re building character, and you’re strengthening your soul.”
Karim Bello, 29, Brooklyn, N.Y.: “My blackness is being free. My blackness is accepting. My blackness is open. And my blackness is just being who you are.”
Quincy Adams, 39, Brooklyn, N.Y.: “I don’t even know how to define it. It’s West Indian Afro-Guyanese American. I think I’d put in all of those pieces of West African descent.”
All smiles at Afropunk.
Dan El, 25, Brooklyn, N.Y.: “Imitating my ancestors.”
Tiara Jackson, 25, Brooklyn, N.Y. (left): “My blackness is strong, royal, elite and cultural.” Rennae, 26, Brooklyn, N.Y.: “Natural, strong, royal and beautiful.”
Rich Williams, Brooklyn, N.Y.: “I don’t. I don’t consider myself black; I live for what I am right now.”
Kenneth Adams, 30, New York: “I define my blackness through my intellect, through my talents, and my adaptability.” April Qualls, 29, Los Angeles: “I define my blackness by being true to who I am as a black woman and not giving in to what society wants me to be.”
Ladene, Jersey City, N.J.: “How do I define my blackness? I don’t.”
Olutoyin Agbelemose, 25, Los Angeles: “Infinity. It goes forever and ever and ever. It’s multidimensional. Unlimited. Space-age. Very spaceful.”
Melanin on fleek.
Wendy Washington, Brooklyn, N.Y.: “Right now, everyone is saying ‘Black girl magic.’ I agree with that, and I love that, but really, right now, being black is being in a state of resistance and a state of defiance because it’s not so great to be a black woman.”
CeeLo Green's band members strike a pose at the Afropunk festival.
Free to be.
Dance like no one is watching.
Donald Glover attends his first Afropunk Fest.
Felicia Jones, 30, Baltimore: “Honestly, my blackness doesn’t fit into any box. I can express it however, whenever, wherever.”
Dash Carter, 25, Harlem: “Strong and free.”
Tiffany Pierce, 24, Brooklyn, N.Y.: “I define my blackness by the melanin in my skin, the curls in my hair and the versatility in fashion. Appreciating all colors and all of my fellow black people.”
Juwan Bizzell, 32, Washington, D.C.: “Strong, unique and brave.”
Christian Paige, 35, Washington, D.C.: “My blackness is just me. I define my own self—I don’t need anything else to define me.”
Jasmine Nichole, 24, Queens, N.Y.: “I define my blackness by sight, expression, word and art. Definitely art.”