op-ed: afropunk and the souls of black folk

September 25, 2015

This was my first time at AFROPUNK. Sure, I’ve heard the stories. “AFROPUNK is lit.” “AFROPUNK is like a live Instagram feed.” “AFROPUNK performances can’t be beat.” I needed to experience it myself and come to my own conclusions. As we prepared for our week in New York City, many people asked me and Zakkiyyah “oh, are ya’ll in New York for AFROPUNK?” The answer was no. We ventured there for so many other reasons—our Self-Care Sunday yoga and music pop-up for MoCADA’s Soul of Brooklyn Festival and our Food Church gathering with Jenné Claiborne. But, not going to lie: AFROPUNK was the icing on the cake.

By AFROPUNK Contributor Lauren Ash 

* This article was originally published by Black Girl In OmContributions by Adora Tokyo, Chelsea Bravo, Markus Prime, & Aundre Larrow.

Photo credit: Adrian Octavius Walker


If I had kept two little stream of consciousness moleskine’s documenting each day of AFROPUNK, it would look a little something like this:

Day 1: blackness, melanin, style, art, bae, bae 2, bae 3, what are they doing here?, shrugs and keeps it moving, why are we so amazing, though?, Chelsea Bravo is the cutest, we gon’ be alright, oh, hey Lion Babe!, #veryblacktent for the win, Bevel is here awesome, sure you can take my picture, black trans lives matter indeed, wait, don’t I know them from Instagram?, I’m beginning to feel overstimulated by all this beauty, goodnight.

Day 2: here we go again, I like that hairstyle, okay that hairstyle is even more impressive, I think I know her from Instagram, OMG he changed my life, Jesse Boykins ftw, let me pose real quick, we are SO damn beautiful, okay I’m overstimulated again and a little bit earlier than before. Goodnight.

When I reflect on my overall experience at AFROPUNK, I realize that it was one of the most affirming spaces I’ve ever been in as a black woman concerned about all things black and interested in the intersections of blackness, identity, and creative expression. I got to thinking: what were others’ experiences at AFROPUNK? And how did AFROPUNK speak to the souls of black and brown folk? So, I asked some of my friends, old and new. Here’s what they had to say. Note: if you’d like to contribute your thoughts to these questions, simply e-mail


Photo credit: Driely S. Via Oyster Magazine


What did AFROPUNK affirm for youas a woman of color? AFROPUNK affirmed to me that we really are beautiful. We all come in different shades, shapes and sizes. When we embrace all that we are fearlessly, without comparison, we shine in a way that cannot be ignored or forgotten. It was beautiful to see Black people together as a community of loving souls, shining in our skin, and owning who we are entirely.  For me, coming from London, it was a rare experience and I felt so much positivity and peace from everybody. I didn’t feel at any point that any girl or guy was sizing me up in a judging way. Each person I met eyes with smiled and I felt a sense of admiration coming from them. It caused me to extend that love right back, it was a really beautiful experience.

How did your spirit feel before, during and after AFROPUNK? My spirit felt alive, there was a sense of oneness and peace throughout my entire day at AFROPUNK. It was really beautiful and rare.

I felt very comfortable in the space and around everybody. Which again, was just so rare for me. As a teenager, I received a lot of negativity from Black women. At one point, I didn’t enjoy being around Black girls. The judgement I faced was hard to bear. It was a real struggle and I opted for white or mixed friends for many years because of uncomfortable experiences such as being told that I thought I was too nice. I can say that times have changed for the better and it was beautiful to witness this change through the attitude and energy coming from women of colour during the festival. I honestly can’t wait to go back!




Photo credit: BEVEL


What did AFROPUNK affirm for youas a man of color? That our culture can be unified. People talk a lot about the fatal flaws of being Black, that although we have such a large base we are rarely unified, rarely together and can be inherently divisive.

All of those things can be tough to hear and seeing the opposite at AFROPUNK was lovely. Seas of colorful clothes donned by my brothers and sisters was empowering. And that isn’t even mentioning the spirit of joy that hovered over the park.

How did your spirit feel before, during, and after AFROPUNK? Before: I was anxious. We had a lot to do for the Bevel tent to be successful and I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.

During: Honestly it was a blur. But one that I remember quite fondly.

After: So proud of what my team did, and amazed with what such a small area [Commodore Barry Park] could do for my soul. I left feeling closer to my community and to all the other AFRO PUNKS out there.




Photo credit: Devin Allen


What did AFRO PUNK affirm for youas a man of color? AFROPUNK affirmed for me that Black people are indeed the most beautiful, innovative and exciting people on this planet….without even trying.

How did your spirit feel before, during, and after AFRO PUNK? Before AFROPUNK I was so anxious and excited. During, my spirit was overwhelmed with happiness meeting one amazing person after another. After, I was content with all the energy I came in touch with.




Photo credit: Rockie Nolan Via Refinery 29

What did AFROPUNK affirm for youas a woman of color? Attending AFROPUNK affirmed that I am not alone. So often in my teenage and young adult life I felt that I did not fit in. There is a consciousness present in AFROPUNK that reminds us that we are all at home. Everyone “fits in” and stands out simultaneously. When mainstream Black culture/hip hop culture didn’t understand us, AFROPUNK created an idea and an identity for us to call our own. Sprawling with colorful creatives, I felt surrounded by like-minded individuals who didn’t cower at the reality of being the minority of the minority. The shades of brown present at AFROPUNK affirmed that “Black” is changing, our culture is evolving and we’re all more confident because of it.

How did your spirit feel before, during, and after AFROPUNK? Before AFROPUNK my spirit was eager and anxious to soak up…US. During the festival, I was elated. I ran into friends from high school all the way up to people I’d seen the week before in another city. The talent at the festival was so diverse and satisfying, bills like that don’t really get any better. We were in the midst of generational icons, and cultural influencers who have been cornerstones in the AFROPUNK community. Lastly, I left Brooklyn feeling the same way I felt before arriving: Eager and anxious to soak up more of US in ATL.