these activist organizations are taking over afropunk while changing new york city

August 27, 2017
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AFROPUNK is not just a music movement, but the soundtrack for social change. That’s why our festival stages are famously lined with banners bearing the rules: No Sexism, No Racism, No Ableism, No Ageism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Transphobia and No Hatefulness. We understand that music is spiritual, and if we’re truly about pushing its boundaries, we also have to protect the spirit of the community.

That’s why we partner with organizations dedicated to bringing our mission of “giving voice to the unwritten, unwelcome and unseen” to life. From providing critical support to migrants, promoting Afro-feminism and protecting LGBTQ communities—making sure never to forget the “T”—organizations attending AFROPUNK Brooklyn this weekend are showing the city why today, their work is as critical as it has ever been.

“When we think about Brooklyn, and the history of struggle that Black people have had in New York City, the revolts and the rebellions, the Black Panther Party in Harlem and the takeover of Lincoln Hospital—all of this history is important for the AFROPUNK community to know,” explains Allen Kwabena Frimpong of Black Lives Matter NYC. Since the national organization’s inception after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the local chapter has been a vanguard for protecting Black and Brown communities in what is arguably America’s most prime example of a police state.

“Our current work is focused on the Safety Beyond Policing campaign, which has morphed into our work for Swipe It Forward. both are to let the community know about the huge disparity of Black and Brown communities being stopped for simple infringements like hopping the turnstile, and letting people know how much money that is costing the community,” says Frimpong. “BLM NYC really allows the people here to have an entry point into activism. I’m looking at a flagpole now that reads: No Sexism, No Racism, No Ableism, No Ageism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Transphobia, No Hatefulness, and a lot of our work centers around those marginalized communities, so to be in a space like this is key.”

As Frimpong notes, FROPUNK has always been intended as a safe space. But what, exactly, does that mean in this day and age? Dante Barry, the Director of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, is leading the call to figure that out.

“We ask the fundamental question, who has the right to be safe in this country?” Barry explains. “We still don’t have the necessary infrastructure to keep our people safe, and people are still looking for ways to answer that question. When police kill Black people, how do you prevent it from happening rather than just intervene when it does?”

Million Hoodies isn’t just asking these questions, it is answering them too. “Right now we are working on Freedom Cities,” says Barry, “this is about how we must think about safety in new terms, not just in relationship to immigration status, but all of our communities—black trans women, black queer people, black children, all the intersections. When we talk about safety, it’s not just about fighting against the police or prisons, but creating social safety nets, so we have good health care and clean water.”

—Or stable housing. Imani Henry of Equality For Flatbush, a people of color-led grassroots organization for affordable housing and anti-gentrification in the Flatbush and East Flatbush communities of Brooklyn, is on the forefront of these efforts.

Imani Henry

“We are fighting for Brooklyn—small businesses, tenants, homeowners and our outdoor festivals etc. We know that there are forces that wanted to AFROPUNK not happen, complaining about the loudness & the black bodies,” explains Henry. “We will do everything in our power to keep our people in their homes, small businesses on our blocks & our festivals in the parks before it’s gone. Take it back Brooklyn is not for sale!”

These are just a handful of the organizations taking over AFROPUNK and fighting for freer futures now. Join us this weekend in answering their call.

Bonus: Check out our interview with Activism Row partner Lady Parts Justice League, “a coven of hilarious badass feminists who use humor and pop culture to expose the haters fighting against reproductive rights”:

Click here for live updates from the festival!

All photos by Damian Charles