Elevate Difference

Afro-Punk Festival (7/3-7/12/2009)

Brooklyn, New York

In preparation for writing this review I watched the Matt Davis' documentary that inspired BAM's Afro-Punk Festival. Afro-Punk is a movement that gives “a voice to thousands of multi-cultural kids fiercely identifying with a lifestyle path-less-traveled,” particularly those who are into indie, punk, and hardcore music. The film is an insightful look at a topic that I had never really considered: what it is like to be an African American who is involved in a scene that is overwhelmingly White.

Afro Punk (the film) provides a peek into the internal conflicts Black people face by being one of the only people of color present in these musical and artist communities. Throughout watching the film I found myself wishing more young White people could hear these feelings, and was glad the Afro-Punk Festival would provide a way for New Yorkers of all backgrounds to come together. I had the opportunity to attend some of the Brooklyn events, and though most of the music was new, the introduction through both street fairs and the website was welcome.

I was familiar with The London Souls, so I enjoyed seeing play on July 5th. They played a great set of the bluesy yet danceable combination I adore. In true punk style, the festival was diverse and included an impressive range of voices, including many women. One honorable mention is Joya Bravo. You just can’t beat a musician who combines rap and violin. Her artistry is truly unique.

I was disappointed in the way the independent film segment of the festival was handled. Although I could not find any prices for the movies on the BAM website, which said all of the festival events were free, my friend and I were told we had to pay $11 when we arrived at BAM to see Two Towns of Jasper. Since I had already seen the film on PBS, we decided not to pay for a second viewing. The closing block party included one of the most impressive street fairs I have ever attended. Each vendor was different from the last, and offered a variety of goods ranging from high quality clothing to housewares to crafts of all types. My favorite vendor, L.U.R.E., sold mobile art. Perfect for any urban travel enthusiast, get your art fix with colorfully decorated suitcases, hat bags, purses, and more.

On my way out of the block party I stopped by to speak to a woman from the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership. We spoke about the festival and after I told her how much I was enjoying it I was told that the Partnership is going to be sponsoring a series of similar street fairs in the same area this September. I can’t wait!

Written by: Janice Formichella, July 20th 2009

You can also always get the great documentary, I was able to view it on Netflix!

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I think you make a really good point, Jaleesa, that things like afro-punk tend to be relegated to bigger cities, like NYC, and would do well to reach out to smaller towns where the marginalization is probably more heavily felt.

Thanks for reviewing this. I don't live in NY and couldn't have gone anyway, but I've been into punk rock for years and, being a woman of color, had plenty of people genuinely believe I was possessed by demons because of it! It would've been a godsend to know that there are others like me, and even though I'm active on the Afro-punk site I still kinda feel I found this too late.