Hundreds gathered at Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park this weekend for AFROPUNK’s annual music festival. Celebrating its 12th year in New York City, the two-day Black culture gala opened its stages to many acclaimed performers including CeeLo, Janelle Monáe, Ice Cube, and more.

But it’s not just about the music.

In a time when Black bodies are being taken daily and our culture is continuously misunderstood, AFROPUNK couldn’t be more important. AFROPUNK co-founder Matthew Morgan, who grew up in England in the 1970s, told The Huffington Post last year:

“I saw young people of color come up at time in the UK where they were pushing back against the government. They were pushing back against society in general, and punk rock — from a white Western sense — came from that angst and that rebellious nature that was from young black people.”

With the aid of filmmaker James Spooner, Morgan took on the responsibility of revolutionizing how Black culture is understood with a 66-minute documentary. The film, which went on to win multiple awards, would later spawn what we know AFROPUNK Festival to be today.

“We exist to be a part of what is 360 degrees of blackness,” he said. “It’s an alternative view on our culture and music and things that are important to us.”

We talked to the men at AFROPUNK Brooklyn 2016 about the significance of the festival and what it means to them.

Read their thought-provoking responses below:

Avery Smith, 36, Web/Video Entrepreneur (@averygoodidea)

What AFROPUNK Means To Him:

“I think that it’s important just to be able to have a place where you are normal and the standard. I think that there’s a level of respect that you get when you can be in places and environments like this. In other places like the continent, something like this is on a regular basis — just the fact that a lot of Black people can come together — but here in a place like the United States it’s doubly important, especially in places like New York with all the gentrification going on. It’s important that our culture and our people are affirmed in who they are and when they look in the mirror they like what they see.”


Russell Taylor, Singer/Entertainer (@rsoulstar)

What AFROPUNK Means To Him:

“There’s something energizing about being around your own people celebrating throughout the diaspora the things that connect you — food, clothing, music. Though we are all strangers, there’s a connection and there’s power in seeing all shades of brown, and it’s peace. To me, that’s what it means. The sh*t outside of this gate, we’ll deal with when we get outside, but right now everybody’s cool.”


Khiry Mcdanill, 25, Carpenter (@thelifeofkhi)

What AFROPUNK Means To Him:

“I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching this year, trying to find myself, and I figured this would be a great place to experience that. Coming here and just seeing all different kinds of people is nice. People are afraid to be themselves, but AFROPUNK is all about being yourself, coming here and being embraced for who you are.”


Tyler Lewis, 36, Writer (@tlewisisdope)

What AFROPUNK Means To Him:

“I think one of the things that’s always gonna be important for us is to decolonize and to really come to grips with who we are as a people — our diversity, our beauty, our creativity, the fact that we created all of this. This is all ours. We were brought here as slaves and we came here and we built this amazing country we got very little credit for. What I think is great about AFROPUNK is you get to come here and [witness] this amazing diversity and celebrate yourself for two days, see people you’ve never seen before, interact, show some love. It’s a really affirming, powerful space built here, so I really appreciate the opportunity. This is my first time, actually. Sometimes I worry that we don’t appreciate how much love we give to each other and so when you come to places like this, it’s sort of like that’s the ethos, and it’s just nice to be in that space.”


Anthony Odige, 20, Student/Designer (@antoriginates)

What AFROPUNK Means To Him:

“It’s important because it’s expressing yourself. When I came here back in 2013 or ’14 and I saw all the different fashions, everybody’s unique style, the music, and everything, it kind of changed me in a way. I’m from Jersey, and the part I’m from it’s like everybody kind of does the same thing. They would call this stuff weird, and then I come here and it’s cool. My perspective on all of it changed when I came to AFROPUNK.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Stephanie Long


AFROPUNK Is Gearing Up For London, But First—The Artists Who Wowed Us In Brooklyn


Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival 2014
@2x tud logo 2016 launch
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