BROOKLYN, NY—There was a time when being black and playing or listening to rock music was a novelty. White teens had embraced black artists since Little Richard in the 1950s, but only occasionally did we find black youth playing hard rock until Jimi Hendrix and Sly & The Family Stone in the late 1960s. When hardcore punk and heavy metal gained widespread popularity in the late 1970s, some of it was even linked with white supremacy, further isolating black rockers. Then came Bad Brains, several of Vernon Reid’s bands, including Living Colour, TV On The Radio, Fishbone, and even Death, Lenny Kravitz and Thin Lizzy in similar rock genres. The Black Rock Coalition formed in New York to promote, support and encourage the multi-cultural potential in alternative music.
The AfroPunk Festival was founded in 2002 and occurs each summer in Brooklyn. This year’s main attractions included Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Body Count featuring Ice-T, Bad Brains, D’Angelo, Meshell Ndegeocello, Shabazz Palaces, Fishbone, Alice Smith, Valerie June, Unlocking The Truth, over 100 artists in total. The two-day event also hosted an Activism Row, where the public could learn about local community action groups, a Spin Thrift Market for clothing and other goods, the Green Light Bookstore, and a variety of food options.