James Spooner’s 2003 documentary, Afro-Punk, introduced to a wider audience a subculture of black youth who were gravitating to the largely-white punk scene. The community grew vastly and quickly, such that it became possible in 2005 to stage the first Afropunk Music Festival in Brooklyn, NY. Spooner and Matthew Morgan teamed on the annual event until Spooner left in 2008.
Afropunk Brooklyn returned to Commodore Barry Park on Aug. 26-17, 2017, and again attracted some 60,000 attendees. Musicians, vocalists, rappers and poets performed on five stages. Sections of the fields were dedicated to kiosks for artists, vendors and community activists.
Originally, Afropunk lineups consisted largely of underground and alternative music artists. As the Brooklyn event has grown, it has increasingly included more mainstream artists. This year’s headliners included Solange, Raphael Saadiq, Gary Clark, Jr., Sza, and Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals. Most of the punk bands this year were relegated to a smaller stage, a block away in the Golconda Playground.
Brooklyn’s AfroPunk Festival has increasingly become more than music. The event is also a showcase for local visual arts, crafts and food. This year, the festival also included a skate park and competition. Style, fashion, and expression were everywhere.
Admission to AfroPunk Brooklyn was free for many years, with entry fees of $40 to $50 beginning only in 2015. Participants were able to earn free admission through volunteer work, either in their communities or at the festival. Comparatively, other music festivals in New York typically cost more than $100 for daily admission.
AfroPunk continues to grow and the AfroPunk Music Festival is now international. Annual festivals are held in Atlanta; Paris, France; London, England; and Johannesburg, South Africa.