Expressive, individualistic, fashionably daring and bold. These are a few words that described the audience at Brooklyn's AfroPunk music festival. No walls could have contained the amount of artistic freedom that descended upon Commodore Barry Park, when it returned from August 25th through 26th in 2012. Mathew Morgan and James Spooner started this annual tradition in 2005, and it shows no signs of stopping.
The term African-American punk sounded like an oxymoron before this festival took root. With Morgan's extensive background in the music industry, and Spooner's vision that saw the necessity for an African-American punk voice, it was only a matter of time before this funky festival evolved.
The first annual festival was held in July of 2005. As word got around, AfroPunk brought DJ's to the scene in 2006, with DJ Cipher and DJ Spooky joining the bill among others. Before her tremendous success, ASCAP member Janelle Monáe found an audience during the AfroPunk Festival in 2008. Monáe returned in 2009 and performed again in this years AfroPunk festival.
Last year, Hurricane Irene cancelled the annual gathering of the punks, so AP returned with a vengeance. ASCAP member Erykah Badu included this date on her 2012 tour schedule and performed on the first day of the festival along with Das Racist. Toro Y Moi, and TV on the Radio performed on day two along with Monáe, who dedicated her performance to the audience, stating, "When people ask me who is my fan base? I say its you. Thank you." None other than the ASCAP Golden Note honoree Pharrell Williams introduced her. á started off with mellow rhythms, then worked her way to performing her upbeat hits. She rocked out to Michael Jackson's, "One More Chance" as the crowd sang along during sunset.
The festival also included films, and the Nike Battle to the Streets Skate Competition, an amateur skater competition.
This was more than a music festival. This was a voice for your non-typical punks, and it was nothing less than liberating to have been amongst those who expressed themselves unapologetically. They let their hair out: dreads, mohawks and afros were all allowed.
Check out Janelle Monáe performing "Sincerely Jane" at the 2008 festival: