This past weekend marked another year of the annual AfroPunk Fest in Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park, celebrating the powerful movement launched in 2005. The concept itself emerged as a way to shed light on the less commonly represented black experience, an alternative, DIY vision that the media often neglects to show. And with A-list performances, a strong sense of community, and probably the coolest group of people in one location, this year’s festival was arguably the best yet.
Let’s start by saying we wish we had a team with us to document the street style at the festival; this was probably the best dressed, and more importantly, most uniquely dressed gathering of the summer. From traditional African attire with a modern twist to over-the-top glamor that rivaled headliner Grace Jones’ iconic style, from hardcore punk to artsy boho, dressed to impress would be an understatement. And let’s not forget about the beautiful hairdo’s, including braids, locs, and of course, Afro styles that celebrated black beauty in a variety of ways. Did we mention that this was probably the coolest group of people in one location?
Besides a spectacular show, all those cool kids had to stay entertained somehow over the course of the two-day event. Cue the abundance of gourmet food trucks and live creation of original artwork. Meanwhile, Activism Row allowed nonprofit organizations to enlighten attendees on political, social, racial, and gender issues in various different communities. And there was even shopping! A bazaar-style marketplace via the SpinThrift Market celebrated DIY culture with handmade jewelry and other one-of-a-kind accessories, bespoke apparel, natural beauty products, housewares, books, and much more.
But of course we can’t forget about the weekend’s top acts. From newcomers to icons, concertgoers were floored by one of this summer’s hottest lineups. On one hand, of-the-moment artists like Lion Babe, Sza, and Kaytranada reminded us why they’ve been gaining so much traction recently. Meanwhile, exciting new talents solidified the boundary-breaking theme of the festival, like country singer Adia Victoria and “future bounce” rapper GoldLink. But the festival truly blew up when the legends took the stage. Sets from established artists like Kelis – who shared the exciting news of her pregnancy with Saturday’s crowd – primed the audience for major names like Ms. Lauryn Hill and Grace Jones. The former’s unbeatable skills shined through as always, whether seated with a guitar or commanding the stage. Though her coming onstage 40-minutes late caused the crew to turn off her sounds and lights earlier than expected, every moment of Hill’s set was captivating and moving. Meanwhile, Grace Jones’ performance was beyond epic. The 67-year-old legend dominated as if she hadn’t aged a second, wearing nearly nothing save a corset and body paint while periodically changing dramatic masks and headpieces. She sang classics like “Nightclubbing,” “Pull Up to the Bumper,” and “Slave to the Rhythm,” the latter being done all while hula-hooping. She even revealed “Shenanigans,” a new, currently unreleased track. Grace Jones was just as cool as she’s always been (and that’s an understatement), bringing the entire festival experience together in a major way.
AfroPunk Fest would be nothing if it wasn’t for the movement itself. Not only does the cause break down stereotypes surrounding black people, but it also promotes black pride, a crucial element during a time in which society still tries to enforce white supremacy. Showing the unique layers and diverse styles within the black community, whether musically or aesthetically, AfroPunk is a vehicle for the creativity and passion that the whole world needs to see, proving just how beautiful black is.
Bummed that you missed AfroPunk Fest in Brooklyn? You’ve still got a chance to check it out in Atlanta on October 3-4! You’ll see artists from the New York lineup like Lion Babe, Kaytranada, GoldLink, ThunderCat, and more, plus headliners like Tyler, the Creator, Santigold, Flying Lotus, D’Angelo and the Vanguard, and Public Enemy! Find out more info here.
Check out some shots of the style, performances, and atmosphere at AfroPunk Brooklyn 2015 here!
All photos courtesy Instagram
Feature photo courtesy Driely Vieira for Elle