What/Who is Afropunk? It refers to the participation of black people in alternative cultures. It is a community of people who express themselves creatively through the arts. Whether through music, art, style and film, it celebrates non-conformity and differences in values and ideas.
The festival has been around since 2003, and has been growing each year with bigger musical acts and access to a wider audience. For the first time this year, admission was not free. It cost approximately $80 ($75 + Eventbrite fees) for a two-day General Admission pass. The wonderful thing about Afropunk, which makes it different from most other festivals, was their "Earn A Ticket" program, in which you could join the "Afropunk Army" and participate in a volunteer activity which guaranteed one free ticket. I was particularly excited about this year's lineup because it included Lauryn Hill, Kelis, Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Sza and Lion Babe, among many others. With this lineup, I was determined to earn my free ticket this year. By force! I participated in the online digital advocacy project -- I followed some very interesting blogs and change agents on social media and took an interesting survey, and within a couple of days I received my ticket. Other volunteer opportunities included homeless outreach with Care More and tree counting in the City.
On Saturday, with my earned weekend pass in hand, I made the [long] trip to Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn in the sweltering heat. The wait to get in didn't take too long although it felt longer due to the heat. Protip 1: Take a hat! I was impressed by the many food truck choices, but of course I ended up with one of my faves - festival and jerk chicken. We found a patch of grass close to the main stage to set up our blankets and sheets so we could enjoy the shows. However, as it got closer to the headliner performances, the area filled up. By the time Sza, and then Kelis were on, the crowd was immovable and I lost my friend. That was a mini-nightmare because I lost signal and my phone's battery was at 20%. I had resolved to myself that perhaps, I'll just have to spend the rest of my time at the festival alone. Luckily the crowd dispersed a tad and I found her, only a few steps behind where I was standing. #DiarisAGod.
Lauryn Hill was next, and the crowd had expanded even further, and got more dense if that could even be possible. I had to tamper thoughts of being crushed in case something went wrong. My back was tense and aching, my feet needed a reprieve, I was shoulder-to-shoulder and breast-to-back with people around me, hair in my face, and my 5'4'' self could barely see through all those wigs, afros and top-knot braids. Ch...by the time Ms. Lauryn came on stage (45 mins late, mind you!), I was SO THROUGH. I told myself to persevere because I was about to be serenaded by her creative genius, and yes, I was for 20 minutes or so. But then I had to call it quits when my breathing became labored and Lauryn wasn't performing any of the songs I came to hear. I was annoyed because I didn't have the fortitude to hang in there. My phone had died at that point, and I was already trying to figure out how the hell I was going to get home (I needed to somehow charge my phone to use Uber). I was more upset that I was going to miss Grace Jones' performance. Y'all don't know how much I was looking forward to hearing her sing one of my favourites, "My Jamaican Guy". For obvious reasons.
Lauryn Hill performing:
Overall, I enjoyed myself. I basked in the burning sun, breathed in the creative melanin-ated spirit and took in all of the eclectic fashion around me. I wish the festival would allow all folks to bring lawn chairs or something, or protip 2: the organizers should invest in some bleachers! Not only would we all have a place to sit while we enjoy the show (or if we're tired), they would be able to admit more people.
Did you attend the Afropunk Festival this year? If you did, how was your experience? If you didn't, why did/do you want to attend?