Story // Desmond Sam
This year “life has been life-ing” as the kids would say these days. With that said the way I experience is different, a bit more critical and drenched in perspective- mine and yours. I realized when I arrived at AFROPUNK I wasn’t the only one going through changes. This year The Greenpoint Terminal Market hosted the festivities and for the first time there was a theme, Circus Of Souls. I pumped into the festival grounds, leaving my expectations at the cobblestone threshold.
The best way to describe my walk in would be… a whirlwind. Immediately greeted with smiling familiar faces, sun rays on melanin and cameras everywhere capturing it all. This year was a bit smaller than prior years and felt very immersive. The space was vast and decadent, embellished with activities such as a foam pit, board games, a hair station, and food trucks all in the middle of two stages.
The grassy terrain we old AFROPUNK heads remember was replaced by concrete but In return gave us a beautiful skyline and ocean view. Anyone who knows me knows that I love a theme. I personally wasn’t aware that this year would be cultivated around the idea of a circus. However, I was deeply impressed to see black men on stilts parading around while women were doing aerial performances right in the entrance. The visual art within the space was beautiful and purposeful. I had the pleasure to speak with the creative director of AFROPUNK Sanyo Amboa who dissected the meaning behind artwork within the festival such as a painting called “The Black Menagerie”. Sango spoke about the portrayal of Black people historically and that his mission was to showcase that we as people can go from “spectacle to mogul”. CEO of Essence Ventures, Caroline Wanga who came flashy in a ringleader inspired outfit proclaimed to me, “This is the BLACK UTOPIA”.
That sentence struck chords as I navigated the space seeing all these ethereal black bodies simply being black. I witnessed excellence of artistry and incomparable talent across all genres. Derand Berrnar mesmerized audiences with his performance. His voice effortlessly designed to make his presence felt. Baby Tate in all pink stormed the stage to remind us the future of music is female. I was excited to see King Isis, an artist I found one day while rummaging through Apple Music. Her intoxicating voice took us into a punk paradise while doing a fun full band rendition of Sexxy Redd’s Pound Town. To close the weekend, Teyana Taylor taught us how to be a headliner with an iconic show! Miss Taylor who came out of retirement for AFROPUNK to do one last performance did not disappoint, and instead in traditional NY fashion left it all on the stage. The rest of the lineup included artists like Vince Staples, Joey Badass, Flying Lotus, and Inkio just to name a few.
You know what I love the most about Blackness? It never dulls or withers. It’s progressive and fearless specifically when standing against the test of time. Cause time in conversation with blackness is where it gets interesting. The variables stay constant- doubt from the masses, ridicule and discrimination are embedded within the foundation of blackness, however it still finds ways to preserve throughout it all. AFROPUNK is a vessel of curiosity that continues to give a platform for the next generation of black artists. Yes, things change and I’m okay with that because in all actuality change is a sign of growth.
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