Afropunk 2017 Was A Joyous Act Of Resistance

by Camille A. Collins


Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park exploded with color, exuberance and sound as revelers lit the scene for the annual Afropunk Festival this weekend. Dubbed the “other” black experience, the gathering has detonated since its inception in 2005, attracting renowned artists and a variegated crowd of local and international revelers. Outstanding headliners such as Solange, SZA, Gary Clark Jr. and Anderson Paak are obvious attractions, but social action, from incentives that allow attendees to earn tickets by performing community service to a rigorous recycling program, has always undergirded the Afropunk platform. Gigantic banners flanked either side of the main stage, proclaiming No Sexism, No Racism, No Ableism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Transphobia, No Hate. The mandate was clear: This party exults in the beauty and creativity of the African diaspora, but the fun is for everyone to share.

2AFPSUNPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

55AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

Saturday’s headliner, Solange, in perfect voice, brought the electrifying avant-garde choreography from her latest album, A Seat At The Table, and engaged in a heartfelt call and response with the enamored crowd on “Cranes in the Sky,” “F.U.B.U,” “Don’t Touch My Hair” and others. Astoundingly talented rapper/singer/drummer Anderson Paak helped close out the festival Sunday with an equally rousing set, commanding thousands in full voice to help out on “Come Down,” “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance” and “Suede.” Up-and-comers Junior Astronomers and long-admired hardcore band Burn played riveting sets on smaller stages to enthusiastic crowds, who danced and amiably moshed.

14AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

35AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

In the wake of the recent tragedies in Charlottesville, VA, and the numerous demonstrations and frightening absolution of white supremacy that came in the aftermath, the spirit of Afropunk remained characteristically joyous, high-spirited and united. To join in the dynamism of the convocation, with its explosion of a decidedly bespoke creative expression — characterized by self-styled swathes of vivid finery; that faded, beloved band t-shirt; the intricately braided or colorful peacock-punk hair; raggedy old kicks or sky high boots — the kaleidoscopic joy of it all is in itself an act of resistance: to be so black and so proud in broad daylight.

5AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

38AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

Many Afropunkers chose to make their personal expression an extension of their resistance and passionate social activism. Saturday night’s festivities on the main stage were kicked off by poet Staceyann Chin’s blistering soliloquy on the state of the union, condemning those who validate the “contemporary Klan” whose ideological ancestors once ruled with a “hand of terror.”

68AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

53AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

Breast cancer survivor and disability activist Erica Hart attends the festival faithfully each year; this time, she fearlesslydisplayed her surgical scars in an affecting and inspiring display of what she calls “topless activism” to, as she says, “push up against the restraints white supremacy puts on our bodies as breast cancer survivors or any person with a chronic illness who is not supposed to be happy, sexy and carefree.” Alexander Shelton donned a Muslim prayer robe, with a silk screen image of Malcolm X painted by a friend, because it felt empowering. “I wanted Malcolm X because when he went to Mecca, he had his awakening and came into his power,” he said. 

afropunk1Photo by Camille A. Collins

afropunk2Photo by Camille A. Collins

With a desire for increased activism and consciousness on the minds of many, this year’s “Activism Row” offered everything from booths with on-the-spot hair braiding to material from Habitat for Humanity and Toyota’s Green Initiative. Also present were voices from the community. B.A.N. (Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network) fights to keep rents affordable in Crown Heights and other areas of Brooklyn, while Head Count was on the case to assist with voter registration.

5AFPSUNPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

9AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

At Afropunk 2017, the wildly expressive outfits, unity, warmth, and joyous smiles were on display as fiercely as ever, and yet underscored by a collective consciousness that acknowledges that after the party is over, there is much work yet to be done.

46AFPSAT copyPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

33AFPSATPhoto by Marcia E. Wilson

Top photo by Marcia E. Wilson

Camille A. Collins has an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  She has been the recipient of the Short Fiction Prize from the South Carolina Arts Commission, and her writing has appeared in The Twisted Vine, a literary journal of Western New Mexico University.  She likes writing about music, and has contributed features and reviews to Afropunk and BUST.  She lives in New York City. 

​Marcia E. Wilson is a British-born freelance photographer who documents culture and the arts. Since 1995, Marcia has captured a wide variety of literary events in New York City for leading print and digital platforms. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Vibe Magazine, LA Weekly, Jet Magazine, Caribbean Times, Publishers Weekly, QBR, and Mosaic Magazine, among others places. A collection of her work has also been exhibited at the National Black Writers Conference, Medgar Evers College, New Haven Public Library, and Flatbush Public Library.

More from BUST

Pictures Of What You Missed From Afropunk 2016

8 Stunning Photos To Get You Ready For Afropunk

NYC’s Afropunk Festival Blew Our Minds


You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.