Rise Up

Festivalgoers Tell Us About Afropunk's Important Social Justice Roots

We were on the ground at Brooklyn's one-of-a-kind festival where music meets activism.

by Aaron Barksdale
Aug 28 2017, 5:15pm

Thousands of people crammed into Brooklyn's Commodore Barry Park for Afropunk, a one-of-a-kind music festival that uplifts black culture and spreads a message of social justice activism. Attendees were encouraged to "earn tickets" through completing various hours of community service with locally based organizations, and the lineup predominantly featured performers of color who represented marginalized communities.

It's clear that Afropunk is more than a music festival. It's a space primarily for black people, though inclusive of all races and ethnicities, to be free from sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, fat phobia, transphobia and hatefulness—essentially, it's paradise.

VICE Impact was on the ground to ask festival-goers what Afropunk meant to them and how its activist roots made the experience more than just a day of music and fun.

Brandon Karen-Maddox and Adrienne Grayish -- Brooklyn, NY and Baltimore, MD

"Afropunk is a very unique space culturally because we have people of all different shades of skin; however, the white people here stick out, which I really appreciate because in America it's hard to find that cultural space without there being some kind of political issue. Politics exist here, but so does art, so does culture, so does food and so does music."

Shaquille Broughton-Wright, 23 -- Bonneau Beach, South Carolina

"This festival is beyond Afropunk. Even people of the same race and of the same environment—it seems as if anywhere else we probably wouldn't interact with one another, but here it's possible."

Dayo Johnson, 23 -- Brooklyn, NY

"I was raised here in Brooklyn and always grew up around different types of black people and here it's such a mixing pot it's insane. It's just beautiful and my heart melts every time I'm here."

Tamara Lee, 43 -- Harlem, NY

Featured artwork by Tim Okamura

"I think a festival like this is really necessary to show that it's ok to be all of our identities at once. Afropunk has always stood for that, so I stand with Afropunk."

Tim Okamura, 48 -- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Featured artwork by Tim Okamura

"I think that Afopunk is a coming together of like-minded people, a sense of social awareness, people interested in evolving consciousness, taking it to the next level, working together as a community to fight for social justice reform but celebrate the progress that we've already made with music, and drinks and a little smoke."

Dominic Despinosse, 27 -- Hamburg, Germany

"It's a place where a lot of positive people can meet. There's great music, great food and lot of positive energy."

Ashleigh Shackelford, 26 -- Richmond, VA

"Afropunk is more than a music festival because it's about celebrating and embodying a culture. It's about camaraderie and just what that feels like. It's beyond just the representation and the look of blackness, but the spectrum of all the things that we embody and all the things that we can be."

ÄYÄ, 26 -- Kansas City, MO

"It's an opportunity for people who look alike, or don't look alike but share similarities in their beliefs, to come together and express themselves in a place that they are not judged."

Sarafina Musumeci, Gabriella Musumeci, 21, Jason Smith, 20 -- Brooklyn, NY

"It's a way to express your complete inner-being and completely be whatever you want and be cool with it. You're on the same page, you're in the same boat, and everyone is here for the same exact reasons."

Blake Diamond, 23 -- New York, NY

"It's an environment. It's own little place. Once a year it's Afropunk season—it's everything for a black creative. Everything that we should really care about: being around each other, supporting each other, loving each other.

Joshua Hewitt, 28 -- Albany, NY

"To be living black in America is a protest. For black people who say I'm just a black person that's not true because you're living in America and people are actively working to marginalize you."

Nyanayul Maker, 21 -- South Sudan

"I think Afropunk is a place where all walks of life can and be themselves whether you're black, white, gay, transgender—everyone comes here and they're so supportive of each other.

Jessica Napoletano, 26 -- Jersey City, NJ

"It's a beautiful expression of freedom."

ENI, 20 -- New Jersey

"It's about coming together, being a free spirit and talking about real issues all in one place."

If you missed out on Brooklyn's Afropunk, the organizers have additional festivals in Atlanta, GA and Johannesburg, South Africa happening later this year.

Also, tweet at @VICEImpact to let us know if there should be more events that combine entertainment and social causes.

social justice
music festival