Since I am not ready to let go of summer(tears), lets reflect on something amazing that took place.
Are you familiar with AfroPunk? I was oblivious such a thing even existed until I started noticing the coolest pictures on Instgram. The images were of black people who recreated the fashions of a rock star but possessed another swag. They were edgy with ripped jeans, tattooed skin and wore meager vintage accessories. Guys and girls rocked afros, crazy cuts, long braids and short braids. These were black kids who were into punk music paired with incredible fashion. Clearly, I have been under a rock because this is the 10th year t he AfroPunk festival has taken place in Brooklyn. The AfroPunk festival is a place black punk lovers can come together and show appreciation for the music and fashion, it is a beautiful thing to see.
Fascinated by their appearance I wanted to know those people in the pictures. They all looked bold and fearless. Bold and fearless is how I would describe young filmmaker James Spooner. Feeling uncomfortable about the racial divide amongst the punk music scene he decided to create “Afro Punk”. The documentary spoke to black punk artist and fans about their everyday lives and filling the void of black voices in the genre. Spooner began working with former music manager Mathew Morgan birthing “the other black experience” The two worked tirelessly putting on events and booking black alternative bands for black audiences. Little did they know an online chat forum would bring together a global following of black punk music lovers.
These online chat forums became a utopia for black punk lovers alike. People would share new music, the newest bands to look out for and they were discussing the revolution of blacks into punk culture. Mathew even took it up a notch and began interviewing bands for the website. He was giving black punk musicians another outlet to express themselves. From this, the conversations grew into discussions on skateboarding, art, comedians and the LGBT community. Phil Knot was one of the men watching and he was astonished by his discovery. “I had never seen anything like it before. I had never seen so many black kids in one space.”
Phil began taking pictures on the streets of those who identified with the culture. He would tape a white background on the wall and take a simple picture that would showcase the persons face, the white background was to avoid distraction. While the white background idea was inspired by Richard Avedon it was an amazing concept to highlight the rawness of each individual. Phil makes a point to mention, “I never dressed them `These people were photographed as they were”.
Recently, Phil photographed a group of middle school boys from Brooklyn know as “Unlocking the Truth”. The boy group started playing music on the street and has since signed a multi album deal with Sony. Opening up for veteran bands like Guns and Roses at Cochella has unequivocally given them attention of main stream media.
The AfroPunk festival takes place in Brooklyn and captivates tens of thousands every summer. In the past I had no interest in punk music, black or white. After witnessing the fashion punk inspires, I can’t wait to learn more about the culture and check out “Unlocking the Truth”.