Brooklyn Afropunk music festival returns to its roots in Fort Greene

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After being away for two years due to the pandemic, Afropunk returned to New York for their Brooklyn edition on the weekend of September 10-11. For two days of sun and rain, artists spanning rap, rock, alternative R&B and Afrobeats converged at Fort Greene’s Commodore Barry Park, where they performed to an estimated crowd of nearly 10,000. each day, according to a festival spokesperson. Many attendees hailed its return, saying it offered a place for black expression in all its forms.

“That’s where Afropunk is now: it’s still a safe space for black people of all faiths in the diaspora to come together and be together and fellowship,” said Isaac Campbell, DJ under the stage name MoreSoupPlease. Campbell was originally a photographer for Afropunk years ago before realizing he could also pursue one of his other passions: music.

Campbell, who had played the cello for years, began to turn to DJing. Her performance at Afropunk on Saturday was her very first appearance at the festival – and a place to find and build a supporting audience.

“It’s a black space of allies, and we come here to make ourselves,” Campbell said.

Co-founded by James Spooner, Afropunk, the festival grew out of a DIY documentary, “Afro-punk,” which Spooner made to examine what it was like to be the only black kid at a punk show.

“I didn’t see myself represented at all in the subcultures I was drawn to, and I really wanted to ask why that was the case,” Spooner told The Fader in 2015. “By the time the film came out in 2003, [there] there wasn’t really much room for black kids who wanted to do anything other than pop bottles.

After a series of screenings across the country, Spooner and Matthew Morgan kicked off the music festival in 2005 with shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and punk club CBGB. It now takes place in Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene. Over the years, the event has expanded beyond New York to hold events across the country and around the world. Artists like Jaden Smith, SZA, D’Angelo and The Vanguard have played electrifying sets in the past. Philadelphia hip-hop group The Roots and rising Nigerian superstar Burna Boy headlined this year’s festival, which also featured fashion and wellness strands.

Afropunk’s ambitious expansion plans continue. This November, the festival will bring the entertainment to Brazil, and next February, Afropunk will collaborate with Lincoln Center to bring black female creators from around the world for a weekend of programming.

But even though Afropunk is no longer explicitly punk, festival-goers say it remains a place to foster community among black people. Arisha Clark, a 24-year-old youth activist, said it was her first time attending the event.

“I’ve been sheltered my whole life,” Clark said. “So it feels good to now step into a space where I can actually be myself. Like me being black, like me being female, and like me being queer, and knowing that I wasn’t able to Coming into certain spaces comfortably and being myself, I could literally let go and have a great time.

Mfrie Imoh, 36, manned the fort in her brother’s vendor tent, where she helped him sell his African-inspired clothes. She has been coming to the festival since 2015 and says she has discovered something new each time.

“It’s always great to see black people doing black stuff, and being Nigerian myself and having the African diaspora culture here and showing what it is and what it’s like – c is always awesome,” Imoh said. “That’s my experience every time. I learn something new. I see something different. I am relaxed, vibrated and I appreciate being in my darkness.

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