The Event: Afropunk Fest
The Dates: August 21 to 23, 2015
The Dig: Commodore Barry Park (and surrounding streets, apparently) in Brooklyn, New York
The Performers: Among its 53 acts were Ms. Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Kelis, Lion Babe, SZA, Kaytranada, Goldlink, Soulection and Kelela
The Crowd: No matter which part of Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park you were planted in, there was sure to be a wide assortment of skin tones, hairdos, makeup, body jewelry and clothing styles.
Sameer, Colorlines culture reporter and self-proclaimed Afropunker, and I had heard that there were celebrities in the crowd, but everyone appeared to be famous as they moved around the park grounds like high-fashion praying mantises and butterflies.
Basically, if you were at Afropunk 2015, you were one of three people: a photographer, a muse, or a people-watcher watching the photographers and muses. (At least this is what we saw with our general-admission press passes.)
The Food: There were plenty of options, from Indian to Belgian, but what caught our eyes was Snow Day, a truck dedicated to social change that sells maple syrup-themed foods. We had already eaten, but since social change is our thing we stopped by and talked to a gentleman who had been hilariously complimenting his own looks in an effort to attract patrons. (As we approached, he was yelling something like, "Hey ladies, come visit a good-looking brotha.") But he very seriously explained to us that Snow Day is run by an organization called Drive Change and that it trains and employs formally incarcerated youth. Great cause!
The Event: On Saturday, amidst the performances, was a protest in support of trans lives. A line of people carrying signs like, "I Stand For More Than Just Marriage" and "I Stand For Justice For Trans People" marched through the crowd chanting. They were demonstrating within the context of the killing of Tamara Dominguez, the 17th trans person that we know of who has been killed in the U.S. so far this year. The action was well-received by Afropunk-goers.
Musically speaking, Lion Babe’s performance of "Treat Me Like Fire" had the audience roaring. SZA was also pretty awesome, and Kelis was stunning with her pink dress and baby bump.
There was a little fiasco with Ms. Lauryn Hill’s 7:15 performance. Of course, being Ms. Hill, she came on late (we still love her). Midway through her set, the stage lights went off. There was no official explanation, but it was widely speculated that the lighting mishap occurred because Hill went over her time. (This wasn’t far-fetched given that starting late usually means ending late.) The audience wasn’t happy watching what seemed to be a stalemate between Ms. Hill’s band and folks backstage. Awkward wasn’t the word.
The night ended with a highly anticipated performance by Grace Jones. Wearing a under-breast corset, sheer stockings, white body paint, a skull mask, a spiked helmet and stilettos, Grace did not disappoint. People will be telling their grandchildren about how the 67-year-old hula hooped through an extended version of "Slave To the Rhythm."
On the last day of the festival, we saw great performances by Kaytranada, Goldlink, Soulection and Kelela. Lenny Kravitz rounded out the bill. He did not have a wardrobe malfunction of any kind, at least for the first 15 minutes of his set. That’s as much as we were able to witness because it was a school night, and Colorlines had to make it back home safely. With that said, check out some the scene below.
August 23, 2015 When I happened upon Juno Brown today she was breast feeding her daughter before arranging her wares for sale. It was too much to do all at once, she explained. (I am posting this photograph instead of a shot of her breastfeeding because I am not sure of instagram’s policy on pictures of breastfeeding mothers.) I was happy to see her proudly caring for her daughter while selling her handmade hair accessories. "I chose to do this alone. Being an entrepreneur and a single mother means I am determined to stay at home with my child no matter what. I am in the process of starting a non-profit called the National Assembly of Single Mothers. I believe every mother should be able to stay at home with their child regardless of their relationship status, race, or class. My daughter has never had to use a bottle. She is 100% breastfed. She’s never been in a crib or stroller. I wear her at all times. It’s been a joyful struggle! I love every day." Photo by @ruddyroye for @afropunk #afropunkfest15 #afropunkfest15takeover #afropunk