ComplexCulture X AfroPunk Brooklyn
Just the other day I got an e-mail reminder about the early bird tickets for AfroPunk 2017 and I realized I need to share with you my view on AfroPunk.
"The AFROPUNK movement is pushing authentic culture forward through music and fashion!"
My first AfroPunk experience in one word? Stimulus satiation! This festival allowed me to have so many healing conversations and question my own bias. It brought back so many memories and unresolved issues of self doubt, that I kinda don't know where to start. But since I always try to put in words what I feel words can't fully capture, I have decided to give you a bit of background about who I am. Then you will probably understand why and what kinda people go to AfroPunk. Growing up in Germany I was very used to being the only black person in almost any of my free time activities or interests. Especially in music. I was listening to Punk and Rock most of my teenage years and only later got introduced to Hip Hop & RnB by my older sister. My parents implanted soul, funk and African music therefore I was super culture complex with no chance of expressing, articulating or let alone fully living it. I just didn't belong and couldn't choose a box because I loved all of it - all of it was me. Often times I felt very alone with no allays, I was just peculiar, that's it. #awkwardblackgirl I mean imagine I was a black girl, living in German suburbs jumping and head banging to “Sum41” or listening to “
Avril Lavigne” while crying over my first crush (a white skater boy). Cultural identity was so complex in my personal experience that just thinking about that time brings a smile on my face and yet tears to my eyes. I remember how my hairdresser would laugh at me in her little salon calling me the “white African girl” or “black German” for the fact that I was always on time for my hair appointments and was asking questions about the product she put in my hair. Not wanting a wig or a weave but rather long box braids for super foreign to my African peers - it all didn't make sense to them. Meanwhile, white kids would call me “Nigger”, I would get into physical fights and none of the boys were interested in my “black natural beauty” - they didn't see it - I was just “a really cool & tough girl” to them - when really I felt fragile and broken. So I just remained in my Tom Boy bubble embraced sports as an outlet for my inner rage and the monthly youth Punk Party of my suburban catholic youth centre.
My first black friend Joana who still is my close friend was the first person challenging my “blackness” as well as “femininity” amongst my black peers. Having the whole challenge all over again this time cause I wasn't black enough nor feminine was draining. Joana was mixed race and a very skilled dancer. I come from Punk music - I barely danced. Plus her critic to my blackness was outlandish and ridiculous to me back then because she wasn't even “really black”- she was mixed race. I remember one moment in her Room, the radio was switch on “ Jam FM” the only black music radio in Germany at that time, Joana was practising moves in front of her mirror and I was unwrapping my new pair of converse - I got them in Pink and black, to be a bit more girly. Joana asked me if I had high heels as she wants to go clubbing that weekend. We were 14 or 15 at that time LOL. I told her that I don't own any heels or “sexy” outfits, and she laughed at me so hard saying “what's wrong with you? What type of girl are you. You look like a boy with all the sports you do, you have no shape, your breast is flat and you don't even wear heels?” I was so offended, but I said nothing. I just thought she probably knows more since she has been in that scene longer than me. Today I know that was just as ignorant as me thinking mixed race girls are not really black. Joana went through her own story and journey of black-german identity and I am now the proud owner of countless pair of high heels that I actually love wearing. Ahaha With my exposure and love for HipHop, I've been to many “black music” events. I have been a real party animal, enjoying benefits solely based on my looks or the perception I could create for people. I loved it especially in the Hip Hop scene as I felt we can all embrace one another other. I can create and be this infamous video vixen beauty as my looks and body type changed throughout puberty and was now praised all over the place. Embraced by white male and females of my age group and beyond. What a confidence boost! I even hosted my own Party. “Heat and Sweat” - Gracing the party flyer in sexy beachwear. HA! After a while, I noticed one thing that this scene unfortunately had in common. False pretence, division, posing and jealousy. It really started to annoy me that it seems that “black people” at “black music events” can't seem to unite and support each other. It was a constant attempt to outdo the next person in style and material success. Folks went broke, stole or fraud their way through this lifestyle. The pressure of uniformity to that “black America” copied urban hip hop image was getting to me - I started acting just like the people I so disliked and called fake. I lived on bank overdraft and as I knew nothing about money responsibility. It was frustrating! And as always I had to share my thoughts with my peers. They couldn't understand what I was saying at that time. Some were even offended. I started loosing friends and popularity. After a while of unsuccessfully trying to blend both, false pretence and authenticity; I just stopped going. You see how complex it is? - and these are just excerpts of my experiences. That’s exactly what AfroPunk represents. Being black is so complex and multi layered, so rich tough under appreciated, yet copied and implemented in every other culture of this globe - in music, fashion and cuisine. Everything has a stream of “Afro” in it. Today more visible than ever and we should learn to embrace all of it, not just what the mainstream society has deemed acceptably African. Going to Afro Punk to me was a liberating experience. I can't identify with every aspect of AfroPunk, just as I know that some people can't relate with all I think and believe and that is absolutely fine. But I am so appreciative of the movement. It widens the horizon of the entire world, through the power of diverse black music & styles displayed by photo images all spread through social media and blogs like mine for the world to see. All to the point that AfroPunk now hosts its festival in different countries globally. What a statement! A platform fully used to bring awareness as well as making a bold and loud statement to elevate and embrace all of “black culture”. AfroPunk does not only represent freedom in any shape and form but from my observation it also represents a strategic imprinting, empowering and exposing the generations to come. Parents brought their Children during the daytime festivities and I thinkthat'ss brilliant. These kinds will grow up with no sense of any culture being foreign or themselves being unworthy. I really commend those parents, though I was a bitconcernedd because folks were smoking A LOT of weed and that wassurelyy in the air.Still, yet I stand by this: You can not attend AfroPunk and leave it ignorant, its impossible!