A girl smiling at a festival.
Source: Getty Images

Here’s How Afropunk Brooklyn Is Uniting Community Through Music, Art, Fashion & More

Afropunk Brooklyn is rooted in beautiful, radical thought and social nonconformity. Learn all about this movement and festival.


Sep. 28 2023, Published 12:12 p.m. ET

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What is Afropunk Brooklyn?

Emerging from James Spooner's groundbreaking 2003 documentary "Afro-Punk," which illuminated the often-overlooked Black presence in American punk, Afropunk has blossomed into a vibrant platform for diverse individuals to express themselves through activism, music, art, film, fashion, and more.

"When I started the film, I was kind of buying into what had been told to me by Black mainstream people my whole life: 'You're trying to be white,'" Spooner once said of the project's impact on the lens in which he saw himself. "As I was making the movie, I was finding out for myself that my experience as a Black person was a valid Black experience."

At the heart of the movement lies the highly anticipated Afropunk Festival, an annual gathering that pays homage to the most captivating talents in Black music, ranging from the lyrical prowess of Tobe and Martica Nwigwe to the mesmerizing R&B melodies of Teyana Taylor. Beyond the music, the festival has earned success for its role as a style mecca, drawing some of the most fashion-forward individuals the city has to offer.

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What is Afropunk style?

Source: Getty Images

A girl in fashionable attire at Afropunk Brooklyn.

Authenticity is the name of the game, from modernized church hats to flower-adorned coils and bold prints to chainmail crop tops and casual cargo pants. Afropunk style is best described as a kaleidoscope of creativity — a celebration of self-expression. The theme for 2023 was "Circus."

"The circus, on one hand, has a dark side to it, and we wanted to do something, AFROPUNK, by exploring what that means to us," Sean G, Creative Director of AFROPUNK, told The Knockturnal of the inspiration behind this year's concept.

"In history, Black people during slavery were sold and showcased in the circus as freaks. For example, the first Black Albino twins, they were showcased as the 'men from Mars.' Now, in 2023, celebrities such as Winnie Harlow are now praised for her skin discoloration."

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He continued, "AFROPUNK and I explored how the blackness from white eyes, is this fear and fascination of Black people, and how white supremacy objectified and put us on display, as the detriment to ourselves, but over time we found a way to take our power back and become not the slaves, but the masters, and come to celebrate our "freakiness," our "oddness" and let the freak show fly."

What did I miss at Afropunk 2023?

Each summer, individuals from across the globe make their way to the unapologetic celebration of Blackness. Festivities have been held in beautiful cities, including Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, Paris, London, Brazil, and Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Its 2023 event was held at the Greenpoint Terminal in Brooklyn on Aug. 26 and 27. The lineup featured the aforementioned Teyana Taylor, Joey Badass, and rising stars like Baby Tate and Durand Bernarr.

The performance marked a brief stint out of retirement for Taylor, who became overcome with emotion during her set, sharing, "I'm outside — I always get scared to headline festivals because I never think anybody will stay for me. I just wanna thank y'all so much for staying out in this hot-ass weather for me." The songstress went on to perform a medley of hits, including tracks from The Album and K.T.S.E.

The author’s content and opinions have not been pre-reviewed, approved or endorsed by Discover.

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