Having started out as a free, small-scale music festival in 2003, Afropunk has grown into a conduit for black activism and community action. From that initial output, the little black punk festival that could has grown from 100 attendees to 60,000. One of the organizer’s established relationships with brands and big-name artists, such as last year’s headliner, D’Angelo, helped boost the festival’s profil and attendance. This year’s two-day outdoor festival, the 11th, boasts that same high-caliber bang, with headliners Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz and Kelis, but for the first time it will cost to get in.
Harlem2Nippon’s self-proclaimed fearless reporter, Erina shared her Aropunk experience.
We Can All Get Along
Reported by Erina
The Event: Afropunk Fest
The Dates: August 21 to 23, 2015
The Dig: Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York
If there is any music festival where black men, women, boys and girls can be their carefree, cool and creative selves, it’s at AFROPUNK Fest. You can find a wide assortment of skin tones, hairdos, makeup, body jewelry and clothing styles.
When I reached the Commodore Barry Park the line was stretched a block from the general admissions entrance and it took me an hour and half to get in. Fortunately while we were waiting a friendly young security guy kept us laughing with his jokes.
Once inside I was trying to figure out which one was the main stage (there were 3 stages). No event maps or instructions were handed out…….. On the first day, the main stage — a.k.a. the green stage — was set for girl power with acts ranging from newcomers Lion Babe to Grace Jones, a headliner, so I was told later. OK, first things first, I have to quench my thirst. Yes, beer sounds good. Then I got a chance to walk around. When it comes to food, there were plenty of options, from Indian to Belgian, but what caught my eyes was Café Habana from Brooklyn. I got myself this baked corn.
I looked around. So many people……. The vibe was so friendly and laid back. Very chill and a sense of togetherness. Yes, it’s the people. The energy of the people throughout the event is so positive. It was my first time I felt so good among ocean of the people, talk to someone you never thought you would, and leave with the sense that you were just a part of something that really mattered.
I waited faithfully for Ms. Lauryn Hill to grace the stage at Afropunk, and when she finally arrived I felt like the wait was rather short, even though it was almost an hour later than scheduled. Darkness had set over Brooklyn by the time the legendary rapper sat centerstage, guitar in hand. Her set was totally acoustic just like her NY Tour in 2014.
She moved through tracks from her Unplugged album. Us fans anticipated hearing cuts from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and she didn’t disappoint us singing my favorite “Doo Wop (That thing).” Everybody seemed to love Lauryn and I’m the biggest fan.
It was so beautiful and peaceful after dark and tall skyscrapers in the backdrop. Quite impressive.
I first came to notice Grace Jones from a famous photo in the fashion magazine. All I know about her back then was that she was Andy Warhol’s muse and she revolutionized everything in fashion, in music and in art. But I have never seen her live performance until now.
One thing I found out yesterday was that she was 67! For real??
By the time Grace Jones were to perform, the crowd situation created a level of mayhem like none other. I was squeezed in to the passage connected to the stage. I can’t move………
Maybe she would act like a diva just standing and sing…….. so I thought. “Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Grace Jones,” said a robotic voice over as she appeared atop an elevated stage dressed in a billowing black cloak and a gold metal skull mask with a halo of pointy sun rays encircling it.
Then SHE came!!!! She came out!!
With fabulous costume changes — as unique as they could get — and fearless energy, Ms. Jones is one of the most vibrant performers you can ever see live.
Clad in white and black body paint, she also wore a hooded skeleton mask head dress as she showed out for the crowd.
It was so socking that I couldn’t believe my eyes!! At age 67. Still topless…..!!!!
I don’t think she is human. Maybe she is a superwoman came from the outerspace.
I was blown away by Queen Grace’s over-the-top live show then the group of people passed me by. What…….? Lauryn Hill and her entourage proceeded to V.I.P. tent designated for main performers. She joined her kids waiting there. I was happened to be by the passage to VIP Tent!! Lucky me!!!
I really can’t focus either Lauryn or Ms. Grace. I was looking at both back and forth. While I was distracted Grace suddenly appeared from a close range. She was wearing a silver sparkling wig riding on a man! I could see her shinning breast with white body paint.
Ms. Grace started to twirl a Hula Hoop as she launched into her smash hit song “Slave To The Rhythm.” Her longtime fans might be familiar with her act that once she started she won’t stop!! To my surprise she didn’t stop spinning her Hula Hoop until the end of her song. Where did she come from………???
Damn, I haven’t seen anything like this before!!
Then, something unthinkable happened. After the show, Ms. Hill walked towards me with her family. I couldn’t help but screamed “Lauryn, I love you!” She heard me and turned around and her raspy voice said, “Thank you,” and she reached out for me and shook my hand!!!
Never in a million years did I dream that my favorite Lauryn Hill would shake my hand……!! My dream came true!!!! It felt flaky when she touched my hand just because it happened so quickly. I wasn’t prepared.
Thank you, Lauryn.
The best part of my Afropunk experience was that I walked away feeling like I had learned something and seen something through an entirely new perspective.
I will cherish this precious memory till the day I die.