Afropunk: Fashion and The AFROPUNK Movement

Afropunk was born from the documentary Afro-Punk: A ‘Rock and Roll N****r’ Experience. The 66-minute film, titled in a sort of loathful side eye to Patti Smith, who in 1978 put out a song of the same name, was shot between 2001 and 2003. For the first time, it brought to light a generation of young black people enamored with punk music and its fashion and lifestyle aesthetics, but who had been rejected by the scene and fellow blacks for loving something that seemed so inherently white.

Patti Smith in Rosengrten 1978
Patti Smith in Rosengrten 1978

This sparked the movement founded by Matthew Morgan and James Spooner who joined forces in 2002, their focus was to give a voice to thousands of multi-cultural kids fiercely identifying with a lifestyle path-less-traveled. Morgan, a visionary with 15 years in the music industry, instinctively understood that the indie rock/punk/hardcore scene had powerful appeal beyond the predictable Caucasian audience.   This led writer-director James Spooner to create 2003’s seminal cult classic film ‘Afro-punk’ spotlighting Black Punks in America.  The film was the result of thousands of hours of riveting hand-shot footage.

“I wanted to make a movie that I felt I needed to see when I was 14 and it was all starting,” James Spooner, the now-39-year-old director of Afro-Punk. “I just came at it with this punk rock attitude, like, fuck it. Other people make movies, why can’t I make a movie?”

AFROPUNK became a touchstone of a cultural movement strongly reminiscent of the early days of Hip-Hop. Alternative urban kids across the nation (and across the globe) who felt like outsiders discovered they were actually the core of a boldly innovative, fast-growing afropunkfashion-45community. The online members have been the driving force behind the exploding AFROPUNK (AP) culture, creating an authentic virtual home in, and nurturing the music’s best and brightest via expansion of the Liberation Sessions, a live performance series.

Original 'Afropunk' Festival poster 2009
Original ‘Afropunk’ Festival poster 2009

In 2005, the very first annual AFROPUNK Festival debuted to wildly enthusiastic crowds at the iconic Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Co-curated by Morgan and Spooner, the festival celebrated and unified the cultural cornerstones of AFROPUNK: music, film, skate, and most importantly, the fiercely independent and influential individuals that are the lifeblood of the AP community.

As the AP movement continued to gain momentum and influence, everyone began to notice largely in part to the unexpected fashion style of the crowd. The Liberation Sessions went front-and-center at CMJ and SXSW, press coverage now range from Pitchfork, URB, Vibe, and Nylon to The New York Times, Vogue, Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington, and The Los Angeles Times.

Since 2008, the AFROPUNK Festival is organized by Morgan and partner Jocelyn Cooper. Described by the New York Times as “the most multicultural festival in the US,” the word AFROPUNK itself has become synonymous with open-minded, non-conforming and unconventional, placing the institution at the epicenter of urban culture inspired by alternative music.

The authenticity of the festival is best seen in the crowd.   The pioneering efforts of Matthew Morgan are reflected in the people whose fashion is now a mixture of Afro-Punk inspired looks both original and historical to the punk movement, and yet a modern reflection of the Afropunk mindset that continues to thrive through the AFROPUNK web magazine.   The web magazine is dedicated to celebrating alternative culture and activism, reaching millions, and is spearheaded by Editor-in-Chief Lou Constant-Desportes.

Check out the fashion from this year’s Brooklyn, NY 2015 AfroPunk Festival which featured Grace Jones and Lenny Kravitz as performance headliners.

awesome photos from Kathleen Calderwood of the Village Voice NYC

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