Tens of thousands of folks of all races and degrees of punk-ness turned Fort Greene's Commodore Barry Park into a party on Saturday, as the Afropunk Fest kicked off its 10th annual weekend of music, culture, food, and fashion.
The killings of unarmed black men by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri and on Staten Island within the last month gave the festival a bit more of a political edge than usual, with several bands expressing condolences to the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, exhorting fans to raise their arms in the "hands up don't shoot" gesture of solidarity.
But for the most part, day one of Afropunk Fest stayed true to its roots as a showcase for black musical acts that don't necessarily fit into the mainstream conception of what such a thing should look or sound like, and for celebrating the non-conformist spirit—in both personal appearance and lifestyle—of the movement. And, of course, for dancing, lounging, flirting, loving, slamming, looking good, getting high and having a blast.
In addition to the music—which has expanded to four stages this year—there's also a fleet of food trucks, several beer-drinking areas, an "activist row", BMX trick demos (which the scattering of NYPD officers, who pointedly stayed on the far edges of the action, seemed to enjoy), live mural painting, corporate giveaways, and more merchandise booths—mostly clothing and accessories—than ever before.
The best news for anyone heading Afropunk today—and, with a lineup of bands that includes Fishbone, The Internet, Unlocking the Truth, Cro Mags, and D'Angelo, it'll likely be a good time—the organizers seem to have solved the event's biggest problem of previous years, as yesterday there were virtually no lines to get into the park. Increased VIP and Fast-Pass patrons plus multiple entry points even for lowly RSVP and General Admission people adds up to a remarkable improvement on this front over the Afropunk clusterfucks of yore.
Day two of Afropunk Fest 2014 will again be at Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene, from 12:00 noon to 9:30 p.m.