Clad in a royal blue, high-low tulle dress and sunny yellow sneakers, 50-year-old Lisa Hurley came to Afropunk Brooklyn at Commodore Barry Park this past Saturday with a two-pronged mission in mind. The Barbados native chose those colors specifically to honor her homeland, but also an outfit so voluminous, she could not be ignored.
"The theme this year is 'We See You,'" Hurley said. "I wanted to make sure I represent that: taking up space making yourself visible and unapologetic."
Afropunk is not only a music and black arts festival, but a counter-culture movement that unabashedly gives black people the space to be whoever they want to be apart from a society that polices our existence.
Drexel University student Samuel Opawumi came with his 27-year-old brother Moses to Afropunk in a fiery red ensemble inspired by the Tekkit video game franchise, adding a little Nigerian flair.
Opawumi told Gothamist, "Afropunk means inclusivity, freedom to be who you are, and acceptance [of] who you are. It means celebrating your roots, and Afropunk [it] shows that the Black Diaspora is not a monolith."
Lisa Hurley (left); yeehaw style (right). (Photos by Ruth Samuel / Gothamist)
Whether that means being their most authentic selves or dressing up in a campy, whimsical cosplay, Afropunk is a celebration of all shades, sizes, and representations of Blackness. The festival has a strict no sexism, no racism, no ableism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia, no hatefulness, and no "Trumpism" policy in an effort to ensure that it is an inclusive environment.
Founded by James Spooner and Michael Morgan in 2005, there are over 60,000 people in attendance annually, spanning from Atlanta to London and South Africa, yet concertgoers still say the Afropunk Music Festival feels familial.
"I came here with the expectation that I was going to be friends with everyone," said Aderonke Adeyemo from Bloomfield, Connecticut. "I feel at home."
This year's Brooklyn festival included big names like NAO, GoldLink, Tierra Whack, J.I.D., Rico Nasty, Tank & The Bangas, Chika, FKA Twigs, Masego, and more. Along with surprise appearances from Jidenna and Alicia Keys, this mix of artists is a testament to the diversity and vibrancy of Black culture.
Outfits that were adorned with hair picks or mixed the re-emerging yeehaw aesthetic (thanks to Lil' Nas X) with Ankara print stole the show. From avant-garde looks inspired by Afro-futurism—and the notion that black people are the future—to paying homage to the African goddess Oshun, the commonality between all of these pieces is that black individuals are taking ownership of how they see themselves and doing so without judgment.
When asked what Afropunk means to them, 27-year-old Celeste, who traveled 12 hours from Charlotte, North Carolina to attend, said: freedom, being myself, and Blackness—"It means celebrating who I am."