Afropunk Atlanta and its importance to black culture

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The Afropunk Festival is where Black Culture Is Most Beautiful and Black Lives Matter come together

Also known as the Carnival of Consciousness is one of the most popular festival for black culture. Popular among indie and underground communities of the black community, Afropunk prides itself on being a safe space for all black people to be unapologetically black.

The festival defines Afropunk as: “Afro: as in, born of African spirit and heritage; see also black (not always), see also rhythm and color, see also other, see also underdog. Punk: as in, rebel, opposing the simple route, imbued with a DIY ethic, looking forward with simplicity, rawness and open curiosity; see also other, see also underdog. Afropunk is defining culture by the collective creative actions of the individual and the group. It is a safe place, a blank space to freak out in, to construct a new reality, to live your life as you see fit, while making sense of the world around you.”

According to the festival’s website, “AFROPUNK is defining culture by the collective creative actions of the individual and the group. It is a safe place, a blank space to freak out in, to construct a new reality, to live your life as you see fit, while making sense of the world around you.”

In the current political and social climate, everyone is expected to follow the same idealization. Afropunk breaks that mold by curating a festival of black artists of many genres where everyone is expected to be their authentic self.

Walking around Afropunk, you’ll see drag queens and kings ready to death drop their way to the main stage. You’ll see Punk Kings and Queens with six-inch spikes jetting out of their shoulder pads. The festival doesn’t care what you bring to the table. Just that you are at the table.

Afropunk allows you to be your true self by banning a few things. The festival’s motto is, ” No Sexism, No Racism, No Ableism, No Ageism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Transphobia, No Hatefulness.” A motto that’s echoed only within the festival culture.

Afropunk teaches a culture of love and understanding while providing excellent music and good eats. And when I say excellent music, I mean precisely that. This year’s headliners include Anderson. Paak and Mahalia. Iconic vibey chill artists that are far from their peak. Food options range from melt in your mouth catfish to vegan burgers that make your mouth water.

But unlike most festivals, Afropunk aims to feed your mind body and soul. With their live podcast “Solution Sessions,” they discuss problems affecting the black community but not just internally. They review internal topics such as colorism and homophobia, but they also discuss how to use art to battle oppression.

They teach you how to create healthy organic snacks. To charge your phone, you have to paddle a bike-powered generator, encouraging clean energy. They also show you how to create natural face scrubs and body oils.

Afropunk isn’t just crucial for exposing fans to new music and artists. But it’s vital for creating conscious black people who will eventually go back to their communities. Creating conscious black people who will teach their communities the same things they learned at this two-day event. If you haven’t gone before, black or white, go next year. I hope to see you all there.

What is it about Afropunk that has garnered so much media attention over the past few years? The headliners, of course, bring crowds, but media outlets primarily show up for the trendsetters. The myriad of personal style seen at Afropunk is unique and curated specifically for the setting. Various attendees told the Observer that they specially designed their outfit for the festival, but that they would not—or better yet, could not—wear these styles in their everyday life.

The Afropunk crowd represented a variety of backgrounds; they’re lawyers, activists, students, artists, teachers and entrepreneurs. Model Ebonee Davis describes Afropunk in a story for Essence saying that it “serves as a cultural incubator, giving us a space to share, exchange, cultivate and celebrate one another all while bonding over our favorite music.”

Media coverage of Afropunk shows street style subcultures in a whole new light. One attendee stated that dressing for Afropunk is about being able “to express the most organic part of yourself.” But don’t think that these creative outfits flying under the radar. With the hype around the festival growing over the last few years, even major fashion outlets such as Vogue and i-D make their rounds to scout the season’s freshest looks, straight from the streets.

Photographers at this weekend’s festival were scrambling to get pictures because there were just so many people worth photographing. It’s arguable that the innovation behind the styles seen at Afropunk exceeds the creativity seen on the runways at NYFW.

Photographers were clamoring to capture the street style at Afropunk in Atlanta. Raven Beard
With music festivals being looked to as #inspo for next season’s designs, what makes Afropunk a unique space for the weird, punk and organic street style? Fashion has been paying attention to what’s happening in urban communities—if Urban Outfitters and Kylie Jenner haven’t made that obvious already. Trend forecasters such as WGSN and media outlets including Refinery29 and Nylon have been attending festivals like Coachella, Panorama, the Governor’s Ball and Burning Man in hopes of spotting the latest fashionista.

Compared to these festivals, the style seen at Afropunk are arguably some of the edgiest and most creative examples of street style. It represents not just fashion and style but culture and identity; it represents breaking barriers, blurring gender lines and removing restrictions for who can wear what; it represents liberation for various marginalized identities.

The rules of the festival make it clear that this is a safe space for all who attend to show up and show out. For many festival-goers, Afropunk is a space where they can be free to express themselves through fashion. As one festival goer stated, “Afropunk is all about expressing yourself, being you!” Though the festival has been around for over ten years, it’s clear that this is only the start for the Afropunk movement.

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