There is no such thing as “too much” when it comes to Afropunk — whether it’s attitudes, identities, or appearances, anything goes. On August 25 and 26, people from all over the country found their way to Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn to show off their impeccable style, from the biggest sunflower crowns to the hottest-hot pink fingernails.
Founded in 2005 by James Spooner, Afropunk was born as a result of its eponymous documentary about African-Americans that participated in the mostly-white punk subculture, but were largely ignored. The film started plenty of conversations, and many who saw themselves represented asked Spooner to organize a meetup. That small meetup has grown into an annual tradition that’s held all over the world in cities like Paris, London, and Johannesburg.
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In 2018, Afropunk’s main draw is the artists it brings to its stages — this year, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Daniel Ceaser, and H.E.R. performed at the Brooklyn festival. There is also public art, the opportunity to support black-owned businesses, and plenty of amazing food.
It was my first time attending, and after spending the day wandering the park, two realizations about Afropunk came into focus. The first was that, while Afropunk is a place for black people to converge and connect, it’s also a space for the other parts of your identity to feel included and safe. On the festival grounds, you are respected no matter your gender, sexual identity, skin color, or religion. Breastfeeding in public isn’t a crime. Misogynoir, homophobia, islamophobia, ageism, sexism, fatphobia, transphobia and ableism are explicitly forbidden. The environment that this kind of mentality creates is truly inspired — as a black, Muslim woman, all parts of me felt a sense of belonging.
Of course, there’s also the fashion — but it’s more than just aesthetics. The clothing choices are as much about making a statement as they are about claiming the right to creative expression.
As I walked around the park for the day, I asked people: How does their style represent them? What inspired their looks? And, most importantly, why does having a space for self-expression like this so important?
Check out some of their answers — and their incredible looks — below.
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“I felt like a lot of people were gonna wear dark colors so I wanted to stand out so I chose to wear all white” — @chola_girl
2 of 12
Taking You To Church
“My style today was inspired by Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu. I decided I wanted to dress like how a queer person would go to church.” — Basit, @basitshittu
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Two Different Approaches
Right: “My look for the day was super edgy not too girly, and I still got into the culture with a head wrap and a red lip.”
— Hannay, @Nay2xs
Left: “I am embodying everything that is woman.” — Dashanae, @envyme_imdasha
4 of 12
Everything All At Once
“Nothing from the outside inspired me. I just look in the closet and I just pile things on. My style is like this on an everyday basis, so this to me isnt getting dressed up. I dress like this everyday. This is me.” — @thegoddessisin
5 of 12
Inspired by a True Thug
“I’ve actually had this look for a while in my closet. I was thinking of vintage styles, stuff that Harriet Tubman would wear. I feel like she was a true thug. I wanted to make an outfit that would resemble that time… so I put a bunch of durags together. I think it is very important to express yourself through the arts because without art, the world would be boring. With style you get to differentiate who is who, and what is what, including what their interests are. It just puts that person together.” — @pauleoue
6 of 12
“I just like being free and being able to express myself. I was told that my aura is pink so I just embraced it. My style is very eclectic; I can be classy, I can be girly, I can be flashy. Its just whatever I am feeling that day.”
— Samantha, @thequeenofvacations
7 of 12
Inspired by Duality
“I am first generation Ghanaian and I got this piece made in Ghana. It’s part of my fashion line, Royal Label. It’s an expression of my duality; the part of me that’s very American, and the part of me that’s also very African” — @yahzarah
8 of 12
“Im wearing a custom outfit, head to toe. Its very comfortable and cute. It’s so important to get inspiration from each other, we`re bouncing off each other’s colors and the places we have been.” — Masie, @masieblu
9 of 12
The Three E’s
“My style is eclectic, ethereal and empowering. I feel like that’s the best way to describe it.” — @calli.carpa
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Mother Nature Meets Fantasy
“Afropunk is like a modern day promised land. My hair came from [the idea] of when Mother nature gave birth to a unicorn.”
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“My inspiration was the color blue. I just wanted to be empowered as a woman and not be afraid to show who I am. Self- love and self-empowerment [are] big ones for me.” —@milakoren
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A New Kind of Individuality
“My style represents empowerment and indivisuality.” — Naya, @blu_vix
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