AFROPUNK Fest showcases the plurality of modern African American identity J-No, Creative Commons (2015) ©

AFROPUNK Fest showcases the plurality of modern African American identity
J-No, Creative Commons (2015) ©

Influential, artistic and politically engaged, Afropunks embody a bold new approach to identity, music, art and fashion. In the ninth of a series exploring Gen Y and Z tribes, Andrea Graham Richeson looks at a new brand of ‘black cool’ that comes in many different packages.








Key facts:

From hip hop and sneakerheads to viral dance crazes and Black Twitter, black youth culture has long been a source of fascination in the US. Born of equal parts success and struggle, the American experience of African Americans is a tremendous cultural force throughout the world.

Now, armed with smartphones and social media, young black trendsetters have never been more influential in the worlds of music, art, design and fashion. [1] Their triumphs are paying off too; it’s estimated that black consumers in the US had a combined spending power of $1.2 trillion in 2015, with that figure set to rise to $1.4 trillion by 2020. [2]

Despite their tremendous contributions to US culture, the relationship between African Americans and the media has not been without controversy. Rife with inequality, racism and economic exclusion, the depiction of black youth has been, at times, damaging and severely limited in its scope of representation. Today’s young African Americans – especially those in the Afropunk movement – are now actively rebelling against old stereotypes, using their voices both online and off to redefine what it means to be young, black and proud in the States.


Who are they?
In August 2015, 60,000 people gathered in Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park for the 11th annual AFROPUNK Fest. [3] The event drew an enthusiastic, fashionable and eclectic crowd who were looking to kick back, make friends and listen to some great music. From tie-dye and West African print dresses to leather and brightly coloured hair, these forward-thinking attendees were the highly coveted subjects of trend-spotters, journalists and photographers trying to capture the essence of an exciting new movement.

The range of fashion on display at AFROPUNK is like “Africa on Acid,” says Folami, a vocalist for the band Chic. [4] Although fashion plays a key role in the Afropunk movement, the festival’s organisers say it’s far more about the plurality and fluidity of African American identity and expression. “AFROPUNK is an influential community of young people of all backgrounds speaking through music, art, film, lifestyle sports, fashion, photography, and more,” its site reads. “We are the influencers, creatives, and tastemakers who were once seen as outsiders, but who now directly affect pop culture.” [5] Read more at Canvas8