This weekend, Afropunk Fest 2015 took over Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park, and in its 11th year, the two-day celebration of black arts and culture included performances from Ms. Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones, SZA, and Kelis.
This year, Afropunk worked with photographers from the Instagram community to document the theme of “protest” at the festival, and highlighted stunning work from photographers Ruddy Roye, who often photographs “the forgotten man” in his hometown Brooklyn; Devin Allen, whose images from the Baltimore protests went viral earlier this year; documentary photographer Malin Fezehai; and Liberian artist Mambu Bayoh. The images appeared on Afropunk’s and the individual photographers’ accounts and shows the powerful impact of the annual festival.
“Maybe I should kill my inhibition, maybe I’ll be perfect in a new dimension.” And when you get there, what do you do? For SZA, a St. Louis-born, New Jersey-bred singer-songwriter, you perform. Yesterday, that dimension was in Brooklyn, on the main stage of the Afropunk (@afropunk) music festival. The set was short but powerful – an emerging R&B star seducing the crowd, burnt orange hair and white tank top in tow. Beforehand, she sat down for something a bit more intimate: a black-and-white portrait by Devin Allen (@bydvnlln), the Baltimore-based photographer best known for documenting the lives and faces in and around the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Devin calls Afropunk a “home away from home” – a place where people come together to celebrate music like SZA’s, along with black fashion, art and culture. This weekend, he will be capturing all sides of it – every angle, look and, yes, dimension. You can follow along with him over on @bydvnlln. #afropunkfest15 #TDE Photo of @justsza by @bydvnlln
August 23, 2015 “I am the warrior queen from Baltimore.” That is how Safi announced herself. I stopped her as she strolled across the Afropunk lawn, her squinted eyes barely visible from behind her iridescent sunshades. “Oh my goodness, Baltimore! Baltimore is going through it right now. It’s so sad. Nineteen murders last weekend. And the officials, they come out in riot gear, just because them boys are riding.” Safi started a group called Baltimore Girls, a space for women to express their feelings and experiences as women of color in Baltimore. Through conversation and art she hopes to help people heal. She says that it’s not good to keep things bottled up, that the people of Baltimore cannot continue to go around acting like everything is perfect. She says that the communities will have to come together. “We have to let it out so we can heal.” Photo by @ruddyroye for @afropunk #afropunkfest15 #afropunkfest15takeover #baltimoregirls #afropunk
August 22, 2015 Desiree, 19, an Afropunk volunteer, waits for the day’s activities to start. There is an expectation in the air. It’s like the space anticipates the throngs of people from all over the world coming to these hallowed grounds to show off their brand of punk. Her inspiration for her look is, of course, Pam Grier, but her friends think she looks like Angela Davis. It is the feeling of activism that drives her and the reason she wanted to attend Afropunk 2015. “What happened to Sandra Bland was nothing new. What she went through was what black people have been experiencing for years,” she said. Photo by @ruddyroye for @afropunk #afropunkfest15 #afropunkfest15takeover #afropunk
They came wearing low-top Sauconys and lime green Reeboks, tangerine orange sweaters and blue polka dot dresses, technicolor sweatpants and purple face paint. This is the fashion of @afropunk, the annual music and arts festival that takes place every August in Brooklyn. Afropunk has always represented more than your typical two-day music showcase (this year’s headliners include Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill and Lenny Kravitz). Born out of a 2003 documentary of the same name, the event has evolved into a celebration of black culture, from the sounds to the food to the murals. And then, of course, there’s the clothing. As Simbarashe Cha (@lordashbury), the photographer who took this portrait of @_nefrotiti, says, “Afropunk is Black Fashion Week - so many great styles, energy and good vibes.” For more from this year’s event, check out @afropunk and #afropunkfest15. Photo by @lordashbury