Hundreds of attendees gathered to celebrate art, activism and individuality at the 2016 Afropunk Festival at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York, over the weekend.
Staying true to its mission, this year’s festival, which took place Aug. 27-Aug. 28, was full of folks flaunting their vibrant, eclectic and unique ways of life. Created to give a voice to the the urban kids who identified with the punk scene, Afropunk has grown into a place of inclusivity ― free from judgement and stereotyping ― which celebrates just how multifaceted people really can be in the black community.
The free-spirited and welcoming nature of Afropunk is what attracted first time festival-goer Bryanna Neal.
“People can’t fathom who we are so they wanna label us as weirdos and creeps but the thing is we’re here to be ourselves and I never found a spot like that,” the 24-year-old Philadelphia native told The Huffington Post. “I’ve always been to myself, always been alienated and, then now, this is like my home right here. This is what I love and I’m glad I’m here.”
That energy also brought Charlotte native Devin Lightner to the festival. The 21-year-old told HuffPost that he’s amazed at how unapologetic attendees are at defying the stereotypes that society often times tries to use to confine black people.
“It shows how broad [blackness] is and how influential our culture is,” the first time festival-goer told HuffPost. “I’m seeing black people doing metal and people dancing to it. I’ve never even seen a black metal group before, and you got people of different races here just embracing it and taking it all in and enjoying it, too, so it’s an awesome thing.”
Alternative R&B artist Gallant, who performed on Sunday, told HuffPost that he’s lucky to exist in a time where people are gravitating towards music like his that doesn’t fit neatly inside of one box.
“Seal really challenged the way that I looked at a genre,” the 24-year-old crooner said. “When I was growing up... I did not think that you were allowed to make that kind of music if you were a black male. I just didn’t think you were allowed to do it because I didn’t see it.”
Gallant said it pleases him to see more and more people challenging stereotypes because it allows artists to thrive without traditional labels.
Brooklyn native Kesha Morse said she's happy Afropunk highlights black artists with an alternative edge. The 67-year-old told HuffPost that it’s hard to ignore the influence black people have had on punk, or anything for that matter.
“Blackness is a spirit and it’s a holiness about it that will draw people to it. That can’t be denied,” Morse, who said it’s her second time at the festival, told HuffPost. “We were the first here and people can say they are any number of things. But they all derived from one and that’s from blackness. So no matter how far removed you think you are from that, when you get the tribe blackness together to have a consciousness, it’s gonna pull you to it. You can’t deny it.”
In the spirit of this, HuffPost Black Voices asked 22 attendees from different walks of life to define themselves by completing the sentence “I am...” with one or a few words, giving us a chance to peak into what makes these eclectic souls so special.