Straight outta food poisoning and subsequently replacing electrolytes, this year’s Afropunk Fest was what I expected. It was my first time present for anything Afropunk-related since its Brooklyn block party days — over a decade ago — and designing an early version of their website which was featured on MTV, a company that I’ve been blessed to work with as an independent contractor. Durban food aside, the weekend weather was perfect. It wasn’t too muggy or too humid. Outside of an annoyed vendor we encountered, everyone else seemed to be friendly, peaceful and most importantly, indicative to receive and experience a moment by live performance from some of the best and iconic musicians (Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones) we’ve loved for years. Comfortable and sitting in the grass with kin or standing off into the vast crowds per stage, we were met with fellow concertgoers who asked how we were, if we enjoyed the music and if we wanted anything to drink.
Protesting for trans rights and equality went on around us and soon after, a pregnant Kelis hit the stage in fuchsia garbs. Sounding as she does on records, her unique vocals were met with cheers. As she danced to Ragga Dancehall classics from the 90’s and sang to us, she smiled and stated that she was there to have a good time with us. Her birthday was a day prior, so one of her best friends joined her onstage toward the end to present her with a huge cake. She offered us birthday cake but we didn’t see that cake (or her) again, and that was probably for the best. (See: Food poisoning in the first sentence.) P.S. Her
hair Leo mane was amazing!
After Kelis left the stage, I walked over to my friend’s market booth. At the Apuletown booth, the women sold tie-dye jerseys and dashikis, similar styled baseball caps, unique jewelry and more. There were so many different kinds of people in attendance. Here and there, I’d see a familiar face and chat a bit, and the other faces were for admiration. People were so visually appealing that if I were a full-time photographer, I would have totally captured enough “ammo” for a Top 50 Faces of Afropunk. It would include interracial couples, beautiful round women in all of their glory, and parents with their children. I think those faces (and bodies) are sorely underrepresented in the photo recaps I’ve seen so far. If you know of any that particularly cover what I’m talking about out, please link me so I can
shut up thank the photographer and its publisher.
After I ate the food that made me tap out until this morning, I left the Apuletown booth to head over the Green stage to see Lauryn Hill perform. It was my first time seeing her live so I wanted to make sure I marked my spot for the best perspective. It was night fall, and because it was Lauryn, the VIP area was packed beyond normalcy. In the same area where I watched Kelis perform in the afternoon, it was difficult for us to see the stage in the night. As Ms. Hill began her set, people started to leave for one reason or the other, which allowed us to get closer to the center of the stage. Soon after, Ms. Hill’s sound and lighting were disrupted, she finished off “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and her set came to an end. What a blasted bummer but seeing the elaborate breakdown and setup for Grace Jones’ performance was worth standing for hours, being finely knitted next to sweaty humans, standing next to someone who suffering from tooth decay and every now and then, being bumped by full grown individuals who tried their best to fit into spaces that did not exist.
Several costume changes later, on a banging 67-year-old Jamaican body, Grace Jones was the perfect person to close Day One. Her poise and sense of humor was well-received and above all else, she kept it real. She came off as the famous auntie I never had. Unfortunately, well into her set, I started to feel really woozy and not like myself so I made my way home before getting to see her hula hooping. Without a doubt, she was the best and biggest moment of the night. If you do get the opportunity to see Grace Jones in this lifetime, you should. She’s Mother Quaint, and is unstoppable.
In conclusion, the walk from the York Street station on the F line wasn’t bad at all and having a VIP wristband privilege made it an even smoother experience. The general admission lines were so long and full of so many different kinds of people, coming together for one reason, and I think that it was the original intent of its creator(s). It’s good to know that there are still some things that start off as a seed and can blossom into something so gargantuan, sorta like Jack and his magical beanstalk.
There’s an Afropunk Fest in Atlanta, Georgia coming up in October. You should go. To view more video from the festival, visit our page on Instagram.