This past weekend, journalism gifted me as it always does; but something about this assignment was different. Per usual, my woke Arts & Life editor presented me with what sounded like an obviously dope assignment: covering an event called Afropunk in the Pit. Punk music, non-conforming folks and La Botanica? Count me in, I thought. However, I did not expect to have an entire awakening about the afro I wore on my head that night and how my blackness is defined by so much more.
Punk. What’s the first thought that comes to your mind? Piercings, colored hair and……Afros? Certainly not black people. It was then, at this amazing event, that I understood how the pairing of two words represented so much more: the refusal to assimilate. Two opposite worlds that beat the odds and make civil society uncomfortable by simply existing: Afro – the style I wear my hair in and my blackness uncut, and punk – a genre and style that labels kids as ‘edgy’ because they dare to be different. Who the hell knew?
As I found my way through the crowd, interviewing people who looked like me, absorbing different experiences in the punk community, one thing about these peoples’ stories paralleled mine: disrupting safe spaces of constructed norms. My experience was no different; microaggressions about my hair are microaggressions within an entire genre of music. Everything about Afropunk made a universe of sense.
Afropunk is a means of expressing POCs rage, not being black enough for the black people yet being the only black person at a white show. Afropunk is a middle finger to political ideals that reject nonconforming people of color. Afropunk is the understanding that I share with the lead singer of Pleasure Venom, the film director of AFROPUNK and the black photographer who told me to ‘keep it up.’
I saw beauty in the veins that popped out of the brown necks that sang to a crowd who bopped their heads, and didn’t care about the color of the skin whose mouth the lyrics came out of. I understood the eyerolls I witnessed from the Afropunk kids in high school who weren’t ‘black enough’ for the black kids and far from bothered. I came to love associating myself with being a ‘reject’ all over again. But most importantly, I re-learned how to not give a damn.
For my rejects,