... the other Black experience

Op-Ed: "Why I Am Thankful for AFROPUNK"

The first time I posted something, it was a reasoning as to why I signed onto the website in the first place. I saw many people complain that the site wasn't quite living up to its "punk" namesake. In other words, they want more Fishbone and Cerebral Ballzy and less Erykah Badu. After someone on Afropunk wrote their take on the site, I was moved to write my own.
What Afropunk did for me was show me that there, indeed, is more to being black than the stereotypes we were sold from the Zip Coon stereotype on TV down to the fire-breathing Sapphire type. It showed me that I can be "weird" all I want, I can be proper, I can be geeky, I can be me, and that shouldn't be a bad thing in the black community. After all, if there is anything that black people love to do is talk about ways we can improve the matters in our own community. Someone in the movie of the site's namesake had pointed out that "we can't talk about other people, till we fix our own shit."

By Lightning Pill, AFROPUNK Contributor
Banner photo: Afropunk Festival goers by Greg Cristman/Stereogum.

Do you remember the time when you were told that rock music was white music and hip-hop was black music? Time after time, we proved that wasn't true, due to the aid of Eminem (and various other white rappers), your good amount of Latin rappers (Big Pun and Fat Joe), and even rappers from Israel to China to Sweden to Wales. R&B isn't just a black thing anymore, since we all recently embraced Bruno Mars (?), Lorde and Robin Thicke. Meanwhile, people like to say playing anything close to rock isn't a black thing, like Chuck Berry, B.B. King and Lenny Kravitz were merely unicorns that popped out of a magical fairyland where black people weren't rapping about money for money. It hasn't been a new day for us. People just like to play like they know what makes us black, when they hadn't the faintest idea. It doesn't help that we have been conditioned to believe that a majority of the time, people who don't make anything that strays from the common agenda will not make it in the world.

Before Afropunk, I won't say I was completely disconnected from black people as a whole, but I was turned off by the constant reminder that I fit nowhere in your average sector of black people. From the ghetto kids to the uppity black people to the racially confused to the back-to-Africa types, I spent all my life looking for my place in the world as an "alternative" black person. Thus, the 'Afro-Punk' documentary was what I'd consider required watching. I was iffy on the idea of it being about "punk" musically, but I knew it was about the issues all of us go through in our own life. From the need to sit at the white kids' table (metaphorically speaking) to the kind of shame our own people impose on us, what I got from the movie was that I wasn't alone, and that if I wanted people like me to get some recognition, then it helps that I support people that were just like me.

I signed onto with a bit of nervousness, due to how many people took the title seriously. I'll come out and admit that while I like punk rock and have learned a lot from the lifestyle, I was never that guy willing to sport a mohawk and listen to Minor Threat. That was the initial idea I got, too. Once I ignored that assumption, I gave all of my information and met some really cool people from across the nation. It didn't matter whether the musicians were mainstream or punk or not. I cared more about the fact that we were a community. We rode skateboards, we read comics, we weren't all Christians, we weren't all buying into the Jay-Z kind of lifestyle, we were the kind of black people that other blacks made comments about. In a way, we didn't have to start a loud revolution. We WERE the revolution.

What I learned from Afropunk is that if there is anything we need to do is start backing up our complaints as people with actions. Stop yapping about wising up and just do it. Meaning that if there is anything I want to do, I can without my skin being a big problem. We all have each other to fall back on.

So, regardless of what Afropunk turns into (from a grassroots community to that heralded by either Lil' Wayne or Ciara in the future), I want to thank the site for existing and all of you for proving that people like us exist, deserve respect and shall own the earth one day.

Photo by Tim O'Brien

Views: 1081


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Comment by the outsider on January 24, 2014 at 5:43pm

I only wish that afropunk was established when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. If this was the case, I wouldn't have felt so isolated and lonely. I am truly grateful to know that I am okay just the way I am. Thank you. 

Comment by Jancee Tee on January 18, 2014 at 8:42am

Great op-ed, especially: "I was turned off by the constant reminder that I fit nowhere in your average sector of black people. From the ghetto kids to the uppity black people to the racially confused to the back-to-Africa types, I spent all my life looking for my place in the world as an "alternative" black person." This describes me ever since I became a rock fan in the 1970's (!) I love AfroPunk!

Comment by Lightning Pill on January 17, 2014 at 4:05pm

A little addendum for about the whole "we were not Christians" part, inspired by seeing a video post about Christian punks. Hopefully, they won't be taken aback by the comment. It was more inspired by the common thoughts about how black people are perceived, one of which is that they are big Jesus fans. The idea was that there are black people who believe in various other religions, and they don't get judged for it here, another plus for this site.

Comment by X-D-D-M*9 on January 17, 2014 at 3:50pm

Quick add...

AfroPunk is all you want it to be.  I'm an ol' head who was an early adopter of the AP mantra of "express yourself" about a decade ago.  I wa only a a casual punk rock fan.  But AP provided a platform for those of us who were a bit different and less easy to categorize.

I'm more Hip Hop but AP provided a space that was much more serious & intense in it's discussion of Hip Hop culture beyond pop 'rap'. Plus the alternative scenes & music the members educated me on were great.

There has been much brmbling from the other ol' head guards about how it's changed and got more commercial on the AP site & scene.  Fuck that, do you.  Don't worry about what we bitch about unless it hold weight and makes sense to you.  The time is now and it's for you.  Forget nostalgia;  create FUTURE nostalgia by living for the now and doing what drive you ths moment.  Know the history but NEVER get stuck in it.

Do you, have fun, rock out! The world is yours.

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