For me, a black woman from Minnesota, your spectrum of blackness is a luxury, something I hadn’t had the pleasure in indulging in. And it’s overwhelming to see the variety of style and beauty between stages each year. Yes, your declaration is that black is beautiful, but it’s also that everyone, especially the marginalized, are welcome. Your slogan—no sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fat-phobia, no transphobia, and no hatefulness—sends an important message that you’re a safe space. Your DIY roots go back to the community that surround the James Spooner’s Afro-punk, a documentary in which Spooner examined what it felt like to be the only black kid at a punk show. Fast forward ten years, and you're one of the most attended festivals in the world, with celebrations in London, Atlanta, Paris and Johannesburg.
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I remember my first year. Kaytranada's performance on the Gold stage built up a lit crowd. I felt so happy. My phone was out trying to capture the action, but even then, I wanted to be in the moment. To experience the intensity of black joy, to not worry about the life or my struggle. I just danced, laughed and screamed, and it was everything I needed and more. In a sense, you’re a release for me, a self-care where I can fill up on all the magic New York has to offer and release all of the tension I’ve been feeling.
Of course, you’re all about the music, too. This year’s lineup boasts Janelle Monáe, crowd favorite SZA, H.E.R, Miguel, Jaden Smith, the Internet, Daniel Caesar, Lola Wolf and many others. Most years, the lineup is too good. Take last year, when I missed Son Little to see Blitz the Ambassador. It was a tough negotiation. Not that I’m complaining.
Photograph: Courtesy Ezinne Mgbeahuruike
Mgbeahuruike at Afropunk Brooklyn in 2016