Afropunk stands with Michael Brown and Eric Garner

  • Joy Layne, 29, enjoys a calm moment at Afropunk 2014 on Saturday, Aug. 23.
  • Vendors at Afropunk 2014 sell everything from records and posters to clothing and jewelry.
  • “I came to Afropunk last year and had a really restorative experience in regard to being positive about my identity in America today. I look forward annually to renewing that positivity.” – Kibwe Chase-Marshall, 35, on Aug. 24. 
  • The Brooklyn United Marching Band stages an impromptu parade at Afropunk 2014 on Aug. 24. 
  • New York City-based soul singer Sharon Jones and her band, the Dap-Kings, headlined Afropunk 2014 on Aug. 23. Jones, 58, has returned to performing after successfully battling cancer in 2013.
  • “People live their lives. And then, the way they live their lives is the way they wear their clothes.” -Shawn Gotts (right)
“I’m just staying prayerful. This is the first time in my life where I’ve actually been fearful for the life of, like, the men that I love. To know that they could be harmless, just chilling, and anything could happen to them.”-Quioni Phillips (middle) with Gotts and Keeon Jermain Mullins, 32, on Aug. 24.
  • “I think the international community as whole is appalled by it. And that’s it’s frightening to think that in a city that’s meant to be so accepting, and a city that’s meant to have such a multicultural base that racial profiling happens on such a wide scale. And especially as a South African seeing something like this feels so close to home. Something that’ll happen 20 years ago that it’s shocking that it’s still happening now.” -Thati Pele (right), 28, of South Africa with Halfdan Broch-Due, 28, of Norway on Aug. 23. 
  • A tribute to Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after being placed in an apparent chokehold by a NYPD officer.
  • “Media perpetuates so many negative stereotypes and assumptions about our blackness that boxes us into other people’s ideas of us. Afropunk s a space where we reject all those … the very notions that are harmful to young black people. Here, we embrace our eccentricities and quirks because there’s nothing sweeter than the liberation that comes with being yourself. Out loud. In public.” –Shannon Shird, 26, on Aug. 23.  
  • Moe Mitchell, of the hardcore band Cipher, performs at the 2014 Afropunk music festival in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Aug. 23. 
  • “I’m a cancer survivor. I just celebrated my ninth year. I was 18, so this is a big year to turn 28. And to live around the world and get my life at Afropunk. I’ve been going to Afropunk forever so I’m so proud, I’m happy … I don’t know what can be more punk than a black gay boy from Kansas City who survived cancer.” -André D. Singleton, 28, on Aug. 24.
  • “I think just supporting them in all they do and not letting them feel like they should be afraid of living … I feel it needs to be a revamp of the system where you have community driven police officers. Officers that live in the community that are for the community and that they will stand and provide for their community. - Vanessa Daley-Johnson, 38 with her children Miles, 9, and Zuri Johnson 5.
“Difficult for me raising a black son. A young African American son. I don’t even know what to tell them anymore. Don’t walk in the middle of the street because they might think what? And then you end up, ya know … It’s a horrible situation. I feel for those families. To be honest, I’m at a loss for words.” - Lance Johnson, 38. 
  • An Afropunk 2014 attendee shows off her “Simpsons” gear.
  • “I just hope we can keep healing each other during this time.”–Catherine Harris-White of THEESatisfaction sings with Seattle-based experimental hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces on Aug. 23. 
  • Voguers show their stuff and battle it out near the Gold Stage at Afropunk 2014 on Aug. 24. 
  • “I think often times there are people in the African diaspora who grow up feeling isolated. I love that the festival coalesces all these different aspects that are generally not being presented in the media as black culture.” -DJ Juliana Huxtable at Afropunk 2014 on Aug. 24. 
  • Lee Spielman, singer of the California-based hardcore band Trash Talk, is in full command of the raucous crowd on Saturday afternoon.
  • Malcolm Brickhouse of New York City metal band Unlocking the Truth performs. Unlocking the Truth, whose members are all in their early teens, rose to prominence through street performances around the city. They have since singed a major-label album deal.
  • Newark, N.J.-based rapper Bleszt tears through an energetic set at Afropunk 2014.
  • “It’s amazing how this little documentary that was basically focusing on black kids in the punk and hardcore scene has blossomed into this huge festival that’s basically taking a stand for the very eclectic community that is African-Americans.” -Rocker Tamar-kali on Aug. 24. 
  • Singer John Joseph of legendary New York City hardcore band Cro-Mags performs at Afropunk 2014 on Aug. 24. The Cro-Mags formed in the early 1980s in downtown Manhattan. Joseph has also filled in as the front man for Bad Brains, also on the bill at Afropunk 2014. 
  • Jade Foster, 28, at Afropunk 2014, held Aug. 23 and 24 at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Hardcore and reggae legends Bad Brains perform Saturday, Aug. 23 at Afropunk 2014. The band, which formed in Washington, D.C. in 1977 and relocated to New York in the early 1980s, performs with a rotating cast of singers, including Jesse Royal (pictured), Corey Glover of Living Colour and John Joseph of the Cro-Mags.
  • Lydia Perez, 34 and her daughter Anya, 2 enjoy the concessions at Afropunk 2014 on Aug. 23. 



BROOKLYN, New York – Moe Mitchell, the lead vocalist of hardcore band Cipher, usually captivates audiences with his signature yelling and head-banging antics, but last weekend his attire stole the show. He wore a black t-shirt that read: “DON’T SHOOT.”

Mitchell was among several artists and festival-goers who expressed solidarity with Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other alleged victims of police brutality at the 10th annual Afropunk Fest at Berry Commodore Park on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24. 

Born out of Michael Spooner and Matthew Morgan’s 2003 documentary, Afropunk (which chronicled the black misfits who loved punk but felt like outsiders within a predominately white crowd), the festival has become a symbol of unconventional and multicultural identities in New York.

WATCH: Afropunk a multicultural space for rockers

The festival draws an eclectic crowd of over 60,000 artistic and politically inclined people. It’s a space where queer youth vogue with pride, hipster adults rock out with their young children, and like-minded music junkies come together to express their funkiest style. But despite the upbeat vibe of Afropunk, concert-goers and artists, mostly men and women of color, couldn’t ignore the loss of Brown and Garner, as they are all too familiar with racial profiling and police misconduct. 

“As a person that has been a black man for 48 years in America it is obviously distressing but unfortunately not news,” said Binky Griptite, guitarist of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings.

“It’s good that these cases have gotten so much attention because there are people that might not be aware that this type of brutality is really routine,” he added. 

Ayinde Bennett, 31, a Director of College Counseling at Williamsburg Prep High School, attended the peaceful march in memory of Garner in Staten Island, before making his way to see experimental rap group Shabazz Palaces.

“Whenever you see all that many people together for an injustice that took place, I’m always motivated to be there,“ Bennett said. “As a young black man, I always pay attention when other black men or black women are unjustly killed, or just murdered. Period!” 

While many Afropunkers like Bennett attended the protest before heading to listen to the likes of D’Angelo, Lianne La Havas, Bad Brains, Tamar-Kali, Trash Talk, among others, the two-day festival offered its own interactive social justice experience: Activism Row. 

Professor Robin Hayes of Progressive Pupil and her team arranged booths where a spectator could learn about social justice organizations like Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Milk Not Jails. The main activity was a message board where people could make their voices heard about police brutality. 

“Now what we’re seeing is ‘hands up don’t shoot,’ the whole hoodies up marches, and social media campaigns after Trayvon Martin’s unfortunate death, is that young people are interested in creating change,” Hayes said. 

“We wanted to show that there are people who are working right now and need our support,” she added. 

In it’s 10th year, Afropunk is as much a vessel for activism as it is a music festival.

READ: Afropunk Fest stretches racial labels to their limit