Saturday, July 4, 2009

Saturday Afternoon in Fort Greene: The Fifth Annual Afro-Punk Festival at BAM Afro-Punk Skate Park

The annual Afro-Punk Festival here in Brooklyn is the center of the global Afro-punk community.

It's the definitive destination for audiences looking to experience true Afro-punk culture.

Last year 30,000 people attended, and this year even more will probably attend, if our too-short time at the festival this afternoon are any indication.

The 2009 festival, which was kicked off on June 27 and is still continuing for days (and nights) to come - we hope very much to get back - features 40 bands, 24 films, a visual art exhibit and a custom-built skate park at the BAM parking lot bounded by Flatbush and Lafayette Avenues and Ashland Place.

There you can check out pro riders and skaters from around the country, as we did late this afternoon on our way from one Independence Day destination to another.

We're really glad to have stopped by, even briefly, because we were so excited by last year's festival that we joined the Afro-Punk community and have been getting regular email updates to keep in touch.

As a news story at MTV late last year said, "Afro-Punk has gone from the name of a message board to a movement in less than five years — and the scene just keeps growing."

Summer's lease hath all too short a date, and we were just subletting at the skate park. Here are some pics we took today from our limited time at the festival.

The New York Times music review of last year's Afro-Punk Festival said
the skateboarders made the most noise. Mostly small and sinewy, of varying races, unhelmeted and riding uniformly weathered boards, they moved in a swarm around the skate park in the parking lot across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, performing the occasional trick, but mostly scooting around aimlessly, grateful for a place to while away the evening.

American Fangs is a Houston-based pop-punk band making their first visit to New York. They keep getting lost in the subway, singer Gabriel “Gus” Cavazos said.

The other band members are guitarists Shelby Hohl and Kenyon Puntenny, bassist Kyle Shimek, and drummer Micah Miller.

American Fangs's songs are energetic and sweaty and fun.

We really like their song "Le Kick." Here's the vid:

Although there were no female sk8rs, a couple of girls were on bikes. It amazes us that given the spills we saw, nobody seemed seriously or even annoyingly hurt.

The Afro-Punk message boards have a lot of posts that give you insight into this - what do we call it: community? movement? You don't get much of the viewpoints expressed in the MSM unless maybe you think zines and blogs are mainstream.

The crowd was extraordinarily good-natured. The sun was beating down but not too oppressively. July 4 is actually an important date in New York African-American history: slavery was officially abolished in New York State on July 4, 1827.

Not long before that, one out of every three white families in Brooklyn had owned slaves. The freed slaves were warned not to celebrate on Independence Day 182 years ago, so they had a parade in lower Manhattan on July 5 instead.

That MTV report on Afro-Punk also said
The fundamental contradiction of black kids feeling left out of rock — which from its very beginning was based on black music — has played a large role in the creation of Afro-Punk. And while there have been many black artists who have been embraced by white rock fans, from Little Richard to Sly and the Family Stone to the Bad Brains, the Afro-Punk movement has found fans bonding and creating communities, organizing shows and shooting films in a whole new way.

We didn't understand a lot of terms the skateboarding announcer used, but it's always interesting to watch sk8rs. They were all boys, as far as we could see, ranging in age from about 12 to maybe 30.

Another reason why July 4 is important to Afro-punks could be that 99 years ago, on July 4, 1910, Jack Johnson - an Afro-punk in spirit, anyway - retained the heavyweight championship in Reno against "the Great White Hope," Jim Jeffries, by knocking him out.

Many African Americans were killed in the nationwide riots started by racists, and the government got back at Johnson by convicting him of a trumped-up violation of the Mann Act because he traveled interstate with his white lady friend.

Tell your member of Congress to support the resolution introduced by Senator John McCain and Long Island's lowlife Rep. Peter King calling for President Obama to pardon Jack Johnson and undo the injustice perpetrated by racism.

The street art (parking lot art?) was of high quality, but when we get too close, the fumes of the spray paint get to us.

Last year's Times review said the BMX bikers were "executing frightening tricks — an X-up here, a 360 tail-whip there."

As we headed toward the G train, we saw this young Afro-punk being interviewed on the steps of BAM.

We wish we could have stayed longer at the Afro-Punk Festival today. But we still have time to catch more of it.

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