This weekend, tens of thousands are expected to flock to Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York, for the 8th annual Afro-Punk Festival. Entertainers including Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, and Gym Class Heroes will be hitting the stages, and there will be skateboarding, food trucks, and, presumably, lots of black folk with mohawks.
The festival was birthed in 2004 from the Afro-Punk movement, which prides itself as â€śthe other black experienceâ€ť and began with a 2003 documentary of the same name. In the film, producer Matthew Morgan and director James Spooner gave audiences a glimpse of black punks in America as Afro-Punk was shown everywhere from living rooms to college campuses (â€śOne particular professor used it to show that black kids were not only to R&B and hip-hop,â€ť Morgan says).
Today, Morgan is expanding the goals of Afro-Punk: â€śInitially, it was just about addressing the imbalance in music. â€¦ Now itâ€™s the imbalance that is media, in terms of how weâ€™re viewed in the media and how weâ€™re portrayed. Itâ€™s not 360 degrees of what we are; it seems to just always be a monolith.â€ť Here he speaks with BlackEnterprise.com about the Afro-Punk festival and the future of this culture movement.
BlackEnterprise.com: Explain your decision to make the festival free.
Morgan: That decision is really based on the belief, or the understanding, that we donâ€™t pay for things that we do not understand. And if youâ€™re a young black kid, and you donâ€™t know really what a festival is and donâ€™t know what youâ€™re going to get from it, youâ€™re not going to pay 150 bucks for it. If you give something so people understand what is, theyâ€™ll then feel good about buying a ticket to another festival or a black festival somewhere else.
Weâ€™ve got to help teach the audience and bring new things to them, open their minds to skateboardingâ€”which weâ€™ve doneâ€”to BMX, to art, to all these things that if you donâ€™t have peer, or you donâ€™t see somebody else that looks like you doing it, itâ€™s not often the first thing that you do. So it was very important for us [for] New Yorkâ€¦ to be like our tent pole event, but Chicago and Atlanta are going to have to pay.
When you first introduced this idea, how were you able to attract sponsors?
Sponsors are very difficult, because most brands donâ€™t [care] about black people. There are obvious candidates that always seem to support the African-American market, and those same dollars have to be distributed across many mouths, and if itâ€™s anything out of the box, itâ€™s very difficult to get our hands on. We have been extremely fortunate because weâ€™ve had individuals at certain corporations that are kind of vanguards at that corporation, and being people of colorâ€”particularly one at Pepsi that supported us and the old head of marketing at Nikeâ€”theyâ€™re people that have young kids, or teenage kids, that when we walk into the office, they understand exactly what weâ€™re talking about because their kids are those kids. And those are the times that weâ€™ve been supported by brands. We have been supported and we have had support, but we do not get the type of support, at the moment, because we are a little different, and weâ€™re very hard to kind of get your heads around when you just got your head around hip-hop.