Afropunk is both a music fest and safe space — and Canadians are crossing the border to join in

The American festival has become a destination for many black Canadians who make the trek looking for a safe haven in an age of significant tension.

'I feel free, I feel safe, I feel like there's so much inspiration here'

Canadian festival talk about how Afropunk gives them a sense of freedom, safety and "being at home" 2:20

AFROPUNK is a celebration of black culture and arts, a reclamation of black punk music and a denouncement of "isms" and phobias rooted in hate. Its organizers call it "a safe place, a black space to freak out in, to construct a new reality, to live your life as you see fit, while making sense of the world around you."

Using music, culture, community, art and food — with underlying themes of activism and solidarity — the festival confronts narrow stereotypes of what it means to be black and what it means to be punk.

Art at the 2017 AFROPUNK in Brooklyn. (CBC Arts)

Inspired by the 2003 documentary that is its namesake, AFROPUNK originally sought to provide black people with an opportunity to build community amongst the predominantly white punk subculture. Now, 12 years after the festival's inception, it's grown into a sort of movement that includes artists from other genres. And it's become a destination for many black Canadians who make the trek looking for a safe haven in an age of racial division and significant tension.

As painter and AFROPUNK attendee James Yeboah puts it: "I feel like coming to a place where we can have fun and enjoy each other's time and presence...is in itself a form of resistance."

Learn more about the festival in the above video, filmed at its Brooklyn edition. AFROPUNK Atlanta takes place October 14-15 and AFROPUNK Johannesburg happens December 30-31.

About the Author

Simone Ince and Nayani Thiyagarajah are two of the Founding Partners and Executive Producers at RE[FRAME] Productions. Through their collective work, they are focused on centering stories from the margins for the screen. They spend their long days trying to produce their own special kind of magic. Find RE[FRAME] on Instagram here: @reframe_p.


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