All skinfolk ain’t kinfolk — an ole and fitting saying from my long-ago Red, Black & Green Liberation upbringing that could be well applied to the Sixth Annual installment of the New York City-based Afro-Punk Festival. Last week, there were some blogospheric lenses shed on the potential problem of the burgeoning consumer profile of Afro-Punk as brand and destination for Negro culture vultures and those who would follow them to whatever end. Where one might fall in that debate depends upon whether you think it vital for all we folk darker than blue to possess a herd mentality, as well as how you feel about both black people and the (long aboveground) punk subculture courting/being embraced by the mainstream. If you only wanted every act and attendee to bear the pin-in-nose bona fides of a D.H. Peligro, then this year’s festival was Not Yet Uhuru. On the other hand, if bagging or bedeviling hipster white women is your thang, then you might could have had as much fun as numerous brothers and the Fruit of Islam security detail which abounded in Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park. Raising an eyebrow at the inclusion of Gym Class Heroes on the bill is fine – otherwise, the whole darned thang ought to be about a clarion Message to Love.
Would it really be criminal if my own cosmic Americana group Sacred Arrow were welcomed to the roster, despite the fact their childhood adoration of Afro-Anglo sistahgal Poly Styrene is long muted, and their thread rips now just an accidental by-product? Although Sudanese melanin-free, Sunset Beach, CA’s Black Bananas, who made this year’s best go-go LP just as Wind Me Up Chuck Brown enjoyed his final season in Chocolate City, certainly should be tapped for 2013.
For my own part, I care less and less about the chimera of Black Unity and the will to self-othering with every passing year. But then I am older than punk, unless you stretch the mythos back to the hallowed early postwar boom of such true originals as the first so-called black hippie Arthur Lee and brown brer ? who led the Mysterians. I know I do. And what about Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and good ole Louis Jordan? As Granny (nigh in a) Rocker, I expected the noise explosion at the Navy Yards to be neither multicultural cathouse au naturel nor vanguard of sonic provocation. It was a fun afternoon out to enjoy a potluck picnic with a soundtrack spanning from perhaps not-punk-but-sho’nuff-funky supernova Miss Janelle Monaé to Frankie Beverly and Maze (courtesy the ol’ skool deejay) on the last day of summer.
I am heartened by friends Matthew Morgan and Shawn Peters’ ability to keep the par-tay goin’. Such are the wages of coming of age during the long decades of sporadic Weird Africana recognition BAP (before Afro-Punk). The “brand” ain’t nowt but the latest electric lasso around black difference, suffering growing pains due to its being one of the widest and most successful corrals of same. The wax fax is: although disassociated for six years from Afro-Punk: The Movie (2003) documentarian James Spooner, for the festival to grow and sustain itself it would have to expand its horizons, blood supply, and bank resources. The fear that the festival would become so corporatized that it becomes completely deracinated from its Afro(Atlantic) and punk DIY roots is understandable, yet must be balanced with the Way America Works.
Cover photo: K. Crazy Horse.