Afropunk’s energy is electric lady pulsing with the waves of the moon. Black woman is goddess and black people are the universe. That sounds so hippie but it is real. Everyone, artists included kept marveling at never having seen this many black people together. Mind you the Million Man March and Black Lives Matter actions do exist, but when you think back on even those events – allies come and represent.
This ish…Afropunk, is FOR us, for black joy, black music, black excellence. White ppl were there, but me and my friends agreed – white ppl should not come to Afropunk without a black friend present. There were some groups of white folks violating, asking random queer ppl to take pictures with them. You AT LEAST need a down black friend to keep you in check.
This was my first Afropunk experience. I have never been to AfroPunk – there got that out of the way. My first experience was transformative, I am not a big concert goer, scratch that, I literally have never been to a big concert festival. I saw Earth Wind and Fire live once, we were in a venue, I had an assigned seat in the balcony – it was NOT the same. Earth Wind & Fire is the truth though. I digress.
The Afropunk scene had all the ingredients for peak blackness, an interconnected black radiance that brewed a collective consciousness to be everything we know we are and express it inside and out. With outside – I’m talking HAIR!!
We had hair products, hair accessories, hair exhibits, and legit just…hair!
Why so much hair?
If you are asking this question you are most likely white. Hair is the crossroads of black culture for so many reasons. Our ancestors adorned hairstyles that signified tribe affiliations, ranks, status, royalty and oh so much more. This type of nonverbal communication (just like music..) is not what colonizers see as slavery friendly. The loss of our history and the shaming of our culture was a priority, and our hair an easy target for white slave owners. A standard of beauty was created to keep the status quo, oppressors knew the only way to make it long lasting was to make sure black people hated themselves.
They didn’t understand our hair, so they vilified it, Sambo-ed it, blackfaced it. Madam CJ Walker said F ALL that. Now, she made products that transformed hair – granted some used her stylings to assimilate – but at that time I feel like assimilation wasn’t the true focus for Walker. She was like, F this, let’s turn it around and beat em at their own game. And she did. First woman, self-made millionaire, lifting black people to do the same. As we continue to reclaim, relearn, reinvent ourselves, our hair has been the best form of expression. Afropunk is the place to reclaim our royalty through our hair.
House of Hair
As you enter the shops at Afropunk you are welcomed by “Hair Village.” This is the section with all the products and accoutrements for black hair. You are immediately drawn to an installation styled as yo mama, yo mama’s mama’s, yo mama’s mama’s mama’s kitchen. On one side we see a collage of beautiful black imagery, in the middle a kitchen table that I remember as a child, a stove complete with hot comb and hair products on shelves above. On the right side a beautiful floor to ceiling mural of a black woman whose hair scales the wall, all the way to the ceiling.
A young woman explains to me, half of the piece is made of real hair. The installation was orchestrated by writer and image activist, Michaela Angela Davis. Davis has been working in journalism fashion and media advocating for black voices, representation and style. The House of Hair was launched by Ms Davis and Afropunk as “a highly imaginative interactive activation within The Hair Village to explore the creativity, culture and care of curls, coils and kinks.” – Afropunk Events
This section can’t help but transport you to your childhood, those moments when mommy hit you with the comb for moving and then your hair breaks that ish to fight back. The hot comb sizzle that fills the kitchen with that black hair salon smell, yea you know what I’m talking about…
There’s So Much More
As we continue down hair village we are given a card from Bijouterie bougere specializing in hair jewelry. Adorning ones hair with jewelry is a tradition throughout history. Today, several tribes – such as the Fulani tribe in West Africa – use shells, bones, fabric materials, and coins in their hair to show their heritage, marital status, tribe affiliation and just for fashion. I am overwhelmed by the sheer amount of hair pride and boundless possibilities I have always known our hair has. With all of the trauma experienced as a black woman growing up with my hair, I felt so free.
As a child I grew up around a lot of white people, sometimes being the only black person in my classes. I was always bombarded with questions, how does it do that? How come it doesn’t get wet? Can I count your braids? I myself felt the best way was to straighten it. This did not stop the questions, and just made my hair fall out. I have noticed throughout time that we fight with each other about our hair, what is presentable, what is proper in the workplace, what is acceptable. Forget ALLL that in a post/present Afropunk world. NAW not here, not in the epicenter of black love. Weave, natural, locks, wigs, flower petal hair goddess-ness; we are free to curl, kink, stretch, blow, extend our lineage.
Oh the Hair Places We’ll Go
As we pass the many hairstyles of Afropunk, a few stood out. A blue long ponytail adorned with jewels caught my eye and rightfully so. As we asked permission to feature them in our article, it was explained the hairdresser is featured as styling singer Solange’s braids and is based right here in NYC’s borough of Brooklyn. Hair by Susy Black-owned, black run hair stylist with extravagant regal hair designs.
Everything about our hair has been broken down by oppressors and we only know to rise from here. Thank you Afropunk for being a place for our hair to be anything and everything. See the many styles we admired throughout the festival.
Hairstyles of Afropunk Brooklyn 2018
See our site’s other coverage of Afropunk 2018 here.
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