Asian mom finds her lost tribe at Afropunk festival

betty ming liu Art, Inspiration 10 Comments

Getting beyond my comfort zone usually leads to great discoveries. Which is why I went to Brooklyn yesterday for a shot of edgy, stylish, Afro-centric inspiration. The 12th annual Afropunk music festival was such a unique, satifying experience!

People showed up making the most wildly creative fashion statements. Food trucks and kiosks served deliciousness. Of course, there were terrific bands and performers.

But what really pulled the weekend event together was the inclusive message about multicultural diversity, urban righteousness and social justice. Well, okay. To be honest, the over-the-top people watching made a huge difference too.


The festival was so thoughtfully planned out. I loved the ism sign posted at the entry gate:

No sexism
No racism
No ableism
No ageism
No homophobia
No fatphobia
No transphobia
No hatefulness

To keep the message on track and prevent sloppy drunkeness, alcohol was restricted to roped-off areas featuring food vendors and picnic tables. You could buy a beer there — but you couldn’t take it out into the rest of the park. Brilliant! (Meanwhile, the scent of marijuana seemed to be everywhere.)

The friendly, mostly-millennial crowd loved being photographed. Everyone said “yes” when I asked if it was okay to take their picture.

Afropunk style

There was a time when I would’ve been too intimidated to show up in a setting like this. Not cool enough, definitely not Black enough and not young enough either.

But I felt quite at home, grinning at everyone. I’m so happy to know that Afropunk exists, that it’s possible for someone like me to celebrate my inner, multiracial millennial.  :)

To quote my hero George Clinton, we are one nation under a groove. And yes, the legendary funkmaster was there — although, in his mid-70s now, he’s not exactly a crazy stage presence anymore. In fact, I couldn’t even spot him. Maybe I was just too far away.

But his band rocked his hits. Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yay! 

Bands and artists played all day and into the night on three separate stages within Commodore Barry Park. This green space near the Brooklyn Navy Yard has been around since the 1830s, making it the oldest park in the borough. We were in a historic place making cultural history of our own.

My daughter and I drove down with our friend Tia. Doors opened at noon on both Saturday and Sunday but we only went for Saturday. We stayed from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., which is when my feet wore out.

While I enjoyed George Clinton and Cee Lo, most of the other artists are not on my play list. So I skipped Tyler the Creator. There was plenty to explore besides music, like grazing on a $13 gluten-free falafel platter, $6 corn on the cob and checking out some of of the vendor stands. I also took home a free “Dark and Lovely” paper fan.

afropunk at night

If you missed Afropunk in Brooklyn, the festival is going to London for the first time on Sept. 24. Grace Jones, another one of my heroes, will be performing. (In 2015, Afropunk  debuted in Atlanta and Paris.)

To keep the Afropunk movement with me, I will hold it close online. The festival has a very good-looking website, where I’ve subscribed to its emails. Let’s see how that goes. I’m also following @Afropunk on Instagram, where these folks post Black-is-beautiful photos.

Best of all, I am feeling good about finding a community I can really relate to. We share a commitment to multicultural values and lifestyles, served up with bold creativity and fun. Whatever this generation is up to, they give me hope.

family & friends

I’m so glad my daughter and I can share a future in a multicultural, multiracial world. Me, my daughter, our friends. Our tribe.

Comments 10

    1. Post
    1. Post
  1. This reminds of of what it is like at the annual Steampunk World’s Fair – a huge mix of all races, all ages, all everything in a freedom of expression zone, just happily getting along and enjoying each other’s creativity. That such times and places can exist gives us hope for the future.

    1. Post
      1. I think you’d have a ball – and it is local (Piscataway, NJ) Check out the website – Be sure to click on the photo links. Note – you really must have an “outfit.” Everyone comes dressed in whatever their personal interpretation of steampunk style is. The photos show the wide range. The performances and music are all wonderful but the attendees are really the best part. Mike and I go every year. I have a whole Victorian/fantasy wardrobe just for this event. Important hint: if you go for the weekend, make your hotel reservations well before Christmas. The event hotels book solid very quickly. I advise going for the weekend as events run well into the night.

        1. Post

          Toby, thank you so much for putting Steampunk squarely on my radar. I just looked at the link. The hotels are already sold out for May 2017! But I penciled the festival into my calendar. Would love to see you in costume. And, throw on something crazy myself? Hmm. The idea of mixing tech & the 1800s sounds bizarrely appealing. By the way, I’m fascinated by the lasting creativity surrounding “punk.” My guru on all things punk is Marvin Taylor, the master curator who heads up NYU’s Fales Library. He’s a self-described “queer boy” who invented a whole archiving genre based on his passions for punk. I blogged about him in 2011 and the interview was quoted in one of the Whitney Biennial exhibitions! Here’s the link:

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *