If you’re in NYC over the next week, and you’re Black, and you wanna meet up with some other Black people who are a little left of center, head over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (and several band venues) to check out the 3rd (and biggest) year of director James Spooner’s AFROPUNK Film Festival –named after his groundbreaking documentary on Black folks in the punk-rock scene.
It’s been really amazing to watch Spooner (who recently relocated from NYC back to his native California to be closer to the film world…aka Hollywood)grow this scrappy lil film into a major brand, with his periodic Liberation Sessions parties/conceerts, DVDs, online community of thousands of Black rockers, clothing, and now, an entire film festival with one of NYC’s most prestigious artistic venues, BAM. This year, Spooner is debuting his second film, this one a feature called White Lies, Black Sheep, and has added a visual art installation and an Afro-Punk block party!
I have been an attendee of the first two festivals, and it’s definitely worth it! Spooner has helped to create community spaces of Black folks of all nationalities, genders and orientations to celebrate a more expansive definition of Black culture. And to also create an opportunity for black artists who are shunned by both white or mainstream and (usually white-owned) “Black” artistic venues to show their work, or to play music. Black rock, has been especially maligned by mainstream record industry, who didn’t think white kids would listen to black rock artists, much less Black kids (heard Rihanna’s new single Umbrella? I can hear the capitalizing on a Black rock-ish sound in the instrument and vocal arrangement. In fact, it’s actually a little Grace Jones sounding, don’t you think?). But I bet that some record company execs have their greedy little eyes all over this scene, and is probably searching for their own tired ass version of any number of these artists.
So if punk rock is not your thing, never you worry. The film are a collection of rare black films past and present, and span different subject matters. The bands are heavy on the rock end of things, but some are a more souful or funky sound, some are more hardcore. Spooner also plays host to a number of DJ’s who are usually more on the house/rare groove/funk side of things, so you can usually go to another space and shake a tail feather if you’re not feeling the band.