Afropunk Is Blackifying the Industry Through a Celebration of Identity

Afropunk’s Director of Community Affairs on how the movement accomplishes both.
“I have a personal mandate to blackify the production industry. It is white and male led. Culture that we get to create is never ever stewarded by us and for us,” says Afropunk’s Director of Community Affairs, Manushka Magloire in response to a question about her work.

Since its inception in 2005, Afropunk has been synonymous with self-expression, identity, freedom and inclusivity. “No Sexism, No Racism, No Ableism, No Ageism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Transphobia, No Hatefulness,” were the rules listed next to the main stage at Afropunk Brooklyn 2017.

Initially sparked by James Spooner’s 2003 documentary that chronicled the lives of Black youth finding their place in the hardcore punk scene, the movement that is Afropunk has grown into something that is much more than an immersive two-day festival. It has grown into a movement that embraces the dual notions of inclusion and otherness through a celebration of identity.

“The purpose and always shall remain the purpose is to provide a space (and I’m not one who uses safe spaces because I think as a black person in this world there is no space that is safe) but to create safe environments for the freedom to just be,” says Magloire.

We spoke with Magloire to find out how the festival is working to affect change in the community.

So what exactly do you do for Afropunk?

My title on paper is Director of Community Affairs. My day-to-day is spent doing lots of strategic partnerships so I’m basically the social impact side of the house. We’re primarily known for being a music festival but by virtue of being Afropunk we’re creating a space that exists in the way that it does for people of all walks in life and all colors from a lens of we are here to celebrate people of color in an activist, advocacy and revolutionary way. At the root of it will always be how do you fight for on behalf and move social change for people who are unseen and unwritten. So activism is at our root.

I look at the community organizing standpoint. We need people to register to vote for example. So how do we really harness our energy at both the grassroots level and also more mass and mainstream to really move things? To really advocate on behalf of communities of color? To fight thoughtfully and in partnership with big and small entities? The people who are really controlling this industry and tilting the scales in their favor are white men. So Afropunk exists as one of the sole black led and funded and independent music festivals.

I also work with our AP Army. We’re about 50,000 strong globally. These are all festival fans who we mobilize as social change agents. The incentive is if you put in eight hours of service, if you actually come in and show up to community board meetings and give up your time, if you are an active participant and a global citizen then we’re more than happy to be like you know what? Give back, get back. Here’s your ticket to the festival and that’s really the premise of the program.

That’s kind of a snapshot into my world.

Why is Afropunk relevant today?

Afropunk exists in this particular moment right now for people because marginalized, alternative, underserved communities have become such a global mainstream, palatable concept in the world at large unlike ever before.

It’s hard to imagine fast forward to 15 years later [since the inception of Afropunk], black people are still fighting to get their voices heard. It’s imperative for places like an Afropunk to do this because there’s no one singular, one dimensional, experience of blackness. It’s multi faceted, it’s nuanced, it’s levels to our blackness. I never thought that I could fit into a mold of an Afropunk because I went to college and joined a black sorority, I went down the finance path, I don’t listen to punk music, I don’t wear a mohawk, my hair isn’t dyed bright purple, I don’t have a shit ton of tattoos, my face isn’t pierced, all these things that you assume by seeing Afropunk and you assume that it’s supposed to be typecast as, that’s not the point. The point is for Afropunk to be a disruptive space, for you to come and fucking freak out however the hell you choose. There is a space here for anybody, no matter your orientation, where the fuck you’re from, no matter your origins, no matter where you live, that’s not it. You come here to celebrate blackness and to build community with other people that are like ‘fuck this. I do this my way. Period.’

“…all these things that you assume by seeing Afropunk and you assume that it’s supposed to be typecast as, that’s not the point. The point is for Afropunk to be a disruptive space, for you to come and fucking freak out however the hell you choose.”

Do you believe we are in a defining moment for black America?

I don’t know if that’s the verbiage I would assign to it. I think that we are at a defining moment as a society from the lens of being black and not just being black in America. Trumpism is a series of ideals that have been picked up by politicians across Europe and by politicians in Latin America. It is a set of ideologies in which the majority wants to remain in power. I think that’s not something that is only relevant to black America.

The lens of social media, the way we consume media and the way in which culture is being shifted and stewarded by communities of color is absolutely worrisome to an ideology that says light is right and the one percent of me is better than the 99 percent of you. It’s a full on attack on a system and systems of oppression. It’s a collective awareness that is happening across the globe in these communities of color that is shifting and shaking shit. Whether it’s around gender equality, whether it’s around reproductive rights, whether it’s around systemic racism, these are all issue that are plaguing the people.

“I think that we are at a point in time where the will of the people is now surpassing our desire to be complacent and to just keep our heads down.”

If we look at America, we’re getting shot down and murdered right and left. Our skin color to our sexual orientation, all of the myriad of things. There’s a collective need to understand that minding my own business is not the world we live in. You can mind your own business and wind up dead. I think generationally, there’s always some level of atrocities affecting society but I also think that social media allows for scale and sharing and a collective aggregation of energy while pointing people in the direction of here’s how we can try to affect change is what’s interesting about this moment.

It’s amazing to have the Black Panthers and A Wrinkle in Time and designers like Pyer Moss and all of these things happening that really highlight the breadth and the beauty of who we are but I also don’t want that to become a false sense of security. We’re still 13 percent of the population in America and we’re clearly not seeing it at tables, as stakeholders in all of the industries in which we as people are the pulse. We’re still not stewarding these ships and authoring our stories. The aperture is wider, yes, and it’s great to see these gains but we still have to push through.

*This interview has been condensed for clarity

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