What Is Afropunk?

In the beginning, AfroPunk was simply the title of a 2003 documentary film produced by Morgan and directed by James Spooner, which chronicled the tribulations of blacks in punk rock—a minority within a minority—and featured interviews with members of bands like the Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Fishbone. Morgan and Spooner set up a website where folks who wanted to screen or discuss the film could gather, and through this chat room a community blossomed. From the roughly 100 people who showed up at the first Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) gathering 10 years ago, AfroPunk has grown to include an estimated four million web visitors a week, in the process broadening the definition of “punk"—which is just fine with its co-founder. "The name always meant something that was very different to me than it did to everybody else,” says Morgan, who grew up in 1970s England watching the U.K. punk rock movement borrow the rebellious anger of young West Indian immigrants protesting against the police. “Toussaint L'Overture, Miles Davis, Grace Jones, Bootsy Collins, Malcolm X, Spike Lee—they embody punk rock. Not the music, but the essence, what it’s all about.”

In the decade since the film’s release, finding that essence has become much less rare, and these days it’s not unusual to see musicians of color throughout the rock and punk subcultures, as well as far greater opportunities than were afforded their predecessors. Indeed, for a young band like The Skins, AfroPunk has been a game-changer. “It was an amazing experience being able to play for our community and our fellow local artists,” says Bayli Mckeithan, The Skins’ lead singer, who describes the energy of the AfroPunk audience as “deliciously genuine and indescribably uplifting.” [Read More]