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Afro-Punk: Odd Couple Wed Through Rejection

A closer look on history through punk music

James+Spooner+and+rock+musician+icon+Joi
James Spooner and rock musician icon Joi

James Spooner and rock musician icon Joi

Sylvia Valdez

Sylvia Valdez

James Spooner and rock musician icon Joi

Sylvia Valdez, Intern

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‘Afro-Punk’, a 66-minute documentary film directed by James Spooner, explores the roles of African Americans within what was then, an overwhelmingly white punk scene across the Unites States. This film explores race, identity, exile, loneliness, and black power.

Punk, “the bratty, snot-nosed upstart breed of rock and roll, built on anti-musicianship, built on the rejection of stadium rock, built on the sneering denial of technical skill,” as Josh White from Huffington Post UK describes it, was the result of the angst of a generation. The DIY culture, the skulls, the mohawk, the liberty spikes, were not only an aesthetic, but an ideology, a way of life which thrived in the late 70’s early 80’s.

Spooner created this film for the oppressed African Americans in the scene. The film touches on the idea that punk is intertwined with race. The double-jeopardy of race and gender seemed to be tangled with white males. Afro-punks experienced isolation to some degree because of their race. An already marginalized population further ostracized by their peers.

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness, the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” Double-consciousness is the notion, Du Bois explored in a 1903 publication, The Souls of Black Folk. Double-consciousness explains the individual’s sensation of feeling as though your identity is divided into several parts, making it difficult or impossible to have one identity.

As their rationing started to change, so did their aesthetic, and with that, their relationships started to dissolve. A key figure that validated their presence in the scene was a group called “Bad Brains”. They were the first all Black member punk band. With songs like The Big Takeover and lyrics like “So understand me when I say, there’s no love for this U.S.A. This world is doomed with it’s own segregation, just another Nazi test.”

Despite the uphill battle to acceptance, Spooner gave the Black community something valuable, AFRO-PUNK FEST. A music festival held annually in Brooklyn, New York City since 2005. It was held in Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park in 2015, and expanded to Paris and Atlanta that year. The festival is a token of unity, identity, and Black power.

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Afro-Punk: Odd Couple Wed Through Rejection