Imagine a safe space — a blank space — for Black individuals to freak out in. A space to construct a new reality, and to live their life as they see fit while making sense of the world around them; A space where sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, fat phobia, transphobia, and hatefulness do not exist. Fast forward to the last weekend of September 2021, and you get the masterpiece that is Afropunk.
America has spent nearly 18 months keeping social gatherings and human contact to a bare minimum. While news of the coronavirus spread across the country, families mourned the loss of loved ones and began to take serious health precautions.
At the same time, the world was also witnessing a global movement centered around the equitable treatment of historically underrepresented individuals — African Americans in particular.
This meant a lot of time spent inside our homes with family, instead of friends.
This meant a lot of time spent binge watching Netflix, instead of attending live shows.
And this meant a lot of time spent being unseen.
Pair that with Black America fighting for the right to be heard, and you get a lot of social unrest, exhaustion, and stolen joy.
“We see your baby hairs. We see your lace fronts. We see your ashy knees, and we see you baby!”
Festival Host, Jorge "Gitoo" Wright’s words ricocheted off the city’s buildings and filled the air of the event lot. The first set of the day belonged to Amindi. An LA artist who describes her genre as “pastel-rap”, Amindi gave a free-spirited and liberating performance.
“That’s my best friend y’all!”
Her petite body coasted across the stage as she sang the lyrics to her song “Telly" and laughed as she pointed out her support system in the sea of concert goers .
Nigerian sister duo VanJess also took the stage on Saturday. They performed hits from their 2021 EP, Homegrown — the duo’s second overall project, and the first released under the RCA joint label, Keep Cool.
.The fan favorite of the night was Tems. She wore a two-piece striped suit with puma sneakers, red tresses, and dark sunglasses. Jazzy Afrobeats poured out of the speakers as the crowd nearly doubled in size.
“You know they said Afropunk. So, I had to switch it up. I had to give it something different, you know?” She smiled before transitioning into her song “Damages”.
The Nigerian songstress also performed several other hits like “Essence’ and “Crazy Tings”. The night ended with a riveting set by Smino.
Other performances of the day included Tkay Maidza, KP The Great & Friends, and Jack Freeman.
Filled with strong female performances by Doechii, Yung Baby Tate, Liv.e, Fousheé, and Rico Nasty, Day two proved to be just as exciting.
“Dance in the mirror, I’m whining. Calling my phone I decline it..”
Doechii’s set began with her song “Girls”. She wore an electric pink thong bodysuit, paired with winged, bold shoulders that extended down into black patent leather gloves. Her smile, contagious energy and relatable stories made it easily one of the dominant performances of the weekend. While her own fashion choices proved to be successful, she didn’t forget to compliment the crowd’s style as well.
“Y’all are looking amazing. I love all of the outfits that I’m seeing today.” She said.
Yung Baby Tate’s cutout leopard print bodysuit, Liv.e’s cowboy hat couple with gold, bamboo hoops, and Foushee’s black, Prada bermuda shorts were all standout style choices throughout the day, as well.
Serpentwithfeet crooned his listeners, both, with his music and by reading from the pages of a book. He read excerpts from ‘Brother to Brother’ by Joseph Beam, as he argued that it is “important to read to grown folks”.
Rico Nasty took over the crowd as fans pushed closely together to get the best view of the DMV rapper. The energy was so crazy, fans struggled to capture stable photos and videos to remember the night by and belongings flew from the clear bags of attendees. Heads rocked back and forth, and mosh pits broke out as hits like “Smack a Bitch” , “Trust Issues”, and “Pussy Poppin” played. She returned to the stage later to perform with Co-Headliner, Wale & The Ppl.
The most beautiful part about Afropunk was that the melanin didn’t stop with the festival-goers and musicians who stepped on stage; It spilled over into the Food Trucks and vendors at SpinThrift Market.
Furthermore, as festival goers paraded around the event lot unjudged and unbothered, wearing and being whatever their hearts desired— we were reminded that yes, Afropunk does see our baby hairs. Yes, Afropunk does see our lace fronts and ashy knees, and yes, Afropunk does see us.