Words: Jason Sugars for Nonsemble & Fusicology
I myself, have never been to AFRO PUNK… and I fear it may be too late. In the same way that I attended the first six or seven iterations of Coachella and may never quite make it back for another… It seems that perhaps the festivals we love most all-too-often grow up and away from the music and community that they started with… and since I – for one – am always and only in it for the Music… well…
At any rate – It was a real pleasure to sit and see the original AFRO PUNK feature documentary in a theater. After all these years. The experience was made even better by the time that’s gone between. It’s been years since I last watched this incredibly well-executed debut documentary from Director, James Spooner – and even then, it was perhaps ten years after the fact and I watched it at home. In bed. On my laptop. So this was great a great first chance to get the big-screen experience, with the energy of the room around me and having lost some of the little bits and pieces to my ever-fading memory.
What I do remember is a good amount of my own experience[s] in the Punk and Post-Punk scenes as a teenager in Venice, CA – back in the way back when’s-days. A lot of those feelings – of double alienation [being both ‘different’ AND Black and being different from a lot of my peers on either side of the color line for most of my ‘formative’ years].
The movie itself was great when Spooner first delivered it – back in 2003 – and remains a timely and timeless document to this day. AFRO PUNK relays the feelings of many Black and ‘other’ kids navigating a very exclusionary and seemingly White-specific scene in the days before the internet came along to make us all [pretty much] the same when it scomes to what music or sub-culture ‘tribe’ we subscribe to. Today thanks to that very same internet [not the band. I love the band… but I’m not talking about that right now – anyway] that very same internet has made it so that almost ALL of us are somehow some form of “Alternative Black”… to the point where the entire idea is diminished to nil. When everyone is so different that we all become the same – well…
Luckily – The film isn’t about that, either. The film is about what many of the subjects went through in their daily lives as Punk or ‘Alternative’ Black kids in a time when most other kids – either Black and or Punk/Alternative were often far from accepting or embracing of them or their chosen life-styles.
It reflects what James Spooner himself went through in the days of Black Punk pre-internet. Which reminded me – and reminds me – of what many of my friends and I went through in those same scenes [or their parent-themes] a couple decades before the film and its subjects were around. It wasn’t easy and – I suspect – has only gotten slightly easier… for those that are SERIOUSLY into the music, the scene and the lifestyle.
The talk and Q&A after the film was at LEAST just as informative, just as important and nearly just as long as the [66 minute] film itself. Moderator, Ernest Hardy, along with co-panelists, Tisa Bryant and James Spooner himself took a road around what it meant and means to be AFRO PUNK in a time when and where the most explosive iteration of AFRO PUNK is also perhaps the most exploited.
While it was NOT a ‘bashment’ of AFRO PUNK – the corporate Festival and International ‘Brand’… it was also far from praising of either.
I’ve met Mr. Spooner before and – each time – have come away more impressed… with his honesty, creativity. His balance – his code and his attitude. No. He is no longer involved in the “AFRO PUNK’ Festival or Brand. He has – in fact – been paid exactly ONCE on the annual agreement to license the name and his wish that AFRO PUNK would or could somehow maintain [or get back to] its original ethos and pathos have proven to be worse than a Glass-Pipe-Dream.
What he CAN tell us – is that just as he did it himself… We [you, me and/or anyone that cares or dares to] can still do exactly the same.
For now – Just watch and re-watch the movie. AFRO-PUNK [Concieved, Executed, Directed and Edited by Mr. James Spooner – 2003]
We HIGHLY recommend it!
Spooner will be in attendance to introduce the film and for a post-screening talk-back; all of which will take place on Thursday, September 13 beginning at 8:00 PM. Suggested donation is $5.00 per person. MoRUS is located at 155 Avenue C between 9th and 10th Streets. Visit www.morusnyc.org for more information.