The world’s premier Black music festival, Afropunk, is coming back to Atlanta. Called “the most multicultural festival in the U.S.” by The New York Times, the Afropunk festival began in Brooklyn but is now expanding to London, Paris and Atlanta.
Though rained out in 2015, the would-be debut year of Afropunk in Atlanta, Afropunk is back in 2016 “better, bigger, stronger,” according to co-founder Matthew Morgan, with their newest iteration, The Carnival of Consciousness.
“Every Afropunk in every city is different,” said Morgan Wednesday morning.
He felt it was important to incorporate dialogue about race, politics and oppression into the conglomeration of “the 360-degree representation and inclusivity of Blackness that is Afropunk.”
Thus, the Carnival of Consciousness was born. According to Afropunk’s website, “You can call Afropunk’s Carnival of Consciousness a festival if you want — but that wouldn’t be exactly right, at least not by the definitions of ‘festival’ developed over the last decade. Is it a conference, retreat, salon, seminar, a rave, a happening, think-tank, a maneuver? Yes, to all of the above. We prefer to think of the Carnival as a new type of open cultural space and gathering of like-minded people.”
The Carnival starts Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. with Afropunk’s Fancy Dress Ball. Additionally, the website says, “The Carnival of Consciousness is a weekend-long congregation of producers, supporters, allies and consumers of black culture that will feature a schedule of music, art, film, lectures and the honest expression of youthful black concerns by leading contemporary voices.”
Saturday’s events kick off with what Afropunk is calling a Social Salon, titled, “Solution Sessions: Strategies on How to Build Black Political Power” at 4 p.m. Speakers include Tiffany Williams Roberts of #BlackLivesMatter, Councilman Kwanza Hall, State Representative Park Cannon and others. Musical performances start at 5 p.m. and go until 3 a.m. Performers include Saul Williams; Earl Sweatshirt; and Tyler, the Creator, among other local and national bands, DJs, rappers and musical artists.
The hours on Sunday are more limited, starting with a Social Salon, “Solution Session: Art, Identity, Gender & Race politics…and HAIR,” at 4 p.m. This seminar features activist Michaela Angela Davis; New York Times best-selling author and cultural critic Awesomely Luvvie; and Jillian Hervey of Lion Babe. Musical performances for Sunday, Oct. 16 begin at 5:30 p.m. and finish at 8 p.m. Featured musical performers for the night include BOSCO & Speakerfoxxx, Sir The Baptist, and Lion Babe.
There will also be art on display and for sale, sponsored by The Creatives Project, an Atlanta-based nonprofit arts organization. Bites and Beats, which Afropunk refers to as “a festival within the festival,” includes on-site food trucks featuring tastes from around the world.
The SpinThrift Market will “celebrate the best of Atlanta’s maker community,” according to Afropunk’s website. The market will feature one-of-a-kind apparel, textiles, trinkets, and housewares of all kinds.
The Carnival is being held at 787 Windsor St. SW — an unnamed event space in Atlanta known for its colorful street art and graffiti.
The ethereal and Afro-futuristic aesthetic of Afropunk and the fashion of its attendees is another reason it draws so much attention. Co-founder Morgan prefers to call the nature of dress at the festivals “the politics of style,” rather than “fashion,” because “as Black people, everything we do is contradictory to the mainstream. Our hair and skin and bodies make it look differently, and therefore it is politically charged. Fashion as a concept is more shallow and status quo.”
On the famous aesthetic that is now synonymous with Afropunk, Morgan said, “If you give young Black people — who are the most creative genius people on the earth — a safe place to express themselves, they’re gonna give you some s—!”
Morgan has not shied away from blending creative- and art-leaning aspects with Afropunk’s pro-Black values — and the political ramifications that may arise.
Afropunk London dropped rapper M.I.A from its inaugural Afropunk London festival back in July for her controversial comments about Black Lives Matter. Morgan says he does not find M.I.A’s statements controversial, but rather “misinformed.” He saw that particular situation as a learning opportunity for M.I.A. and wanted Black Lives Matter and M.I.A to have a dialogue about her comments.
For reasons Morgan did not wish to elaborate on, that dialogue did not happen, and because of that, he says, “We all felt it was best that she just remove herself.”
Morgan’s thorough pro-Blackness, and his continuous effort of maintaining it within Afropunk, is unsurprising.
“We live pro-Blackness. We are it. We are the living embodiment of it on a daily basis. It’s not just about selling a ticket. It’s who we are. And in that we are extremely grateful to be able to do the work we do in a global, tangible way that money can never buy.”
Tickets are available for purchase on Afropunk’s website. Single day ticket sales end Friday Oct. 14. Three-day passes are available through Oct. 16.