If you’re black or brown…
you have more than likely seen and felt the many injustices being reported in the media, in your neighborhoods, or in your own day to day lives. The trauma is real and it weighs on our spirits.
I’ve been going through a lot lately. The instances of death whether it be police brutality or crimes we do against each other have impacted me to my core. I have moments when I feel weak. As a Black woman who is woke, it is necessary that I have safe spaces where I can be myself. It is necessary that I find home in the places that I frequent in order to survive.
This past weekend, AFROPUNK brought me back to a place of solace. I consider the annual event, which I’ve attended since my summers home from college, to be a safe space because people who are usually made as outcasts are free to live out their birthright to BE. In between music sets Saturday afternoon, demonstrations were held in support of Black transgender people and a call was made to remember those who were killed by police and hate crimes and to also acknowledge their contributions to society.
Though many have complained about “how commercialized” AFROPUNK has become this year because of higher ticket prices and high profile media coverage, these protests are not something I have ever seen at a festival. I appreciate the fact that the event planners have made a conscious decision to not only make sure this event is about fun, but to also change our mindsets.
I also spotted Devin Allen, a young photographer from Baltimore, whose emotional images of his city during uprisings following the killing of Freddie Gray in police custody, have brought him recognition. He was taking glorious photos of attendees, when I introduced myself and asked him how he was enjoying himself. Besides loving the energy, Allen said at AFROPUNK he felt he fully fit in. He also spoke my feelings.
While covering AFROPUNK performances for another media outlet (slight plug but hey 🙂, I took some time to ask a few other people in the crowd this question: Why is it important to preserve safe spaces for people of color, LGBT people and all marginalized groups?
These are their thoughts. – Words and photos by Natelegé Whaley
Tiffany, 32; California
“It’s important to preserve because I think that’s what gives us a sense of unity and it gives us the sense that we’re not alone. We’re always going to have struggles and I think the problem is…I think that when we’re alone that’s when we find these instances of suicide because people feel like nobody else understands and there are certain issues that are inherent and unique to certain groups. That’s just the way it is.
We are diverse. We can celebrate that. But at the same time that lends itself to a certain number of issues that nobody else is going to be able to understand so it’s important for us to have these spaces to promote that we’re together. But not in the sense of excluding or saying we’re oppressing anyone else by being together, but saying we recognize our differences and our uniqueness and we want to celebrate that and lift each other up.”
Jon, 31; Washington, D.C.
“We live in a world where minorities are oppressed and underprivileged and again the main spaces can be challenging at times so it’s important to have those spaces where you feel safe and can be around people who are like-minded and care about the same things you do.
I’m into the alternative scene. Going to most concerts and festivals and stuff I feel kind of alone sometimes so coming here [AFROPUNK] you see people who are like you and everyone is into the same thing. It’s pretty cool.”
Taryn, 23; Dayton, Ohio
“Historically a lot of non-white groups and non-heterosexual cisgender groups have not had safe spaces to just come and not be marginalized and not be othered. So you know a place like AFROPUNK and all of these safe spaces that we have for black people to exist in whatever form they come in whether that’s straight, whether that’s LGBTQ, whether that’s cis, whether that’s transgender, whether that’s able-bodied, whether that’s non able bodied.
You know it’s important for us to just come together and know that not only are we sharing this planet, but we co-exist with each other like we have to work in tandem and our experiences are not just solely our experiences, there are the experiences of others too.
And I think once we are able to create more spaces like this and kind of except the fact that everyone is unique and everyone is equally significant, powerful, magical, then I think that’s when we can get closer to whatever our end goal is on the world.”
Richard, 30; Miami
“It’s important because we can capture the essence of art and people are free to express themselves without people being judged or ostracized. Creative spaces allow people to grow mentally. Environments like this are vital to keep your mind fresh.
Why was it important for you to come here today?
I’m able to network. I meet other creatives and other intellectuals such as myself not to say it in a narcissistic fashion but you never know who you might meet. Someone may be able to uplift you or get your project to the next level because I think in life what’s important is doing what you love because they say if you do what you love you never have to work a day in your life.”
Moiema, 29; Brooklyn, N.Y.
“The entire hashtag #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement was created and was also created by I wanna say by black women and also #queerwomen, trans women, cisgender women, all types of women, the different type of women that exist within the black gender.
Black women are largely ignored and I have a problem with that…
I know that people are tired. I myself am tired but then I look around at somewhere like AFROPUNK and I realize we’re tired but we continue on and that is almost the benefit and the problem of why we are the way that we are because we will always continue on.
We’ll never stop – ever. We’ll always be strong and beautiful and exceptional but that is the problem because they see that and they take advantage of that because they have made you to think that you are less than what you are and I’m telling you wherever you are and if you put this clip out, brother, sister whoever you are, you are so much more than what you think.”