Matthew Morgan Gives Us 5 Reasons to Hit Up Afropunk

By Leah Faye Cooper

Music lovers and so-called misfits will be forever grateful that Matthew Morgan founded Afropunk, the annual festival that celebrates counterculture at its finest. With acts like Das Racist, Janelle Monae and Reggie Watts scheduled to perform at this year’s edition (August 25-26), Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park will likely host its largest audience to date. But big names in music aren’t the only draw. As he finalized plans on the fest’s triumphant return (a storm cancelled the 2011 installment) Morgan took some time to share five reasons why he should see all of us there.    

1. We’re almost a preteen. The Afropunk festival is eight years old. It’s a cool thing to think about when your brainchild goes from a friend’s basement party to a corporate-sponsored festival, but that’s what we’ve done. As we grew in experience, our audience grew. As our ideas matured, our experiences became richer. And that’s the thing about counterculture — you create it.

2. It’s a Brooklyn thing! Old school NYC is old school. Anyone who is new to this place is moving into Brooklyn, and anyone from NYC loves Brooklyn. “I live in Bed Stuy but I’m from Milwaukee,” has become a mark of honor and less of a diss in recent years because yeah, you did it. You made it. Stepping out of anything is a challenge and a victory, even in its struggle. And that’s Afropunk — we made it.  Brooklyn is physically “outside” of Manhattan and “outsider” culture is existing while knowing that your experience is unique but also extraordinary. Through the Afropunk Festival we want to bring it all, on an extraordinary level. We have the Nike Battle for the Streets competition for the skaters, the Brooklyn Rhapsody Bike Show for the bikers, and Restaurant Row featuring 18 of NYC’s finest food trucks for the foodies.

3. You’re yourself.  There’s a kid in every city and every town that thinks he or she is the weird one. His jeans are too tight or too saggy, and no one cares about his stupid haircut. His or her favorite song is the worst song. But bump that terrible song. The general consensus of Afropunk isn’t rebellion, it’s freedom. When your mom thinks it sucks, it’s probably super awesome. Your best friend — the one running his mouth about your jeans — is waiting on someone, anyone, to say what’s good. If you already know Alice Smith, Toro Y Moi, and Joe Jordan are brilliant, of course he or she is mad. It’s a fusion of understanding, compromise and not caring. It’s a beautiful laying down of pretentiousness and a refusal to do anything other than what feels right. The freedom to be so bold in your own person takes real bravery and boldness. That’s a confidence that most aren’t allowed to feel. To be Afropunk is to be 100 percent of whatever is you are, and that feels awesome!

4. It’s more than music… If you take a boot to the face in a mosh-pit, you pretty much let it go. It’s like damn, now your face is swollen and your lip is probably bleeding, but it was for a cause. It was for the beat, the music, the rhythm — whatever it is — it happened on your face. And you’ll sport that welt on your mug, proudly. And when a stranger stares wondering “are you ok?” you’ll laugh. They didn’t see you sweating out the knees and taking elbows in the gut, but the other kid with a sling and a busted lip passing by — he might just smile back at you.

5. …but still all about the music. Community is built on common ground, and music is a universal language that plucks the heart strings of any person. It’s a beautiful argument or a god-sent soulmate; all because of Erykah Badu. It’s Hip-Hop to look out for your brother or sister and it’s punk to stand by a friend. It’s rock and roll to stand together and it’s Afropunk to do all of that everyday. That’s really all it is.

Image Courtesy Girlie Action