With an unstable government and Brexit negotiations just starting, I can’t help but feel lost. Thus far, this year has been unbearably difficult for many in Britain with numerous horrific incidents attempting to rip holes in our communities. The devastating Grenfell Tower fire for one – a home to a good deal of ethnic minority tenants – saw the death of countless adults and children, and brought to light the failings of the government to look after the people who need them the most. Terrorist attacks in London and Manchester show the failings of our community to drive out racism, with the backlash aimed at anyone with a brown skin tone. So, to me, AFROPUNK London feels a bit like coming up for air.
This year’s fest looks to be a centrepiece of black culture this summer with organisers obviously learning a lot from last year’s PR nightmare. It still may not be alternative or punk enough for some, but their online community description particularly resonates: “Millennials of all musical tastes and walks of life, moving in one direction for the promise of something greater; creating history in the process, and intersections between different music genres and the cultures that surround them.”
The promise of something greater? Creating history in the process? I can’t help but think of our recent general election and hashtags such as #Grime4Corbyn. And who else would have played such a huge part in creating this movement but the grime God himself, JME. It was his first time ever voting in an election and he brought all his fans along for the ride. Frequently posting on social media, JME encouraged his young demographic not just to register, but to read every party manifesto and make an independent decision for themselves on who to vote for. Can we hold him solely responsible for the historical turnout of 18-24 voters? Yes, I think we can.
As well as JME, this year AFROPUNK have assembled a fantastic range of black British artists across many genres. This includes Nadia Rose, who, following the release of her debut EP in January, will be an absolute must-see; Little Simz, gal-dem fave, who recently joined Gorillaz on stage for an exclusive performance at Demon Dayz; east London-based singer-songwriter and record producer NAO; Lianne La Havas who performed as a surprise act at Glastonbury; Grammy Award-winner Corinne Bailey Rae, who paid a visit to gal-dem’s V&A takeover in Stratford earlier this year; Kojey Radical, our “artist to watch 2017”, who has spent the last year blowing us away and 21-year-old singer and songwriter Connie Constance.
The build-up is breathtaking and you can tell that organisers have listened to what the people want by finding fresh and established home-grown talent. Although, we also can’t forget our overseas guests The Internet who were recently announced as headliners. Plus, my personal favourite, the woke millennial teen dream, Willow Smith. It’s a rare treat to see Willow grace a London stage with her presence.
For the people of colour who bear the brunt of a rise in hate, fuelled by our own government and media, a celebration of black bodies is desperately needed. With food, art, music and spirit, our community never fails to come together and surprise me with its endless giving. So please, enjoy yourself at AFROPUNK this year. Don’t appropriate anyone’s culture, and if you see me singing ‘Female Energy’ at the top of my lungs I beg you don’t record it.