Afropunk is more than just style. It represents soul, defiance, strength, unity, and bravery. This message was very clear and resounding in the 2017 Afropunk Fest. I expected nothing less considering the ongoing message of divisiveness circling the social and political climate. Afropunk is a chance for black people to show off their style, hairdo, and social standing. It’s a chance to speak up. A chance to embrace and celebrate magnificent and diverse hairdos, beauty and style without fear of judgment.
As a black girl living in a diverse world, I find that answering numerous question about my hair and skin is almost always a brazen experience. And so Afropunk was a chance for me to see uniqueness celebrated.
I’ve realized that to embrace my beauty has required a form of defiance. Fully accepting my uniqueness has become, without intention, a radical statement.
My beauty is radical because the most popular and accepted beauty standards seem to go against it.
My hairdo is a statement of defiance because your “innocent” curiosity has a sinister disapproving undertone.
Hence, choosing to show up in my pink braids nonetheless, requires courage, defiance, and strength and so, as with every adversary that doesn’t put you down, it has made me stronger. To me, Afropunk means celebrating uniqueness and acceptance.
Many feel affronted by black bravery and fearlessness. This affront is translated into an interest borne out of discomfort and not appreciation. This is what leads you to deep your fingers into my hair. No, my hair is not a shiny new thing you need to berate me about. It is who I am, it is a part of me, it is my normal. It is a demoralizing feeling to see you treat it as otherwise (good intentions or not). I find myself almost apologizing for who I am. Trying to explain why my hair is different, why I have braids on, what are braids, why I need sunscreen too. It is exhausting.
Don’t touch my hair.
Afropunk creates a space for black girls and boys to unapologetically embrace their uniqueness and individuality. More times than not, my identity as black overpowers my individuality as a person. Blanket assumptions, stereotypes, and expectations of who I am or should be, prevent people from connecting with me as an “individual”. Do not assume to know who I am, what I like, what my taste in music is, style choices, or my preferences just because of my skin color. In the same breath, do not assume that I am who I am because it is what is expected of those that look like me.
Me gritaron: ¡Negra!
Your curiosity and questions only make it obvious that my presence disrupts your perception of “normal”. Somewhere between your overbearing compliments and well-intended questions, I started to feel less like a person and more like an exhibit. And yet again, just as I was beginning to forget, I’m reminded that I’m seen as an outsider. Out of place. Different. But now I know that that is OK. I am outstanding.
Afropunk celebrates individuality and beauty and I’m grateful for its message.
“AFROPUNK is defining culture by the collective creative actions of the individual and the group. It is a safe place, a blank space to freak out in, to construct a new reality, to live your life as you see fit while making sense of the world around you.” – Afropunkfest
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