Melanin Poppin’ – Afropunk Brooklyn 2017 with My Girls

For those of you who don’t know what Afropunk is, in just a few words, it’s a two-day alternative music festival that incorporates fashion, art, food, activism and other creative expressions of blackness. It originated in Brooklyn but now has festivals in Paris, London, Atlanta and Johannesburg, South Africa. Afropunk is a huge event that is a convergence of many different interests, but for me, the dress-up aspect is the most exciting part. Just do a Google search for “Afropunk fashion” or “Afropunk street style” to see what I mean. Or better yet, continue reading!

Last year was my first time going to Afropunk, although I had been wanting to go for several years. When I finally made it there, I ended up having so much fun and decided that I would definitely go again next year. This year rolled around and I was able to get my ticket early, thank goodness because the prices go up as it gets closer to the date. This is an issue for some since prior to 2015, the concert was free of charge. But one thing to note, whether you consider it a good or bad thing, once it stopped being free, the acts moved closer and closer to being mainstream. The concert still features alternative acts, but I think one difference is that Black alternative music is becoming more popular, as I mentioned in my post, “Is Alt-R&B a Thing? (What I’m Listening to These Days & a Review of Ravyn Lenae).”

Anyway, I was super excited about this year’s show, which would have, among other acts, a Saint Heron Stage that included performers curated by Solange herself. So I got a group of 6 of my closest friends and family together to go with me. We were going to have a mini girls trip! I even created a What’s App group chat for us to plan. For weeks, the seven of us chatted and laughed about what outfits and hairstyles we would be rocking for the big event. We sent each other Pinterest pictures for inspiration and thought of DIY ideas for accessories and anything else we could think of.

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#MillennialGirlMagic

As far as I’m concerned, people in my generation are the only true millennials. I mean, I graduated from high school in the year 2000, the beginning of the new millennium (by popular opinion, if not the actual beginning). They said that those in my class represented the future. It was an honor, yes, but it also came with very high expectations. Apparently, now there are two decades of people, most of whom are younger than us, who have been dubbed millennials and for whatever their reasons, older generations look down on millennials as a whole today. I guess things have changed.

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The Top 10 Books on My Holiday Wish List

 

As I have said before, I used to be an avid reader growing up. Even now, I absolutely love reading. But, as I got older I’ve had less and less time to read. Or maybe I just wasn’t making the time. Either way, adulting definitely distracted me from my favorite hobby. Thankfully, I have started to get back into it.

Here’s a list of books that I have on my Christmas wish list. Some of them I have been hearing great buzz about lately and others are books I have known about the past few years but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. This holiday season, I hope to get all of the books on this list, and more!

1.

Another Brooklyn, By Jacquline Woodson

This book speaks to me because I remember when I was younger there were so many coming-of-age stories for white children and not many for young women of color. So when I did come across any, I would be so excited to read them. Another Brooklyn is about a woman reflecting back on her experience as a young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn during the 70’s. This seems like the perfect adult coming-of-age story and I can’t wait to read it. 

2.

Purple Hibiscus, By Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This is the debut novel by acclaimed author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, so I’m a bit late. But better late than never. I knew this book had to be on my list because I really enjoyed reading Adiche’s other work and the story, about a young Nigerian woman’s internal struggle for autonomy from her family, was something I think many people can relate to. 

3.

Underground Railroad, By Colson Whitehead

I read a lot of historical fiction when I was younger but, as an adult, I haven’t found any that sparked my interest. What struck me about this book was that not only is it set in pre-civil war America, but Colson added his own spin – the underground railroad is an actual railroad and not just a metaphor. It tells the story of a courageous young woman who escapes slavery via the railroad and all of the adventures that come with that voyage. I’m sure this book will be just as heartbreaking as it is exciting but I’m looking forward to the entire experience. 

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Mickalene Thomas: Layers of Black Womanhood through an Artist’s Eyes

 

La leçon d’amour, 2008

La leçon d’amour, 2008

I first came across Mickalene Thomas’ work on – where else? Pinterest. Because I’m obsessed. Anyway, besides her work being gorgeous and the fact that it focuses on black female identity and sexuality, I was drawn to find out more about her when I discovered that not only is she an openly gay black artist, but she is also from Camden, NJ, where I was born. To top it off, she is now based out of Brooklyn, NY, just as I am.

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Solange – True (limited edition EP art)

Thomas’ work is a cross between that of Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse’s fauvism, and pop art. She often uses mixed-media, a technique in which she incorporates acrylic paint along with glitter, rhinestones, and other materials. She also utilizes photography and multi-textured collages filled with patterns and bright colors. On her use of patterns, Thomas says in a 2011 interview with PMC Mag that, “Pattern has been an important part of my work for a very long time–I use it to create rhythm and dissonance in the work as well as to reference an array of influences and sources.”

Thomas also creates amazing installations, which are works of three-dimensional creation, often used to transform a space into a representation of a certain concept or theme. Below is Thomas’ “Better Days” installation, which depicts a childhood memory of when her mother hosted parties and other events to raise money to fight causes that affect the Black community.

Mickalene Thomas’s “Better Days” installation

“Better Days” Installation, 2013

Remarkably, Thomas introduces the Black woman into classical art in a beautiful and poignant way. This is especially apparent in her 2012 exhibition, “The Origin of the Universe,” where, as Huffington Post puts it, she “…trad[es] in Romantic renditions of milky skin and auburn curls for glamorous black women, their nude forms replaced with bold, printed ensembles, playful wigs, and electric makeup…Thomas does far more than insert black women into an artistic narrative from which they were, for so long, excluded.” With each new exhibit, Thomas challenges societal norms of beauty and forces the viewer to come face to face with how she perceives it.

Even as her work evolves, Thomas continues to put the Black woman at the forefront as she does with the many-layered tapestries and landscapes that surround them. She is able to achieve the fine balance between a Black woman’s sexuality, strength, and femininity and by doing so she allows her work to exude a certain truth and sincerity that is often lacking in the one-dimensional portrayal of the Black woman.

In a 2016 Women in the World, New York Times interview, when asked how her work is affected by how the black woman’s experience is often erased in the feminist dialogue, Thomas says, “By selecting women of color [as my subjects], I am quite literally raising their visibility and inserting their presence into the conversation. I like to think of the portraits as mirrors… We are not validated until we see ourselves, and the mirror is a tangible object that works as an evidence to external appearance. Not only are we present, we demand that we be seen, be heard, and be acknowledged.”

In an Interview Magazine feature, Thomas specifically speaks about the importance of representing the Black woman when it comes to ideals of beauty. She says, “Out of necessity, black women have always had to consider others’ perceptions of a certain beauty ideal, just starting with the skin color.” This is where her art comes in; it not only validates the Black woman’s existence, it seeks to educate the rest of the world on just how beautiful and precious a Black woman’s skin, hair, and body are and that these are not to be devalued by any outsider who may not understand their worth.

I Thought You Said You Were Leaving, 2006

I Thought You Said You Were Leaving, 2006

In total recognition of her intersectionality, Thomas’ art also conveys powerful messages about the female body and women’s sexuality. Thomas’ “Origin of the Universe” is an invocation of Gustave Courbet’s “Origin of the World” (1866), where Courbet painted a headless torso of a woman with her legs spread, leaving everything for full view. With her rendition, Thomas strips the power away from such a male-centered, controversial work and turns it into something much more empowering. She uses herself as the model, spread legs and all, and in her signature style, she incorporates glitter into the portrait. Thomas makes it her own in such a way that seems to exclaim, ‘It is my body and I will allow you to view it when and how I please!’

Thomas is also adept at seamlessly featuring intimacy between Black women in her artwork. Another piece in her exhibition, “Origin of the Universe”,  called “Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires” (also an invocation of Courbet’s work), depicts two Black women with limbs intertwined, taking a nap in the midst of a garden full of disjointed colors and shapes.

Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, 2012

Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, 2012

Keeping in theme with intimacy between Black women, Thomas is known for using subjects that she has good relationships with, both working and personal. Her most recent work, “Muse”, is based on a book of the same name and is dedicated to her photography of many of the women she works with. The exhibit and book feature several of Thomas’ personal friends and acquaintances with whom she became closer with as she continued to use them as subjects in her pieces. Continue reading