Afro-Punk (2003) is an award winning documentary film directed by James Spooner, exploring the roles of African Americans within what was then an overwhelmingly white punk scene across the United States of America. The film focuses on the lives of four African Americans dedicated to the punk rock lifestyle and its values, interspersed with interviews from scores of black punk rockers from all over the United States. Fans of the film and the music inspired an alternative movement, that later became the annual Afropunk Festival.

Afro-Punk explores the lives of black youth within a white punk subculture with the aim of expanding notions of blackness and reclaiming rock's roots by providing a platform for black artists that were not given the opportunity elsewhere. Growing up bi-racial on the streets of New York City, Spooner discovered and connected with the punk music scene and its culture but also felt alienated from both his white peers in the scene and the black community outside the scene. After examining the

world of hardcore punk in America at the time, and noticing the lack of people of color, along with the absence of dialogue around race despite its activist leanings, he began to question what it means to be black within alternative scenes.

Digging deeper into the subject of race became the inspiration for the documentary. Through exclusive interviews with punks and various punk rock bands including, Fishbone, 24-7 Spyz, TV on The Radio, Dead Kennedys, among others, Spooner's documentary covered issues of alienation, marginalization, inter-racial dating, and the the double consciousness of Black Americans within a predominately white sub-cultured community. It’s also a time capsule for what black alternative youth experienced just as the world was beginning to shift with the galvanizing power of the internet.

Spooner toured the film throughout the United States and the world, screening it over 350 times, garnering followers, and building community. He then created a message board to connect alternative black people from around the world. Soon after he held shows to foster that community. Shows included The Liberation Sessions, Bad Brains Tributes, The Double Consciousness Rock series at CBGBs, a west coast tour and screening with Ricky Fitts, and others, and later co-founded the Afropunk Festival -- though departing due to philosophical differences.

Afro-Punk features performances by Bad Brains, Tamar-kali, Cipher, and Ten Grand.

(Matt Davis, guitarist and vocalist of Ten Grand, died on August 10, 2003, shortly after the film was released.)

Please see the CONTACT page to book a screening &/or artist talk with James.



  • Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (Sep 2020) 

  • MailChimp Company Talk (June 2020)

  • Montreal POP Festival (Sept 2019)

  • AfroFuturism Lounge, Comic Con (July 2019)

  • FilmBar, Phoenix (May 2019)

  • Columbia University (April 2019)

  • Hamilton, Colgate University (April 2019)

  • New School, New York (April 2019)

  • San Antonio Texas, Xingonas in The Pit (March 2019)

  • Houston, Avant Garden (March 2019)

  • Bellingham, Pickford Film Center (Feb 2019)

  • Tacoma, King’s Books (Feb 2019)

  • Seattle, Ark Lodge Cinemas (Feb 2019)

  • Gary, Indiana Film Festival (Jan 2019)

  • Soho House, Chicago (Jan 2019)

  • Elastics Arts Space (Jan 2019)

  • Punk Black Festival (Nov 2018)

  • Duke University (October 2018)

  • The Hammer Museum, UCLA (August 2018)

  • Whittier College

  • Cal State Los Angeles

  • C-Squat, New York City

  • American Film Institute

  • Northwestern University

  • Missouri State University

  • The MOMA – New York 

  • DuSable Museum of African American History

  • DePaul University, Chicago

  • Yale University

  • Harvard University

  • Oaklandish

  • Massachusetts College of Arts

  • Georgetown University

  • Columbia College Chicago

  • The Brooklyn Academy of Music

  • Brown University, Providence Rhode Island

  • Gilman Street, Berkeley

  • Fireside Bowl, Chicago

  • Emory University

  • DePauw University

  • George Washington University

  • ABC No Rio

  • Rutgers University

  • New Orleans Independent Media Center

  • Indiana University

  • Anthology Film Archives, NYC

  • Echo Park Film Center

  • Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center

  • University of Delaware

  • Black Cat, DC

  • East Carolina University

  • Emerson College

  • University of South Carolina

  • Boise State University

  • Oberlin College

  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

  • Berkeley College of Music

  • Guilford College, North Carolina

  • York University, Toronto 

  • University of Kansas

  • Stone Center for Black Culture and History, UNC -Chapel Hill

  • The Rotunda, Philadelphia

  • University of Montana

  • University of Delaware

  • Bard College

  • New College of California, San Francisco

  • University of South Florida

  • Cal State University of Monterey Bay

  • University of Michigan

  • MJQ Concourse, Atlanta

  • TIFF, Toronto International Festival

  • American Black Film Festival

  • Festival International de Cine de Mar del Plata

  • Milan International Film Festival

  • Black Harvest Film Festival

  • Jamerican International Film Festival

  • The Fuji Rock Festival

  • South by Southwest Festival

  • San Francisco Black Film Festival

  • Langston Hughes Film Festival

  • Roxbury Film Festival

  • And hundreds of other organizations, colleges, universities, and independent spaces…


The Musical Influences of Basquiat with James Spooner

— The Broad Museum

The Process: James Spooner on AfroPunk 

— Believer Magazine

AfroPunk Is Back With New Message 

— Brooklyn Eagle

We Still Need To Be Seen 

— The Guardian on AfroPunk

James Spooner on Minor Threat 

— Heat Rocks Podcast (audio)

Riot Woman With James Spooner 

— Riot Woman Podcast (audio)

AfroPunk Staff Report Abuse 

— Vibe Magazine

AfroPunk Community Speaks Out 

— The Rad Voice

Couple Thrown Out of Afropunk

The Root

James Spooner Shows a Different Shade of Punk 

— Phoenix New Times

AfroPunk at The Hammer Museum (Q&A) 

–UCLA (video)

Vegan Dark Skin Tattoos 

— LA Sentinel

The Misguided Evolution of AfroPunk 

— Bitch Media

How AfroPunk Became a Movement 

— Racked NYC

Rock N Roll Nigger Experience 

— Documentary is Never Neutral

A Talk With James Spooner 

— High How Are You

Gentrifying AfroPunk 

— New Yorker

Looking for The Punk 

— Nylon

AfroPunk is Still The Other Black 

— Spin Magazine

The True Story of How AfroPunk Turned a Message board into a Movement 

— Fader

Is AfroPunk No Longer Punk 

— Vice

A Weekend at AfroPunk 

— PitchFork Magazine

Truly Indie Fans 

— New York Times

James Spooner’s Doc 

— XLR8R Magazine

AfroPunk Started With a Documentary 

— Village Voice

AfroPunk Stretches Racial Labels 


The Evolution of AfroPunk 

— Forbes Magazine

AfroPunk’s Growing Pains 

— Mail & Guardian

James Spooner Goes in Depth 


AfroPunk Before AfroPunk 

— Ebony Magazine

The Evolution of AfroPunk 

— Mic

AfroPunk: More Than a Festival; It’s Black Culture 

— Huffington Post

AfroPunk – A Black Punk Documentary 


Afro on The Outside, Punk on the Inside 

— NY Sun

The Rock N Roll Nigger Experience 

— Brooklyn Rail

Fear of A Punk Planet 

— Vibe Magazine

AfroPunk Scene 


LA Freedom Ride: Black Kids on Bikes 

— Street Films (video)

Director Interview 

— Indiana University Interview (video)

James Spooner Interview 

— AfroPunk Media (video)

AfroPunk – MTV Promo 

— MTV (video)

James Spooner Ipod Commercial 

— Apple (video)

James Spooner on Grit 

— Grit TV (video)

Director Interview 

— AfroPunk Media (video)

Director Interview 

— DefKon (video)

Much Music Interview 

— Much Music (video)