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