By: Sydney Parker ’16, University Health Center SHARE Peer Educator
I’ve always dreamed of a world where I could just be Sydney Parker. A place where the various dimensions of my very being could co-exist. A place where I could be an unapologetically black, queer woman who loves everything from indie music to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I longed for a place where people are celebrated for who they are verses the stereotypical boxes that society imposes on them. I found that place this summer, and it’s called Afropunk.
What is Afropunk?
Afropunk is an annual multicultural music festival that takes place in major cities across the country. I attended the one in Brooklyn, NY. According to their website, “the word AFROPUNK itself has become synonymous with an open-minded, non-conforming and unconventional” platform for the “black presence in the American punk scene.” My experience wasn’t anything short of that! As soon as I walked into the festival I felt like I was in a perfect utopia. I looked around and as far as the eye could see was a celebration of individuality and liberation. There were barefoot children running through the grass, people with purple hair, luscious afros, bold and bright clothing, oversized overalls, and a sea of beautiful melanin.
I had an incredible time and when it was all over, it was very hard to say goodbye to this exhilarating paradise. Part of what made Afropunk so meaningful was the many ways in which the experience taught me about self-care and self-love.
Lesson #1: Whenever you are feeling emotionally and/or mentally unstable, find support and affirmation.
Seek out people or places that will allow you to reconnect with your soul. Whether it be visiting the Labyrinth on campus or catching up on your favorite Netflix show with a friend, it is important to cultivate various outlets that bring you inner peace and comfort.
Why this is important to me. To be black and conscious in America is hard and keeping up with the news this past year was especially difficult for me. From the death of Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland while in police custody to the Charleston nine shooting in South Carolina, the mass killings of black bodies due to systemic racism have taken a toll on my mental and emotional health. As someone who already struggles with anxiety, it is especially important for me to find ways to recharge. That is exactly what Afropunk did for me. It reinforced the pure bliss and beauty that comes along with being an African American woman.
Lesson #2: The world can be a scary place, especially for those who don’t conform or meet society’s standards of who you are expected to be. You are not alone.
Embrace who you are & surround yourself with people who celebrate the authentic you! The more you cultivate community and positivity, the more connected you will feel to others and the world around you.
Why this is important to me. Afropunk was the epitome of the inclusivity that I’ve always longed for. The festival had the following ground rules that were proudly (and massively) displayed. I wish that these rules were everywhere, encouraging us to love and accept one another for who we are.
Lesson #3: Always, always, always find ways to self-care & self-love!
I returned to Maryland with a “Very Black” sticker, souvenir T-shirts, and a new sense of self. My conclusion is this: I may not be able to stop all of the violence in this country, but I can find ways to rejuvenate MY soul so that I am not walking around carrying the burdens of the world. This allows me to focus my energies on the many things and people that I care about such as my love for dance and my family.