Making an Impact with AFROPUNK

Recently I had the incredible opportunity to put on what might have been the coolest event I’ve ever helped put on with HeadCount: a STAY WOKE letter-writing party with our friends from AFROPUNK.

I woke up early on Sunday, May 7th, packed a car full of HeadCount supplies (I had to forgo a sausage egg and cheese sandwich, a bike race caused a traffic jam and slowed me down) and headed to the Rush Arts Corridor Gallery in Fort Greene.

When there I was greeted by the warm smiles of Manushka Magloire and Monique Siaw, the coordinators on the AFROPUNK side. They are amazing. Working with these women was absolutely inspiring.

And then the coolest thing ever happened: people actually showed up. Normally when we (and AFROPUNK) put on events we don’t have to worry about attendance. Music is the draw. Like we know activism is great, but music is a little more popular. Saul Alinsky is famous but not as famous as JAY-Z. But participants did come, they came to make a difference despite the lack of musical accompaniment.

And those that came, came and participated. In a packed room we collected almost 30 letters to be sent to elected reps. And dozen or so more folks came to listen and learn and went home to write their own pieces. Someone even saw the AFROPUNK sign on the street, asked what was going on – we got him to register to vote!

It was quite special being welcomed into the AFROPUNK community. I’ve been with HeadCount through two presidential elections, I’ve put on almost ten Participation Row social action villages, and attended god-knows how many jam band shows. I’ve loved (almost) every minute of it. But one thing I haven’t always loved is how homogenous some factions of the live music community can be. Anyone who knows anything about the history of voter registration in America knows how relevant race is to the discussion. Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney might still be alive today had they been registering white voters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania instead of black voters in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Obviously a single letter-writing event is a single event. Even if we have more events (and we are hoping to have as many as people are willing to attend), we won’t solve every problem in our society. But it felt really, really good bringing HeadCount somewhere new, and making an impact we’d never made before.

And it felt great to help make sure all my Brooklynite neighbors can STAY WOKE