Normally, everything that’s printed in this webzine is exclusively written by our staff members. I’ve decided to make an exception with this piece because I feel that Afropick embodies in practice many of the ideals that we support in our writing—challenging white supremacy in and outside of punk rock, and understanding true artistic creation as fundamentally revolutionary and opposed to dehumanizing systems of power. ARTNOISE supports Afropick and urges you and all of our neighbors in this city to do likewise. These people are doing great work. - germ ross, 5/25/07]
On Friday June 6th at 8 p.m., Afropick (myspace.com/afropickmusic) will host their sixth show at the Rotunda (4014 Walnut). This show will be hosted by former Black Panther political prisoner Ashanti Alston and it will be a fundraiser for the Human Rights Coalition, featuring performances by McRad, Imani Uzuri Rock Quartet, and Purple Rhinestone Eagle.
Afropick began as a one time show. In October 2004, Maori Karmael Holmes (independent filmmaker of the hip hop documentary Scene Not Heard and activist), Chante Brown (lead singer for the black girl metal band Roullette) and Walidah Imarisha (poet, member of the Puerto Punx band/collective Ricanstruction) planned a one time Black Rock show to be part of a series going on around Philadelphia. The idea was to show people of color doing hard alternative music with a political edge. The response was overwhelming. Almost 200 people showed up, mostly young people of color. Everyone asked when the next show would be. It was supposed to be a one time event, but as Walidah Imarisha explained “we quickly realized that there was a significant dearth of venues for people of color rock/punk/hard bands to play, especially all ages spaces. So the show was conceived to be a quarterly show, and renamed Afropick.”
Over 700 people are estimated to have come to the five Afropick shows that have occurred. They are a very large mix of folks, but are majority young people of color.
The organizers realized that the act of being people of color playing (and in the cases of black folks reclaiming) rock in all its forms, of getting loud on stage, of letting out the rage and anger and frustration in positive and creative and inspiring ways, was a political act. Recognizing the politics of identity that were manifesting, the organizers also wanted to have politics that were about a larger change in the world. So the Afropick collective decided to make the show a fundraiser for the Human Rights Coalition, a prisoner family organizing group with chapters in Philadelphia, Chester and Pittsburgh (www.hrcoalition.com), as a way of linking the politics in more solidly to the show.
Ashanti Alston, former Black Panther/Black Liberation Army political prisoner and current anarchist anti-prison organizer, hosts the shows. Ashanti showed many of the people in the collective, all of whom are in their early to late twenties, that you can be dedicated to the struggle and to the cause of change, and still have fun. As he said at the Halloween Afropick, “We can get down and still be loud enough to bring down any type of walls, even prison walls.”
Each Afropick event is co-sponsored by a number of organizations and businesses who provide the support possible to provide this free fundraising show. This time Afropick is sponsored by The Rotunda, The Wooden Shoe, Books Through Bars and South Street Sounds.
Ultimately, Afropick is about building community, in as many different ways as possible. As Walidah explained “we want to create a space for people of color to be loud, to be angry, to be themselves wholly. We want to link up folks who feel fragmented and isolated, because of their politics or their identities. We want to create a space where folks can explore different styles and genres of music. We want to link politics to art, and know that we as artists can create powerful inspiring revolutionary art that can still move minds and asses. We want to make sure that prison organizations, which disproportionately affect communities of color, have the funding to go on. We want to introduce folks to issues they may not be familiar with, and highlight work being done on them that the mainstream wants to ignore. We want to honor our elders, and make sure they know they always have a place and a voice in whatever the younger generation creates. Mostly we want to fully embody the motto Afropick has adopted from the beginning: Brown, Loud and Proud!”