…Until Every Body is Free
Alone. That is the best way to see Living Colour, Bad Brains and Fishbone at Afro Punk. Especially if you grew up listening to every album that Living Colour ever made and you have never seen them live. Tonight I slipped on my Toms, tied up my Moshood pants, threw on a gold and green bejeweled International African Arts Festival t-shirt and dove heart-first into a crowd of whirling black rockers who caused dusty tornados (to mosh around) and themselves to become like apparitional dervishes sweating off the chains of 500 years of slavery and oppression.
Living Colour came on first and did not disappoint. They played classic jams like “Cult of Personality”, “Time’s Up”, and “Love Rears its Ugly Head”. I channeled my middle school and high school years when I would come home, pop their tapes in, and sing to the top of my lungs. Sure, I was angry then. Angry from being one of a handful of black kids in an all-white town, angry from being disconnected from the muslim black liberation community I was raised in. But I wasn’t just expressing anger. Back then, same as last night, I was letting forth what I call pilgrimmatic echoes; otherwise known as the sound of one who has traveled long to find ones long lost tribe.
Bad Brains and Fishbone schooled the crowd. They conducted a lesson on the origins of Afro’s and guitars and reggae tones at the intersection of punk. Minimally initiated into their orbits I was a dancing devotee. By the end George Clinton came on and it became a black jam session that only the streets of Brooklyn could have conjured up. I bounced off bodies, working in teams of two and three to hold the line of the circle then succumbing to pushes from behind me and my own physical need, atomic-level pulling that dragged out hunger, fear, flailing arms, and the spirits of ancestors long lost locked in bondage who could scarcely have imagined THIS.
So for a moment we found one another. We kicked up the dust of one of the oldest parks in Brooklyn, we swayed when the sound was brought low and reggae-like, we shook when it reached crescendo, we looked around when we needed to remember that this was not a dream. For the record I had nothing in my pockets but a dead cell phone, and my #IDNYC. I was not there to consume, to drink, to do drugs, to meet a fly lady, I was there to be bounced like a pin-ball all the way to the front. And it was at that place, where Corey reached out in amazement. Never had he performed in such a venue as this; surrounded by the edifices of public housing “projects”, the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and ringed by the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This park was meant for the reveling of us, descendants of slaves, and the in love and liberated, the funkafied, in a park without borders.
I am #VeryBlack and I claim rock and roll.
Then I went home… kids sleeping soundly, wife fretting about children of the same age as ours in Syria where Napalm is spread over their bodies and they burn and die in rubble.
So I recalled: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free” the quote by Fannie Lou Hamer that was flashing on the screens in-between sets at Afro Punk to remind all of us that everyone should find spaces to be. Just to be.
To be able alone, with your tribe, to have the time of your life.