Liner Notes: Missing Afropunk -The Toast

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mensah demary’s previous Liner Notes columns for The Butter can be found here.

I woke up this morning with a bit of anxiety. Sunday, Brooklyn: the gym loomed, as did multiple deadlines tumbling all around me, as if drowning in one of those playpens full of colorful plastic or rubber balls, and I had emails to answer, and documents to review, and decisions to make.

Adulthood awaited, and I didn’t even have brunch plans for the day—the worst realization. Still, life is a matter of degrees, when you think about it. One step leads to two, one sentence becomes a paragraph, and this is how I convinced myself to get on with the business.

My home is not necessarily a musical home; that is, all the music I hoard and treasure and discard and replace is rarely played loud enough for others—neighbors, primarily—to hear. I confine my music to the shitty Apple “earpods” that feel great in the ears, until I notice they’re not actually in my ears at all, but sort of sit there, like two lazy white cats, bemused and unbothered by the fair demands you make of them.

Sunday mornings, then, are quiet in terms of music (says this music columnist). But I do listen to my thoughts, made clearer as each minute post-sleep passes; the aqueous shimmer from already-forgotten dreams receding so I can figure out my next move.

I remember, finally, that it is Sunday, and Afropunk—the annual black music festival here in Brooklyn—is about to begin its second day. I think, “this is the fourth year in a row I’ve missed Afropunk” but then engage in immediate correction, or more like self-interrogation, miffed at myself by the word “missed”.

The word implies that an attempt was made toward a fixed goal—the arrow was fired at the target, or the ill-advised jumpshot launched—and failure was the result. I haven’t missed Afropunk so much as I’ve opted to bail out on the whole idea, the appeal of seeing Grace Jones bless and bestow beautiful blackness upon the audience weighed against inconvenience, the bad habit of one constantly having to attend to chronic anxiety.

But even Grace Jones can’t help me, since today is Sunday, and she performed last night, and Lenny Kravitz—tonight’s headliner and overall festival closer—doesn’t appeal to me, though one wonders if another IRL dick pic will occur. Probability suggests unlikelihood.

I admit to vanity, too—the deadly sins continue to pile up in the corner—as I’m woefully out of shape, and I have nothing to wear, and I’ll be damned if I get caught in one of the many Instagram shares looking sweaty and annoyed. Afropunk is lowkey the Met Gala for black creative millennials, as much a showcase for bleeding edge fashion as it is for beloved musicians straddling fringe and mainstream—the bassist Thundercat comes to mind.

Thinking about going requires such creative force and imaginative power— I haven’t even considered which band t-shirt and earth-toned accessories I would wear—and I’m already over it. If I sound glib, I apologize; these are real concerns, and only those of us who’ve contemplated Afropunk as a possible “thing to do” (not to be confused with those of us who actually go to Afropunk) can truly understand.

To view Afropunk through the stark extremes of the introvert/extrovert prism would be misguided. No need to muddy this essay with propaganda—the introvert-extrovert wars on Twitter and Tumblr can rage on without my meddling—but energy, the boho, “spiritual” kind reserved for things like bikram yoga, is noteworthy. Afropunk, even through photos, certainly more so in video clips, pulses with energy.

I feel Afropunk.

Or I feel what I’d like to feel should I ever attend Afropunk, but I fear I won’t; actualization never lives up to the preceding anticipation, the expectation, of the thing. Over-analysis, the great ruiner of things, the STD PSA in the middle of a wet dream.

I will have used less than one thousand words to write “I didn’t go to Afropunk,” and I apologize for even that meager word count, but I suppose I’m curious as to why, and I have a job to do (says this music columnist). This year, for brevity’s sake, I could always blame it on the cost of entry—$45 for a one day pass, as opposed to free the previous years—but it wasn’t money.

I don’t know. Why, as a question, bores the hell out of me, and the morning has overstayed its welcome, dragging humidity into the hazy afternoon. The world is turning, and Afropunk is about to begin again. No kings or queens were harmed during the production of this essay, and the incense burns unmolested. No one cares, and all is well. It’s Sunday.

mensah demary is editor in chief of Specter Magazine and a columnist for Fourculture Magazine. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Metazen, Little Fiction, PANK, Thought Catalog, and elsewhere. Originally from New Jersey, he currently lives and writes in Brooklyn. Find him on Twitter @mensah4000.

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