New report alleges questionable practices from Afropunk festival organizers.
Earlier this year, the organizers of Afropunk caught major flack after their publicized ousting of festivalgoers who wore a shirt that read, "Afropunk sold out to white consumption" at the Brroklyn iteration of the famed festival. While Afropunk soon released a statement, apologizing and clarifying their stance on the incident, the editor-in-chief of the festival's online platform would soon resign forom his position, using the opportunity to accuse the entity of underpaying its staff and exploiting black culture.
"When the editorial content was too ‘radical’ or unapologetic for their taste, we were asked to tone it down, our independence was compromised,” wrote Lou Constant-Desportes. “I resisted the best I could and repeatedly fought against, called out unethical behaviors and decisions internally when I saw them, to the point where I was being considered inconvenient and negative by management. Meanwhile, they were using radical imagery, slogans and intersectional mottos to market their events. Performative activism offered to sponsors as ways to promote their products. Elitism under the guise of ‘Black excellence.’”
Now two months later, more employees have come forward with their own allegations, supporting Constant-Deportes's own claims.
“Afropunk has not practiced the very teachings that catalyzed and sustained their movement. Our bodies and freedoms have been intimidated, our creativity stolen and our voices silenced for ‘consumption,'” said photographer Mambu Bayoh, in an expository post on The Rad Voice. “Many people were dealt with violently including myself, at the hands of Matthew Morgan, Jocelyn Cooper and their 1-10 silent partners and owners. In 2015, after Afropunk Brooklyn, I confronted Matthew Morgan regarding the use of my work without my permission. We agreed he and the company would no longer do that. In 2016, I returned to take photographs. Morgan instructed the security hold me down. He walked up to me, dug his hands in my pockets and took my photo memory card from me. Then he forcibly and physically kicked me out of the festival, with the muscle of his security.” bayoh has since filed a lawuit against Afropunk for using his work in their promotional metrial wiuithout his permission.
Another employee, came forward on the condition of anonymity to explain what they saw as blatant ignorance of black culture and black issues on the parts of organizers Jocelyn Cooper and Matthew Morgan, in a need to appease white audiences.
"The worst example is when we were helping put on an event for a well-known artist, and her team gave AFROPUNK 50 tickets that they said were exclusively for white people to attend the show," the anonymous employee tells Rad Voice. "Jocelyn explained that there would be European promoters in attendance, and the artist’s team wanted to make sure the audience didn’t seem “too urban.” I thought this was a joke at first. I could imagine the artist’s team thinking in this way, but I couldn’t imagine them asking AFROPUNK to carry the task out, and definitely not that we would actually do it. It was mind-blowing how quick the company was to appease these obvious racists with a negative view of Black audiences and what they are worth as soon as we had something to gain from it."
In support of this account, a former graphic design intern for the company revealed that Matthew Morgan requested that he place more white people on marketing materials in order to appeal to the market, reasoning that "American Blacks don’t have any money, therefore it was a waste of time to market to them.”
Head over to The Rad Voice to read the full report of allegations.