Jimi Otulaja, Afropunk Volunteer
by Benjamin Fang
Jul 31, 2019 | 1029 views | 0 0 comments | 570 570 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When the Afropunk Festival made its debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in 2005, it attracted young people across the borough and the city.

One of them was Coney Island native Jimi Otulaja, who attended his first Afropunk Festival in 2010. He has been volunteering for the popular event ever since.

“It was just a space for young Brooklynites, people who are into music, creativity and the arts,” he said. “They kind of gathered us into one corner in a park, threw us music we liked, curated some themes and it grew.”

Otulaja, who lived on Long Island for some time before moving back to Flatbush, said a number of factors drew him to the summertime festival.

“I’m always going to go where the action’s at,” he said. “The thing I like about Afropunk is that there really is something for everybody if you’re open and into the arts.”

The festival, which originally highlighted the punk subculture in the black community, has broadened to include soul and hip hop. Previous headliners include Ice Cube, Lauryn Hill and Tyler the Creator.

Afropunk has garnered some criticism for its changes over the years, including critiques of its corporate partnerships and artist choices.

But supporters like Otulaja said with so much magic, the festival organizers had to make some profits from the brand.

“It’s really hard to build staples in the culture,” he said. “In New York City, of all places, they’ve done that.”

This year, Afropunk will take place on August 24 and 25 at Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene, with dozens of artists set to perform.
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