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The BACK 2 BLACK Fest Strikes Black!

SOUL GLO Photo by Erick Castles

I’m so happy to share with y’all what I think is the most important punk fest to ever take place in Los Angeles, and it’s called Back To Black. This historic event took place in Leimert Park. I want to salute everyone that was a part of this event: from YNGH0T to Tín @ 𝑫𝑰𝑺𝑶𝑹𝑰𝑬𝑵𝑻 to all of the bands who performed to all of the creatives that captured this powerful fest and to everyone who attended B2B. Now it’s time to let the Youth speak because they got something to SAY!

Black has been and will always be punk, and punk has been and always will be Black.YNGH0T

YNGH0T

YNGH0T (with Barbara Morrison) Photo by Adam Ziegenhals

What was your favorite part of B2B?

I think my favorite part of B2B had to be those moments where I had to force myself as an organizer to be present in the moment. This environment that we curated was so new to me and it was very surreal to be in one space with so many Black folks who shared the same love for punk and hardcore music. It was definitely overwhelming in a beautiful way because this was a dream that had only existed in my head, and to see it come to life was so fulfilling. I remember laughing and just thinking all night, “Damn. We’re really throwing a hardcore punk show in Leimert Park!” lol.

When you look back at growing up Black in the punk & hardcore scene, how can you compare/contrast it to your experience in these spaces now? How did your experience change if at all?

My experience growing up Black in the scene often brings up memories of being invalidated and berated by white and non-Black punks. The scene has definitely come a long way in regard to making these spaces a lot more inclusive but it’s definitely not enough and we can do a lot better as a community to ensure that our kids don’t endure the same resistance and disrespect that we did and still do. 

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My experience in the scene has changed for the better as an adult, but there is so much more that needs to be done. The scene isn’t Black enough for me, it isn’t queer enough for me, it isn’t female enough for me, and it isn’t inclusive enough for me. The current state of the scene has exhausted the tool of performative activism and it’s about time people put action behind their words. 

Do you feel fulfilled in the community as it is? What more do you think can be done to ensure that Black kids feel validated in a scene that aims to exclude them?

I feel fulfilled in MY community within the scene as it is. But as a Black woman (let alone a woman) in the scene, I don’t feel quite fulfilled at this very moment… I think the purpose of the music got lost in translation.

The scene aims to discredit and other Black punks deliberately. Black punks are ostracized through gatekeeping in the scene—and it’s not the brand of gatekeeping that benefits the community. It’s the brand of gatekeeping that fuels the prioritization of white art and white bodies in punk and hardcore. It’s the brand of gatekeeping that perpetuates white supremacy. It’s the same brand of gatekeeping that keeps Black kids from integrating into a scene that they have every right to be in. It has become very apparent that we can’t trust these other communities to prioritize inclusivity—we have to do it on our own and that starts with building a foundation by Black youth and for Black youth. We need to call out performative activism and put pressure on the white & non-Black folks in the scene that claim to support us. Black has been and will always be punk, and punk has been and always will be Black. B2B was a testament to what we CAN do and WILL do. It showed me what our community COULD look like—and frankly, I don’t plan on giving up on this reality until I see that type of community for all the young Black kids that come after me.

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COLD GAWD Video Filmed by Ruth Rodriguez

Braxton Marcellous, ZULU / SHRED BUNDY

What was your favorite part of B2B?

I had a unique experience at B2B because I played two sets (Shred Bundy and Zulu), so saying B2B was fun is an understatement. People said I looked stressed at the show because I had to run around and make sure the gear for all bands playing was working and everything on top of worrying about my own bands, but ultimately I wouldn’t trade the whole experience for anything. I loved that I got to watch my friends make music in a predominantly Black space. Having the chance to be a spectator as well as a performer was something else honestly. 

When you look back at growing up Black in the punk & hardcore scene, how can you compare/contrast it to your experience in these spaces now? How did your experience change if at all?

To be honest, sometimes it’s even worse now, unfortunately, because the microaggressions that present themselves are far more prevalent than the blatant acts of racism I would experience as a kid. The climate at shows when I was growing up was definitely more outwardly racist and scary, but now I see way too many fake allies who just have a performative checklist to hit. However, despite there being more microaggressions now, I’d still prefer recent times though. 

Do you feel fulfilled in the community as it is? What more do you think can be done to ensure that Black kids feel validated in a scene that aims to exclude them?

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B2B was definitely refreshing to see because, for years, I’d be the only Black kid at punk and metal shows in the IE. At the most, there’d be like 2 or 3 others that would come around but still, the division was glaringly obvious. The community definitely needs work because the stuff I see sometimes is horrendous, but overall I’ll take this over anything. 

Aleisia Miller – ZULU Photo by OG

ZULU Video Filmed by Ruth Rodriguez

SHRED BUNDY by Ruth Rodriguez

SHRED BUNDY Video Filmed by Ruth Rodriguez

B2B Crowd Photo by OG

Pierce Jordan, SOUL GLO

What was your favorite part of B2B?

My favorite part was our performance. It’d been 5 years since we’d played in LA and it was everything I’d hoped it’d be. The excitable energy and the feeling of camaraderie with other Black rockers really created a night that reminded the entire band why we do this in the first place.

When you look back at growing up Black in the punk & hardcore scene, how can you compare/contrast it to your experience in these spaces now? How did your experience change if at all?

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I started playing music when I was 14, and I’m hitting 30 in the coming year, so I’ve been doing this half my life. There were no Black promoters of shows in my small Maryland town besides myself. I had one other friend who looked like me who liked the same kind of music I did. Shows then were fun, but I didn’t have the same levels of respect from my peers that come with age and experience.

Now, I meet new people all over the country who look like me who either shared my lonely experience during my upbringing or have their own completely different one that I can learn from simply from getting to know them. It’s really just a result of the passage of time and the concerted efforts of many many individuals, but I’m grateful I’ve made it here.

Do you feel fulfilled in the community as it is? What more do you think can be done to ensure that Black kids feel validated in a scene that aims to exclude them?

My fulfillment comes from within. I’ve had to learn to create my own space because when I rely too much on the punk community, I often have to deal with heartbreak. The “scene” is much bigger than just the Black people in it, obviously, and I cannot ignore that. That is relevant because we are still letting certain petty sonic differences keep us from realizing a larger truth of Black intellectual ownership over all American music, and a unity that I believe can and should happen amongst all Black artists in the states.

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We’re treated the same regardless of what genres we play, and the evolution of the Black sound will be deeply enriched by a much wider appreciation and acceptance of each other. Ultimately, I believe that we need to be looking outside of ourselves regardless of what we are predominantly listening to because there’s a little of us in everything. In a lot of ways, I believe most Black rockers feel this way, but there’s always more that can be done.

SOUL GLO Photo by OG

SOUL GLO Video Filmed by Ruth Rodriguez

SOUL GLO Photo by Adam Ziegenhals

BLVC SVND

BLVC SVND Photo by OG

What was your favorite part of B2B?

My favorite part of the fest was seeing all the alternative Black people from L.A. in one place. I’ve never been to a hardcore show with that many Black people. It really made me feel included and powerful that there are Black kids my age who view the world similar to me. 

When you look back at growing up Black in the punk & hardcore scene, how can you compare/contrast it to your experience in these spaces now? How did your experience change if at all?

Honestly, growing up in this shit was really annoying because I got questioned so much, and all the crusty metal heads/punks use to try to gatekeep so hard with me. I would get asked, “name 5 songs,” people would tell me, “you only like it for the shirt,” or they would go on a tirade about how they listened to the band their whole life to try to make me feel like a noob. The scene has definitely gotten better with people like me being on the front lines and forcing it down these gatekeepers’ throats. Now I see a more diverse crowd at shows and I hope we keep doing the B2B fest over and over because that was one of the coolest shows I’ve ever played.

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Do you feel fulfilled in the community as it is? What more do you think can be done to ensure that Black kids feel validated in a scene that aims to exclude them?

I think the only way we can make Black kids feel more included is if we do more stuff like the fest. Also, all the whites and Latinos in the scene need to check their homies because it’s mostly them who give us a hard time. Also, all the Black bands need to stick together and have a consistent scene instead of trying to assimilate with white people all the time. This means doing our own shows, posting each others’ music, being in each others’ videos, and supporting each other any way we can. 

BLVC SVND Photo Erick Castles

BLVC SVND Video Filmed by Ruth Rodriguez

B2B Crowd Photo Erick Castles

Zaine Drayton, WACKO

What was your favorite part of B2B?

Shit my favorite part about B2B was that all my favorite Black people were there. It was a strange thing to realize at the moment, but it fer sure don’t happen enough like it did at B2B.

When you look back at growing up Black in the punk & hardcore scene, how can you compare/contrast it to your experience in these spaces now? How did your experience change if at all?

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Shit now people have more respect for my shit cause I been here in this shit forever, but back in the day, like when I was 14ish, 15ish, there were plenty of times I had to brush racism off my shoulder in the scene. People cracking jokes about me being into punk despite my skin color. I mean, you get it from both sides, right—white people wanna ostracize you for being into punk and Black people do the same because they don’t think it should be a “Black thing” being into punk. So it’s weird, ya know, Earl Sweatshirt said it best, “too Black for the white kids too white for the Blacks.” But the climate is changing fersure, shit it’s cool to be Black now, which I’m not necessarily sure is a good thing, but it’s definitely better than it used to be. I think people are more open to something like B2B.

Do you feel fulfilled in the community as it is? What more do you think can be done to ensure that Black kids feel validated in a scene that aims to exclude them?

Representation is important. If you look out at a crowd and only see one or two Black kids, then something is fucked up there. Like I said, I think we’re on the right direction finally. Black folk should start more bands, I think that could help a lot to let the world know we out here punk as fuck. I mean shit, Black people didn’t even have to learn to be punk, we already were, always have been, it’s about time the rest of the world sees that, too.

WACKO Photo Erick Castles

WACKO Video Filmed by Ruth Rodriguez

WACKO Photo by by Ruth Rodriguez

Black people didn’t even have to learn to be punk, we already were, always have been, it’s about time the rest of the world sees that, too.Zaine Drayton, WACKO

WACKO Photo by by Ruth Rodriguez
B2B Crowd Photo by OG

Jabril Ward, SHIIVA

What was your favorite part of B2B?

My favorite part about Back 2 Black Fest was the agape of so many people of color. To be a part of and even witness something so special was a great experience. Being surrounded by individuals that provide a representation of what I feel has been lacking in the Hardcore Punk scene is something that I’ve dreamed of for years.

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When you look back at growing up Black in the punk & hardcore scene, how can you compare/contrast it to your experience in these spaces now? How did your experience change if at all?

As I look back on my 17 years of growing up Black in the Hardcore/Punk scene in Southern California, I honestly feel that whereas we still have a ways to go in inclusiveness, events like Back 2 Black have provided a gateway for POCs to step out of their double consciousness and embrace their identity. The change that I experienced was the ability to identify with those like me due to the creation of this event and to magnify my relations with people of color who have unspoken experiences like myself. Back 2 Black Fest is something that I feel should continue on as an annual thing from here on out.

Do you feel fulfilled in the community as it is? What more do you think can be done to ensure that Black kids feel validated in a scene that aims to exclude them?

Although the Hardcore/Punk scene in Southern Cali has provided many outlets for people like me, I do still feel that many avenues have yet to be fulfilled, and that includes things other than just performing in bands, but also validating many other social expressions. These can include Black Podcasts, where things such as inclusiveness or the Black experience in the Punk scene can be talked about. I know that such things may exist, but I feel as if they aren’t getting enough attention or are being placed on the back burner, like many other things in their lane.

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I think some other things that can be done to validate Black kids in this scene is to continue on with events like this, with the endgame to provide the voice of the majority. The goal eventually is to gain an equal level of volume in our voice to the point where fests like Back 2 Black will no longer be needed, despite how awesome they are. But until then, shows where we can celebrate and praise Black voices, as well as the voices of people of color in the music scene, should be an annual event if not even more consistent. I personally believe this will be feasible in providing validation for Black kids.

B2B Crowd Photo by OG

SHIIVA Video Filmed by Ruth Rodriguez

GHOULAVELII Photo by OG
DISORIENT Agency is an amorphous network of organizers, artists, and storytellers, creating experiences that challenge people’s comfortability with the status quo.
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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. yngh0t

    January 11, 2022 at 11:28 am

    🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤

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