PUNK BLACK Brings the ATL Scene to NYC

We first discovered the PUNK BLACK collective on Instagram a couple years back. Instagram has become a great repository of 15-30 sec clips of underground music captured in real-time from all over the globe. When I saw these little snippets of this Atlanta, Georgia based community moshing and rocking out in Cosplay – I sensed they were on to something heavy, gritty, and real for young folks of color. Each year the collective explores new ways to engage local youth and share an underground truth most people don’t know. More Black and Brown youth in America than you realize love rock music. From punk to death metal, it’s actually a thing. And though thousands of us can’t meet up as often we’d like, when we do, its a beautiful moment of braids flying, hips swaying and faces glowing.

PUNK BLACK (PB) is expanding its reach this summer by presenting an NYC music fest in Brooklyn on August 22, 2018. As Von Phoenix, one of PB’s founders tells it, “We’d like to create a space in NY were PoC can feel at home while doing what they love, as well as plant the seeds for a PB Chapter in New York. Not to mention we want to have fun (maybe, *ahem* get a little sauced) and see some kick ass bands.”

We asked Von about the upcoming NYC event, and how the collective came to be. Check it out.


Who founded the PUNK BLACK collective?

The original founders of PUNK BLACK (PB) are Kharis Ellison – age 26, Arkkade Kult – age 38, Jamee Cornelia- age 25, and myself Von Phoenix – age 28. There are 6 of us in the primary collective not counting contributors.

What inspired you to create Punk Black and the need for more representation in the scene?

I discovered rock music around age 12, and I noticed right away that I didn’t see many People of Color (POC) in main stream bands. Around that time I was still trapped in the notion that Rock music was created by white people, and POC weren’t really fond of it. This of course made me feel even more like the odd man out, and unfortunately fueled my self-hate phase at the time. It wasn’t until I started a band at the end of high school did I realize how bad the lack of representation was on the scene. Being an all Black band we got all kinds of looks, condescending remarks, and general hate.PUNK bLACK QUOTE

Was Cosplay always a part of the Atlanta Punk Scene? The collective seems to fill a need for youth interested in all things alternative, was that a natural progression?

Not that I know of. I definitely know a lot of cosplayers who like punk, and a lot of punk fans who like cosplay/anime/comics. It was a natural progression for us, as most of the collective grew up being influence by anime, and our designs have always been anime influenced.

About Community organizing, was finding space for shows and funding new projects something you had previous experience doing?

Definitely not. We had played a lot of shows before the first PB, but we had never really put on our own show, let alone organize a monthly event.

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Photo courtesy of PUNK BLACK

Access to creative space is one of the key barriers for artists in NYC, how was it navigating venues in Atlanta?

When we started in 2015 it was a lot easier to find venues in ATL, but as time goes on it’s getting more and more difficult. We normally like to use a combination of house and DIY venues but as the siege of gentrification intensifies, we lose more venues. Over the last year we’ve luckily found a home base at Union EAV, which has been an awesome help to the movement.

When did you first get the idea to launch an event in NYC and what drew you to this city?

NY has always been one of the places we thought about setting up another chapter of PB, but it was when we were contacted by Mecca Shabazz earlier this year that we realized we could actually make it happen. She’s now our NY event director, and our eyes in New York. New York’s new scene is definitely what drew us to the city. It’s been the birthplace of things like Punx of Color, AfroPunk, and dope ass bands over the years. (Shout out to Shinobi Ninja).

Are there a couple organizations out there you admire? Why do you admire them?

Definitely Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP) in Atlanta and Punx of Color in New York. SFQP promotes and features the LGBT art community through events and festivals, and their style and the way they run things is really dope. I’ve been following Punx of Color for a few years now, and though I haven’t been able to make it to an event I can tell that do great work for punks of color. It shows not only in the numbers, but in the reactions of the community they serve. I’ve only seen and heard good things about them, and after speaking with Gayla Brooks I can tell they try to do what’s best for the community as a whole. I think both of these organizations think about the community first, which is one of the hardcore reasons I dig them both as well.

The Problem with Shea Moisture

Brands still have a lot to learn about engaging on social media.

Its been about 24 hours since Shea Moisture, owned by Sundial Brands, got dragged through Twitter and Facebook for their poorly executed ad promoting the use of their hair care products on mainstream glossy and eurocentric hair types.

My interest is to take a closer look at their strategy to clean up the mistake since yesterday. It already appears they have gone to media outlets more so than the online customer base for setting the record straight. (FastCo, WashingtonPost, Huffpost) While they did release a detailed apology and pull the ad on Monday, the initial slap in the face continues to reverberate across the Internet, hitting Tumblr, Youtube and Instagram in waves of reaction and counter reaction from white women who use these products.

How does a company survive this sort of crisis when their products are specifically promoted online by both paid and unpaid supporters passionate about the brand and would never have grown this much in the past 10 years if not for the online natural hair community recommending the product line to all of their friends and followers?

Authenticity is critical to surviving the social media universe. If brands ever come across as superficial, insincere or manipulating, followers will pick up on it and drop them. Now, authenticity doesn’t always equal Truth. Sometimes a community will circle around an attitude or ideal, even if the content posted lacks any true data or fact.


Shea Moisture found itself caught up in ethnic erasure towards going mainstream when their actual follower base is a dedicated niche focused on validating the act of wearing natural African hair as a finished and complete hairstyle. Black women’s hair remains as political as ever, with thousands of us struggling to prove to our employers, families and partners that the hair growing naturally out of our head can stand on its own without the hyper use of chemicals or dyes to force it into European beauty standards.

So what now?

If Shea Moisture wants to survive this, they need to put up or shut up. Acknowledge and promote the unpaid bloggers, YouTubers and Instagram naturalistas who have supported them over the years and authentically show that Black women are a customer base they truly appreciate and will continue to support as they grow and expand to other markets. (Less talking more images, vids, podcasts, roundtables)

They need to connect 2 messages, that 1# They support and always will support healthy African hair care and 2# This is a global movement for healthy hair care for all women to be accepted for their non-traditional hair.

This sort of messaging transition has to take place in steps, and it won’t help to use the same blond models out of a John Frieda commercial to support a multi-ethnic community. The core base will not accept further erasure when they already feel that consistently from most beauty brands (from make up to lingerie, most companies don’t sell nude colors inclusive to Black consumers).

This is a chance for them to prove they want to globally validate coily, curly hair and the voices of WOC who rock it as beautiful and legitimate. But will they stand by Black women in more than just words? Let’s see how the drama shakes out in the coming weeks – can they turn this around?

*P.S. Just in case here’s a list of 20 Black owned hair care lines you can choose to support*

*P.P.S. Can I just say AS I AM is Really expensive? I want to try it but..damn! $$$*

#blkgrlswurld