Black Punk Now is an anthology both captivating and educational as the community behind black punk in all its forms is explored in fiction, nonfiction, comics, interviews, and more.
Kirkus wrote of the book:
“With graphics, short stories, poems, lyrics, conversations, commentary, and notes on how capitalism naturally tries to co-opt cultural scenes and how Black punks naturally resist it, the anthology is a cornucopia of righteous resistance, both fun to read and energetically provocative . . . Great reading for punks of every persuasion, who, one hopes, will take it and change the world.”
Black Punk Now is an anthology of fiction, nonfiction, and comics, by and about Black punk punk rockers, co-edited by myself and James Spooner. James and I see punk as a progressive, community-minded lifestyle. Most people who are into punk are all-in, and it touches multiple aspects of their lives–from playing in bands, to political activism, to writing and visual art. So, it was no surprise that most of Black Punk Now’s contributors are multi-hyphenates who make inspiring music. This playlist features music by people who are in Black Punk Now, and discussion of their pieces for the book.
– Chris L. Terry
tudors. “A Lynching”
Black hair can be self-expression, self-love, and a shield, as we see in Marcus Clayton’s short story “Dread[s],” about a Black punk traveling to an out-of-town gig for an all-too-familiar type of hostile audience. There are some punks–usually white ones–who insist on the importance of shock value in the scene. Marcus, of the band tudors., thoughtfully and poetically tears that pose to pieces in his story, showing how punk edgelord behavior can feel like nothing more than conservatism with a mohawk.
Soul Glo “Jump (Or Get Jumped By the Future)”
From Soul Glo’s name referencing my first R-rated movie, to the fact that they pull from the same vulnerable and chaotic emo-core that I loved as a teen, I’ve always felt like this band gets me. They were also one of the first new Black punk bands that I checked out a few years ago, putting me on the path toward making this book. So, it was really special to work with their vocalist Pierce Jordan on a deep dive into this song’s lyrics. Our discussion touched on mental health, mortality, and sense of audience. I called it a lyrical exegesis.
Big Joanie “Happier Still”
Stephanie Phillips, singer-guitarist of Big Joanie and author of Why Solange Matters, appears in Black Punk Now’s No Whites on the Mic roundtable discussion, talking about her work founding Decolonise–a Black and brown punk festival in England. In the late 2000s, the movement that formed around James’s Afro-Punk documentary grew into a music festival that started as a punk gig and morphed into something wayyy more corporate. James stepped away from the Afropunk fest in frustration, and was pleased to see other Black-and-brown punk festivals spring up as reactions to Afropunk’s newfound “Black Coachella” status. No Whites on the Mic was a chance to pick some of these new festival organizers’ brains, and highlight their labor, which can often feel buried behind the scenes. Punk isn’t just about getting the glory onstage, it’s about building the small world that you want to see.
Rough Francis “Urgent Care”
I think of punk as being very defiant and irreverent, very “fuck you, Mom and Dad!” So, a surprising thing about making Black Punk Now was seeing the intergenerational love in some of the pieces. That was most present in Bobby Hackney Jr.’s “Punk Family Business,” where he talks about starting Rough Francis with his brothers after discovering that their dad and uncles had a forgotten proto-punk band called Death in the ‘70s. Somewhere along the way, a lawn gets burned as well.
The 1865 “Get Out”
No one sums up the creative, collaborative, community-minded Black Punk Now lifestyle like Honeychild Coleman, who appears in the Afro-Punk documentary, knows fashion and style inside and out, leads The 1865, and plays in about a thousand other bands. We excerpted her novel-in-progress, and I can picture my teen self gathering the courage to get out of my hometown as I read her tales of DJing in NYC among like-minded people.
Solarized “The Universe”
I’ve been learning to embrace feelings of ambiguity, of not knowing, while experiencing art. From his Afrofuturistic collages, to the galactic themes in his old band Solarized’s songs, to the Black aliens who touch down in Philly in his sci-fi story “Smoke Again, Akhi,” there is a lot of beguiling mystery in Alex Smith’s work. I get something new each time I engage with it.
In the comic It Takes a Triiibe, Raeghan Buchanan beautifully illustrates Flora-Morena Ferriera Lucini’s path from promoting punk shows in DC, to music school in Boston, to finding her people in NYC and melding her love for ancestral African percussion with heavy hardcore grooves in her band Maafa. Being a Black punk can be isolating, and we were really happy to highlight a story about the process of finding your community and artistic voice. We hope that it inspires some people to keep going when they feel down and alone.
Ten Grand “Fuck You Guyses Teams”
Ten Grand’s singer-guitarist Matt Davis was one of the stars of James Spooner’s original Afro-Punk documentary. Tragically, Matt died unexpectedly a few weeks before Afro-Punk was released. In her comic “The Ten Commandments of Black Punk According to Matt Davis,” Matt’s sister Jo Davis-McElligatt touchingly outlines his ethos. Punk can be a lot of things, but for this book, James and I focused on the egalitarian DIY punk that we love, and it’s summed up nicely in this piece and song.
Aye Nako “Particle Mace”
In Mars Dixon’s piece for Black Punk Now, he talks about using character and world-building in video games to develop his own queer, trans-masc identity. He also talks about his early punk days in Arkansas–the prehistory for his band, Aye Nako. Mars is part Filipino and “aye nako” is a Tagalog expression that basically means, “Oh my!” There are a lot of Blacknesses represented in this book, many of which are international or multiracial.
Younger Lovers “Tight Fade”
Brontez Purnell has been a punk since the ‘90s and is the perfect example of how to grow with the subculture. He’s moved from zines to award-winning books, and backup dancer to dance school founder, all while writing catchier and catchier songs, like this one by his band the Younger Lovers. James and I were happy to wind down Black Punk Now with a conversation with Brontez that touches on growth, dance, and writing about sex.
Breathing Light “Falling Dove”
Punk is rock ‘n’ roll and rock ‘n’ roll is Black music, no matter what the colonizing Elvises of the world want you to think. With this in mind, Chicago punk Kyle Ozero of the band The Breathing Light did a photo series where he had pictures taken of himself at different rock landmarks, holding signs that say things like “No One Will Erase Us From Rock N’ Roll” and “Johnny Ramone Was A Racist.” They’re visually striking, a brilliant troll, and powerfully true. We were proud to collect them in Black Punk Now.
New Bloods “Oh, Deadly Nightshade!”
By documenting Black punk and preserving it on the page, Osa Atoe’s zine Shotgun Seamstress was a direct precursor to Black Punk Now. It’s also an example of some of the best cut ‘n’ paste photocopier art in existence. For the book, Osa interviewed London musician Charlie Valentine, ruminating on what DIY means to different generations of punks. New Bloods was Osa’s band, and this was on their album released by legendary punk label Kill Rock Stars.
X-Ray Spex “Identity”
The title Black Punk Now can be taken as a demand: we need Black punk immediately (we do!). It can also be a timestamp: in the book, we focused on Black punks who have been active in the twenty years since James’s Afro-Punk documentary was released. That parameter means that there is some canonical Black punk that we didn’t include, like X-Ray Spex, the sax-blasting 1970s English band with iconic Black vocalist Poly Styrene. That doesn’t mean that we don’t love X-Ray Spex, or Bad Brains, or Fishbone. It means that we wanted to give punks a wider frame of reference for Black punk, so that Black punks can find more ways to feel seen, and non-Black punks can no longer have an excuse to tokenize the few Black bands that they’ve heard of.