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Afropunk and the Creatives Project join forces

Festival enlists the help of local arts organization to spread message of social justice

Nina Simone once famously said, "An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times." It's a poignant quote that's been pulled out frequently over the past year, as the nation struggles under the weight of racial tensions. Chances are, if Simone were still here, she would've performed at Afropunk.

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The progressive festival is known for bringing out music's most forward-leaning artists who, like Simone, tell stories that contribute to the fabric of not just the black, but the human experience. So it's only fitting that the arts portion of the festival reflects the music.

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This year, Afropunk will present the #IAmTheMany campaign, an initiative of Act/Art, an organization that was founded with the mission to galvanize individuals and citizens on some of the pressing social issues of our time. #IAmTheMany specifically focuses criminal justice reform through contemporary art and social media initiatives. The campaign is also curated in part by The Creatives Project (TCP). All three entities are tied by their collective desire and commitment to bring social justice issues to light, and to directly impact and involve the community as it aims for change. Neda Abghari, executive director of TCP, says that Afropunk provides the perfect platform for the campaign; most because of the attendees already have a commitment to community.

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"Afropunk is an amazing platform because of their history with grassroots initiatives and supporting the community," Abghari says. "Even their volunteer program, where attendees can earn a ticket through volunteer hours, is a great reflection of how they encourage their audience to get involved with the community. The only way we can make change as a nation is if we truly get involved and a lot of people who attend Afropunk already have that desire."

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High-end art installations from an impressive roster of Atlanta's most celebrated, socially aware artists, including Fahamu Pecou and Pastiche Lumumba will be featured at the inaugural Atlanta edition.

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One of the most exciting installations for Atlanta's event of the festival is "The Question Bridge: Black Male," an innovative transmedia project that's designed to facilitate a dialogue between black men from various backgrounds and creates a platform to discuss and define what it means to be a black man in America. The acclaimed piece is directed and produced by Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas, and will be shooting at the festival this year, which as Afropunk co-founder Jocelyn Cooper rightly says, is a "big deal."

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Atlanta-based artist, Ruth Stanford, will also bring her brilliant installation, "Deliberation" to the festival. The stunning, critically-acclaimed piece features a police cruiser that has the trial notes from Michael Brown's case written all over the car. Thought-provoking and relevant, Stanford's piece represents the general direction taken by the festival's art curators — they want work that speaks to the times.

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"Afropunk is not just a concert," Cooper says, adding that Afropunk also produced a documentary on PBS, Afropunk Presents The Triptych, profiling black visual artists Sanford Biggers and Wangechi Mutu.

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One of the most memorable aspects of Afropunk's art experience has always been the live mural painting.

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"People will come and just sit and watch the artists," Cooper says.

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The tradition will be carried on in Atlanta, as Afropunk has tapped four of the city's most talented and respected visual artists to create the mural — Brandon Sadler, Shanequa Gay, PaperFrank, and Fabian Williams — which will speak directly the social justice theme of event.

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"We do encourage people to go out and make an impact on their communities," Abghari says. "We find ways to inspire and educate people so that they feel empowered to create change."



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