Black is Punk Shows UNC the Black Roots of Alternative Culture

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Ann Adele is one of the event organizers. Photos by Isabella Marcus-Porter

A carved wood block with the phrase “Black is Punk” was the piece that inspired a semester long exhibit. The opening night reception took place in the lower level of Michiner library on Aug. 25. There was music blasting from Black artists and art from Black students being displayed. 

The exhibit was curated by Ann Adele and Nikaiya Lawson. Both Adele and Lawson, who are art and design majors, wanted to show that Black is punk by putting a spotlight on the Black punk scene at UNC. It was a way for Black students to flip the narrative and show that there isn’t a “Black stereotype” and that the roots of punk come from Black musicians. 

“When I took history of rock and roll here at UNC, I found out that the roots of rock’n’roll are within Black musicians,” said Lawson, who is a senior at UNC. 

Growing up there wasn’t much representation for Black people in the punk community. Black kids were often told that they can’t listen to punk and rock music, which made it hard for those who grew up wanting to be a part of the punk community. 

“It was hard to separate my true self from my family and essentially having to hide that part of myself,” said Adele, when asked about her identity in the punk community.

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At UNC, Lawson said that she found a community she could connect with.

“When I moved to Greeley, I met a group of really cool Black chicks who are all very punk rock. We all skate, we listen to the same music. I realized that there are girls and there are punk Black people,” Lawson said.

With the rise of social media there is a rise of representation in the Black alternative community. There is a large Black community on platforms like TikTok and Instagram making it easier for counter cultures to find each other. Artists like Lil Nas X and Rico Nasty have shown that Black music doesn’t have to follow a mold. Music is a large part of the punk scene and there are many Black punk artists with music to share.

“There’s a lot of Black punk artists already. You just have to actively look because anything Black tends to get blacklisted on social media,” said Lawson.

The art scene is also an important part of the punk community, and the exhibit features many pieces created by Black punk students attending UNC. The carved wood block on display was just the beginning. As you walk around there are many pieces of jewelry, paintings, crocheted hats, a sweater and a video of roller skating around campus. Books written by Black authors were on display about fitting a mold as a Black person in a white community. 

This is a semester-long exhibit and there are other events being held along with the exhibit. On Sept. 2 there will be a skate night held in the B parking lot. The skate night will be starting at 4:30 p.m. There will also be films shown in the Lindou Auditorium. “ATL” will be shown on Sept. 1, and “Moonlight” will be shown on Oct. 13. A poetry night will be held in the lower level of Michener library on Oct. 14. Finally, “The Harder they Fall” will be shown on Nov. 3. All of the movies will be shown at 7 p.m. and the poetry night starts at 4:30 p.m. More information can be found at https://www.unco.edu/library/about_us/events/black-is-punk.aspx

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