- Josuha Martinez @pray.4rain
- Afropunk in the Pit attendees getting down during one of the perfomances
DIY punk collective Xingonas in the Pit has received with a cease-and-desist letter after throwing what it billed as the first black punk festival in San Antonio.
The letter, sent by an attorney for the 13-year-old Brooklyn-born Afropunk Festival warned that XITP's Afropunk in the Pit event violated a trademark the more-established festival holds on the term "Afropunk."
XITP — organized by Daisy Salinas, Jazzmin Readeaux and Crystal (who chose not to give her last name) — has presented prior music events, including Black and Brown Punk Fest, held last October.
Black and Brown Punk Fest caught the attention of James Spooner, a founder of Afropunk Festival who parted ways with the organization several years ago. He asked XITP if it would be interested in screening his film Afro-Punk, a documentary on the contributions of African-Americans in the predominantly white U.S. punk scene.
XITP organized its festival around the screening, held at La Botanica, and Spooner spoke at the event.
On April 4, however, the group received a cease-and-desist letter from the Afropunk Festival, which claimed the San Antonio show violated its trademark.
“Our trademark serves as an important distinctive representation of our products or services as well as the goodwill of our company,” Afropunk’s lawyer, Gerard M. Anthony, wrote in the letter. “We find it important and necessary to protect it against any misrepresentation that may cause substantial harm to our business or prospective opportunities.”
Gerard continued, “We will not hesitate to exhaust all legal remedies if you fail to heed this letter.”
What’s curious about the turn of events is that both groups — at least on paper — claim to have similar goals.
XITP considers itself a de-colonial, feminist punk collective aimed at creating a network of safe radical music spaces. While the Afropunk Festival's website says the group's mission is to “unleash freedom of expression, and honor the power of individuality while strengthening our community.”
XITP posted a statement on its Facebook Page with the cease-and-desist letter attached.
"Afropunk in the Pit was a San Antonio event we held associated with Afro-Punk THE FILM, not the AFROPUNK Festival," the message reads. "We worked with Afro-Punk film director James Spooner to feature his film and host an artist talk & Black punk bands. As a reminder, the Afro-Punk film was created before the festival which Spooner left in 07’ [sic] because of its deviation from its punk roots & values."
The statement called the festival's letter an attack against working-class punks of color, pointing out that the collective didn't profit from the event. XITP said it never planned to throw another Afropunk in the Pit. However, it will continue to hold events that unite the black and brown punk communities.
With nearly 300 shares and hundreds of reactions to XITP's Facebook post, it was clear folks were a little shocked — although, some not so much — about Afropunk Festival threatening legal action.
“Sounds like Afropunk is dead set on cancelling itself or being appropriated as a white curiosity exhibit,” one person commented.
“Ain’t nothing punk about a cease and desist, y’all” someone else wrote.
Afropunk Festival organizers were unavailable for immediate comment. However, we reached out to Afro-Punk director Spooner, who parted ways with the festival after criticizing it for becoming too commercial and profiting off the culture. He said the last straw came during the fest's fourth installment, when a band performed a cover of reggae singer Buju Banton's “Boom Bye Bye,” a song encouraging violence against homosexuals.
“It’s fairly simple,” Spooner wrote in an email to the Current. “Afro-Punk is a limited liability corporation with a trademarked brand name. If someone was doing a party called Lollapalooza in the pit [sic] or Coachella in the pit [sic], it wouldn’t be surprising for the corporate entity owning the trademark to react the same."
He continued, "The reason people are confused or upset is Afro-Punk corporation [sic] brands itself as a culture or a movement. But when people attach themselves to that culture by using the word as a descriptive[,] it is a trademark violation. They are playing both sides of the same coin. Once people hip themselves to the fact that corporations don’t create movements or communities, then said corporations become no more relevant than Coca-Cola."
Spooner said he doesn’t blame Afro-Punk for protecting its brand. However, he said festival-goers "should understand they are not part of a scene or a ‘movement.’ They are simply people who pay a ticket price to enjoy a day together or read a website."
Meanwhile, XITP has announced its Second Annual Black and Brown Punk Fest, which will be held August 31 in San Antonio. For more information, visit facebook.com/xingonasinthepit.
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