Here's What Punk Rock Looks Like Today

“There used to be an attitude back in the day that rock music wasn’t ‘black.’ That’s not true.”

In the late 1970s and into the ’80s, punk rock was more than just a genre of music — it was a community of inclusion and a bold statement against the status quo.

For people of color in particular, punk rock offered a medium that celebrated individuality and offered a platform for political and social critique. Black punk bands like Bad Brains, Pure Hell, and Death not only pushed the boundaries of what rock music was capable of, but shattered expectations of how people of color are seen within the genre. Today, punk rock is more diverse than ever, as collectives like Atlanta-based Punk Black help foster the community by hosting concerts that highlight artists of different races, religions, and nationalities.

Here, photographer Arvin Temkar attends a Punk Black showcase in Washington, DC, to offer a perspective on what the future of punk rock looks like.

Some things just aren’t “black.”

At least, that’s what Miles Logan, 32, heard growing up. “From a young age you get socialized to listen to a certain music, dress a certain way,” he said. “There used to be an attitude back in the day that rock music wasn’t ‘black.’ That’s not true.”

I met Logan earlier this month in the cramped basement of the Pinch, a grubby Washington, DC, bar where eight rock bands of color were gearing up to shatter eardrums — and stereotypes. The concert was put on by Punk Black, a collective whose mission is to promote diverse acts in the overwhelmingly white world of rock ’n’ roll. The group is also active in the cosplay and art scenes.

The collective, started four years ago and based in Atlanta, is increasingly taking its concert series on the road, bringing together local diverse bands and carving out communities for POC rockers. Unlike Afropunk, which has drifted from its rock ’n’ roll roots, Punk Black exclusively seeks out rock and rock-inspired acts.

Logan, who’d come from Baltimore to attend the show, was repping his punk bona fides with a Bad Brains T-shirt. The seminal all-black band is known not only for helping pioneer hardcore in DC in the ’80s, but also for infusing its music with everything from reggae to soul. That legacy of blending genres lives on in Punk Black, whose bands are often as comfortable spitting verse as ripping guitar solos.

This was Punk Black’s first-ever DC show, featuring bands including The Muslims from Durham, North Carolina, and DC’s Throwdown Syndicate and Thaylobleu. These photos, taken July 13 at the Pinch, highlight the small but growing scene Punk Black is working to create.

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