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James Spooner

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James Spooner


James Spooner Writer and Director James Spooner On quotAfro Punk The Rock

Afro-Punk, White Lies Black Sheep

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James Spooner is an American tattoo artist from New York, living in Los Angeles. He is best known for his seminal documentary film Afro-Punk (2003), exploring the African American experience in the punk and alternative music scene. After its release, he curated the Liberation Sessions concert series which promoted black artistry via music and film, and then subsequently co-founded the annual Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn, working with it from 2005 through 2008, and later parting due to philosophical differences with its direction.


James Spooner AFROPUNK The Movie James Spooner Director Interview

Spooner later wrote and directed White Lies Black Sheep (2007), a fictional feature set within the punk world that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. He also wrote the forward for the book anthology "White Riot" which examines where race, identity and punk music intersect.

Vegan tattoo with james spooner


James Spooner Thirsty September 2007 Interview with James Spooner

Spooner grew up in the deserts of California, Panama, and the urban sprawl of New York City where he delved into the hardcore punk music scene and engaged in its culture. Later, he trained and produced work as a sculptor with gallery shows in both Seattle and New York. Though bi-racial, Spooner identifies as black. After visiting his family in St. Lucia in his twenties, Spooner began to explore his identity which later inspired the themes in his films and art.

James Spooner Thirsty September 2007 Interview with James Spooner

During his teens and early adulthood, Spooner was part of the predominantly Eurocentric hardcore punk scene, participating in the creation of zines, releasing records via his label, and attending shows. His label, Kidney Room Records, was a DIY punk record label putting out mostly emo-core / straight edge 7 inches. The name originates from the book Animal Liberation in which an animal, suffering from a vivisection experimentation, was referred to as the kidney in room 101. Spooner put out 3 records: Frail - Idle Hands Hold Nothing, Elements of Need/Jasmine split, and The Swing Kids first 7 inch.

James Spooner James Spooner LADYGUNN

During his punk years, Spooner grew increasingly fascinated by the absence of dialogue around race among his friends in the scene and the disparity of black punk bands: Mick Collins, Fishbone, Vaginal Davis, and Bad Brains to name a few. Spooner understood punk rock as an offshoot of rock and roll and the pioneering work of black innovators like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Jimi Hendrix, so he began to navigate why there were few people of color represented in the alternative punk music scene and why his peers did not engage with racial injustice in the way it had with animal rights, drugs/alcohol, feminism, and homophobia. Spooner also did not identify with mainstream media's representations of "blackness" and became focused on broadening the spectrum through his films and events by connecting alternative black people in the scene.

James Spooner PP44 James Spooner The punk rock vegan tattoo artist Plantriotic

Later, Spooner also worked as a prominent DJ in New York City, spinning at AfroPunk events, as well as The Limelight, Black Betty, Enids, Beauty Bar, Spa and the Edison in Los Angeles. He also promoted ON!, a popular mod soul night featuring Djs Daniel Collas of the Phenomenal Handclap Band and Nick Marc of TisWas. He also DJ'ed at SPA and promoted the long running wednesday night parties "Shattered" and "SMF" featuring hip hop dj's spinning soul music.

Film career

Spooner's documentary film explores race identity and the black experience in the alternative punk scene, then overwhelmingly white. Spooner's investigation into the untold stories of disaffected black youth and the black punk experience via film lead to the emergence of the Afropunk Festival, and gave a voice to alternative black youth who felt they did not fit into stereotypical notions of black identity propagated by the media.

AfroPunk traces the experiences of a variety of black punks throughout the United States. In the DIY tradition, Spooner toured the film across the country like a band, screening it over 300 times at college campuses and at international festivals, garnering many awards. He amassed a devoted cult following, largely among minority punks who were active on a message board within his website Through continued collected interest and participation from the film's followers, the film was a catalyst for a cultural black movement that lead to the AfroPunk Festivals (2005 to present). He discontinued participation in the festival after repeated conflicts with his partner.

Spooner also curated the film and music component of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's African Arts Festival and was the recipient of the ReNew Media Rockefeller Grant. He later wrote and directed a feature film entitled White Lies Black Sheep (2007). This is a fictional drama also set in the punk music world. It premiered in 2007 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Later years

Upon his move to LA, Spooner taught himself to build bikes and began a monthly bike ride entitled "Freedom Ride: Black Kids On Bikes" that rode through predominantly black neighborhoods in Los Angeles. but also made a statement with rides through wealthy white neighborhoods.

Spooner is currently a tattoo artist in his private studio, Monocle Tattoo Los Angeles, specializing in vegan friendly tattooing . He is working on his first graphic novel, and he is curating the Broad Museum's Summer Happenings in 2017. Spooner continues to screen AfroPunk at colleges around the country and gives talks on the punk ethos and black identity.


James Spooner Wikipedia

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