James Spooner is the director of Afro-Punk (2003), a documentary film exploring race identity and the black experience in the alternative punk scene. He produced the film out of New York having had no previous training in film (he studied sculpting in college). In the DIY tradition, he rigorously toured the film across the country like a band, showing it in as many venues as possible, and rapidly amassing a devoted cult following, largely among minority punks who frequented a message board on his website afropunk.com. Through continued collective interest and participation from the film's followers, the film grew into a cultural movement and gathering that has since evolved into today's AfroPunk Festivals (2005 to present).
Spooner later wrote and directed a feature film entitled "White Lies Black Sheep", which is a fictional dramatization of the same concept. "White Lies Black Sheep" premiered at the Toronto international Film Fest.
Spooner was born in the Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia, but grew up in America on both coasts with a black father and white mother. Most of his life he was part of the predominantly Eurocentric punk scene, but had always considered himself to be black, despite being the only biracial kid in his family, and his siblings often referring to him as "their white brother". After visiting St. Lucia, Spooner began to explore his identity back in America.
Spooner grew increasingly fascinated by the absent dialogue around race relations amongst his friends in the punk scene, despite a plethora of accomplished black punk artists like Mick Collins, Fishbone, Vaginal Davis, and Bad Brains, and punk rock's origins as an offshoot of rock and roll with the pioneering work of black innovators like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Jimi Hendrix. Spooner's investigation into the untold stories of the black punk experience via film lead to the creation of AfroPunk which gave voice to alternative black youth around the country who felt they did not fit in to traditional and stereotypical notions of black identity.
Due to philosophical differences, Spooner has since stepped away from the AfroPunk festival after 2008. Today, he works as a vegan tattoo artist at Monocle in Los Angeles California.
Personal Statement from WhiteLiesBlackSheep.com
"I grew up all over the place. I have seen a lot of things. I have lived both comfortably and uncomfortably in black AND white America. Defining myself was no easy task. "White Lies" marks the end of that journey for me. It was the last thing I needed to say to my world before I could say to myself what I always knew to be true: "race doesn't matter; race is a lie". That statement made, I also understand that RACISM does matter and that is the truth. I fully comprehend the difference and how it has effected and continues to effect my life. It is my hope that this film speaks to the audience the way my first film AfroPunk did, helping others as they continue to define themselves."
- AfroPunk Website
- AfroPunk Grown Up
- Is AfroPunk No Longer Punk
- The True Story Of How Afropunk Turned A Message Board Into A Movement
- White Lies Black Sheep
- James Spooner's YouTube channel