My Life as a POC Woman in the Punk Rock Scene
My life has always been a bit unique. As an obedient only child from a strict Pentecostal upbringing, to a free-thinking co-owner of a DIY punk rock venue in downtown Houston, Texas; I figured from a deeply impressionable mind, that there must be a way to break out into the person I have always meant to be.
Unfortunately for me, that wasn’t always an easy journey.
I lived in a two-story house in North East Houston with my mother, grandparents, and a few of my mother’s siblings on and off from the ages 1 to 12-years-old. There was just a point when there’s a little too much safety and protection when you have a bishop as a grandfather, missionary for a grandmother, and your uncles and aunts are also saints of the church. The area I grew up in was a predominantly black neighborhood, filled with people who didn’t understand me from the start and made me feel different.
No, I’ve never truly experienced nor understood what it meant to be black in the ghetto, but as early as the age of 5, I had a personal attachment to the sound of rock and roll music. Dio, Nirvana, System of a Down, Rancid, Joan Jett, The Exploited, The Runaways, Blink 182, Avril Lavigne, Bikini Kill, …you name it. I saw it as a path, a lifestyle, and a fantasy. But I kind of had to keep such desires a secret. Not just because my grandparents would have disapproved, but because I had already been harshly bullied for standing out by kids at school, and sometimes even my teachers.
I got my mother to put my hair in Mohawks, buy me studded belts, fishnet gloves, colors in my hair, and combat boots or high heels for school. I even had a skateboard thinking I was so fucking cool, but turns out in my neighborhood, that was considered lame and “white”. What?? As a result of that, my mother allowed me to be in my own world. She influenced me to open doors and possibilities for myself outside so many of the stereotypes. I channeled an identity at an early age that was way too strong to ignore.
I used to be forced to sing in church in front of my family and the entire congregation. I decided I didn’t want to, so I eventually bought a guitar with my first check. That didn’t work out either because the only way I could play, was if I played gospel songs for everyone to sing along to. That drastically decreased my ambitions because my family had such a strong hold on my decisions for a very long time.
Who could I turn to? Will I ever be a part of my own community? As I grew a little older, I basically realized that punk rock was my gospel all along. It taught me to see that there will be no one to save me from living a lie, but me. I’m not going to tell you some amazing story about how I’ve taken on elitist punk rock ninjas in some glorious battle to save us all from their need to quiz or judge my expertise on spikey chokers or something like that, but I can say that my individuality was saved by the examples set before me.
Some people do not give enough recognition to black people that enjoy punk rock. Not at all am I saying this is everyone. But to those who feel the need to make others feel awkward, do you watch too many movies, or are you just uneducated? What I mean by that is, for example, we all know that early rock and roll was here because of sounds created by Black artists and musicians.
What I don’t understand is why, now, still in the year 2020, larger names in the punk rock industry still can’t draw in illustrations of black or darker-skinned people of color in posters for events like Punk Rock Bowling, for instance. I have even commented under an Instagram post where a woman in punk rock, is drawing people enjoying themselves in a punk rock environment on a canvas wall with liberty spikes, punk chicks, people skanking on the dance floor…but didn’t shade in one single body. Like, I go to so many punk and metal shows enough to know that there are enough black and POC people buying these tickets, and in their crowds supporting their music. When will women that look like me be acknowledged by a punk band to be the muse in their videos, and why not represent us? When I come across things like that, it makes me feel forgotten and left out to not even see the diversity.
But I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been told how “cool” it is that I love [punk] rock. I’m always left wondering, “Why is it so significantly cool for me, though a person of color, but a person, to enjoy music?” But it seems no one could really open their mouths to answer that for me.
Trust me, I know why, and I’m aware that when I get in mosh pits that I stand out more than the white girls in there with me. No one wants or expects praise for having fun like nobody’s watching, or validation for blowing off some steam in the middle of a show. But almost always, here’s a white guy or girl I don’t know with eyes so full of astonishment because I danced and handled my own.
It’s not YOUR music.
When I ask what’s the big fuss, no one is brave enough to say it was because they aren’t used to seeing a black woman throwing down harder than most guys. It’s okay to surprised, but not okay to single out.
That’s why I began listening to podcasts like Mable Syndrome and She’s a Punk. I wanted to seek out more women that are like me, or that are like-minded. To know there’s more people like me out there, just gives me a warm and hopeful feeling inside. Before I moved into the House of J with my boyfriend Jack and roommate/friend Jeffer, I must have been going damn near insane because I didn’t know where to start.
We’re creating a movement here in Houston that I finally, have some say on. I finally
have this purpose to make my younger self proud; contribute to the peace I’ve never had. I had no real friends except for my best friends since high school that I have to this day: Brenda, Gabby and Darius.
But I sought out for deeper acquaintances with various natures, because I’ve been ready to be a part of a community like this. I
get to value punk rock morals freely, mentally, recklessly.