Brown and PunkAleem Waris
Mar 29, 2018
I was 10 years old when I first listened to an album that would change my life: Green Day’s “American Idiot.”
I have this very fond memory of my siblings and I piling into my mom’s minivan as we went to Barnes and Noble to go pick up a CD. This CD, was the album American Idiot, by Green Day. Little did I know, this album would change my life.
Here I was, a small brown child, listening to music that talked about not wanting to be a part of the American fervor for war, disdain for the constant propaganda, and not giving in to the xenophobia that plagued our nation in the early years of the war. I felt an inherent connection between my skin color and my need for wanting a deeper, greater listening experience.
I felt an inherent connection between my skin color and my need for wanting a deeper, greater listening experience.
As I got older, being a punk grew from simply listening to the music toward taking more value from the culture and ethics of the movement. The culture of punk music has always valued things such as independence, left-leaning politics, direct action, and self-awareness. For example, a lot of bands are active in their local political scene, some of them canvas for candidates in their free time, a lot of them tweet about causes, and a number of them engage in protests.
Punk culture still plays an important part in my life; it shapes my decisions, gives me motivation, guides me towards grander ideas, and generally is a positive force for me. For example, a new life decision I’ve decided to undertake is transitioning into vegetarianism, a lifestyle choice a lot of punks make. Being vegetarian is a tenet of being straight edge (a punk moved started in the 1980s that abstains from alcohol, drugs, other harmful substances), and a lot punks actively work with PETA and other animal rights organizations.
Being a Muslim American punk kid has helped me navigate everyday issues. Post-9/11 rhetoric was always (and still is) relentless in its targeted attacks on minorities, and music was a way for me to cope. Punk music let me reflect upon being true to myself and not giving in to the voices of xenophobia and hate. It gave me an outlet for both my aggression and conscious decision-making. Being brown in this country has always been a natural political statement, and punk rock was a vehicle for artistic political sentiment, meshing in such a way that gave me a sense of purpose and drive.
Punk music let me reflect upon being true to myself and not giving in to the voices of xenophobia and hate. It gave me an outlet for both my aggression and conscious decision-making.
The countless shows I’ve been to have given me a connection to the music, that has helped bolstered my affinity for the punk scene. For example, I dragged my friends to a “Stick to Your Guns” show a few years ago, in Ybor City in some bar we’ve never heard of. When the lights went down, the show simulated a police riot, red and blue flashing lights commenced in tandem with riot police announcements, smoke filled the air, and suddenly the room started chanting “no justice, no peace,” the mantra of the Black Lives Matter movement. I was taken aback to see a crowd of mostly white young punks chanting this protest slogan that symbolized racial solidarity and understanding.
Another example is from a few months ago, where I once again dragged my friends to a show in the back of a church, where we saw a metalcore band called A War Within. Not knowing much about the band, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the guitarist and the harsh vocalist, Nikhil Rao, was an Indian American. As soon as their set started, the guitars kicked in and he came up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and started screaming into the mic. It was a great moment of brown solidarity that’s hard pressed to be found in the scene.
As soon as their set started, the guitars kicked in and he came up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and started screaming into the mic. It was a great moment of brown solidarity that’s hard pressed to be found in the scene.
As I get older, I find myself listening to jazz music more often or curling up with a good NPR podcast, but at the end of the day Punk music will always hold a special place in my heart. More than just music, it guides my decision-making and will always be a force of positivity for me.