"Afro-Progressive Hardcore"!

Maafa @ Rubulad, Bushwick punk haven and "Burning Man of Brooklyn"








Nicole Kali loves a gritty, unapologetically Black punk band. Maafa’s that and so much more! Flora Lucini is a powerful presence in New York hardcore music and a great person.

Flora: Thank you!

NK: From their bass shredding to their thoughtful lyricism and vocals in Afro-progressive Maafa. Welcome, Flora!

Flora: Yas! Thank you! Hi, Nicole.

NK: Hehe, hi!

Flora: Black Rockers United, everybody.

NK: Black Rockers United, absolutely. How are you doing, Flora? What is empowering and going on in your life?

Flora: Whew, chile. Everything is good. I have my health, I have my life, I got my parents. We actually just had a death in the family because of the COVID-19. Just tryin' to...and a lot of our friends and some of our band members lost friends and fam this week and last week.

So it's been a bittersweet, just very weird time of trying to be grateful for what is still here, what you have, but also understand that there's a lot of grieving and mourning and loss that's going on right now. And it's been going on for a while, you know?

Personally, I've been dealing with a lot of grief for the past like, two years. Last year was somethin' else.

NK: Yeah. It was rough?

Flora: Yeah, it was really rough. We lost my uncle Trey from The Unabombers which is that little yellow shirt back there.

NK: This is Black history, and he's part of that.

Flora: Yeah, yeah, The Unabombers—shout out to Uncle Greg and to Forrest, and to Calvin are/were a band that's been around for about 20 years, I think or more.

NK: I think so.

Flora: And from back home, I'm originally from the DMV area, yeah.

NK: Nice! DMV, born and bred. Same!

Flora: Yas, I love it. And Uncle Trey's been around me since I started coming 'round to hardcore punk in D.C. which is about 13 or 14 years old. So it's a heavy loss for everybody. We're all gonna feel that forever, so...

NK: Black punks in Black unity even through the struggles and hardships, you know? It's only possible together.

Flora: Absolutely. #WeAllWeGot like we say all the time in our e-mails! [Laughs]

NK: Nice! I love you, Flora.

Flora: And I love you.

NK: I know it's hard, to have to still create, you know? But I'm here for you and we're all here together.


Flora: Thank you so much for holding space, I appreciate it. I love that we're having this, it feels like this new renaissance, like a new Black punk renaissance is happenin'? I don't know if that makes sense.

NK: It is, no, it makes 100%.

Flora: It feels good! It feels really good to see that thing's happening now, that I only ever dreamt of happening. And there's some things happening now that I couldn't have dreamt of, you know?

NK: 100%! Like what, what example?

Flora: Me personally, it's like just with our residencies. Maafa, Rebelmatic and The 1865, we've had a monthly residency at Max Fish. Yeah, I think maybe two years now. Time goes by so fast. It is awesome!

Just being able to once a month, go to that venue and it feels like you're going to church or you're going to a cookout. Or you're going to something that's just for you.

NK: Yes.

And everybody's Black and brown. And our other friends, of course everyone's welcome but it just feels centered. It just feels like it's centering us, you know? We wanna celebrate with everybody we love. But this is just one little thing where it's like the focus is on us for a couple of hours, you know?

NK: Yeah, exactly.

Flora: And in this idea, in this context of safe spaces. You know, it's really important that that's happening. And that's something that I didn't grow up with. I'll be in hardcore and punk for next year, it'll be twenty years that I've been in the scene.

And I'm thinking back on it. And it's only in the past five years that I've had for real community of this level that's predominantly Black and brown and LGBTQIA+,etc..


I definitely have a lot of friends and family back home in D.C. that are Black and brown, BIPOC or that we grew up together. They're still in the scene to this today, predominantly Black women, which I'm very blessed. Black women got me into hardcore. Black women have sustained me in hardcore. [Laughs] That's how we do it!

NK: We protect each other. We keep each other in the scene, we make each other feel seen and known, you know?

Flora: Ooh, that was good. Make each other feel seen because invisibility is a thing. That is real. Absolutely. But this is the first time, they'll come up here from D.C. to New York just so we can all hang out for the shows and stuff.

We're traveling. And there's Richmond, and then there's Philly and Virginia. I never thought this would happen, so I'm just like 'Invite me to all your shows, please!' [Laughs]

NK: Regardless of COVID, it's there but we're still rockin'. We're still talkin'.

Flora: That's right.

NK: We're still doin' this together, you know?

Flora: And if you think about punk and hardcore, especially traditionally speaking. True hardcore and punk in my opinion is something that really thrives under pressure. The more you try to erase us, the more you try to—as a whole, ALL of us—the more you try to oppress us or keep us from having access to certain things, we'll be able to thrive.

Really, we're gonna always find a way and make a way. Which is why being Black and punk is almost redundant! [Laughs]

NK: I've been saying the same, thank you, I've been saying the same thing. You got it, you explained it so much better. We are revolutionaries just by being here.


Flora: Right. Like this concept of DIY, I'm like "That ain't no new concept! We been doin' that." Like, "what?! How do you think I got here?"

NK: Thank you! What Are You Doing Here? with Laina Dawes is real. Like "what are you doing here?" Like, we made this!

Flora: Yas! Shout out to Laina, that's my homie. I love her.

NK: Amazing.

Flora: That's another thing about this time period that I didn't think would happen. I mean, I was gonna find a way to make it happen. One way or the other! But I'm just grateful that it's like, en masse now. It's meeting my sheroes and heroes and people that I've been looking up to.


And not only meeting them but them immediately with no hesitation, not just including them into the spaces that they inhabit. But also "Oh, that's my colleague", "Oh, you're gonna play bass now for this band!"

And it's just this powerful healing moment of growing up with a lot of internalized misogyny, from feeling like forced to have to hang out with a lot of guys because all the girls I wanted to really, really be friends with, maybe we're not there yet.

NK: I know.

Flora: Everyone's on their own journey, and learning to heal from that. It's fine. I'm okay, okay? I'm not mad! (I guess). But especially with Black women during the late, late '90's and early 2000's, it's really hard to—

I went to predominantly Black schools my whole life, and it's really hard sometimes to just walk in with pink hair, and a choke collar and an Agnostic Front T-shirt, you know? And just be "Hey, everybody, we're going to get along", you know? [Laughs]

And so there was a lot of that growing up but luckily my first day of high school, two Black girls that were into alternative rock and metal came straight up to me.

"Oh, really? You're here now?" [Laughs] "It was just us before you but now, you're one of us!" And I was like "Okay!"

NK: All right!

Flora: They took me to my first real hardcore show 'cause up until then through middle school, I was going to pop-punk and just whatever I could get. Just to figure out what is this? And I went to ska shows. I love y'all, y'all can cancel me if you want to, drag me.

It's something else, ska is mmm, okay, we did that! Okay? [Laughs]

NK: #DidThat, Flora!

Flora: No shade!

NK: So Black girls, literally brought you into it.

Flora: Yeah! They were into alternative rock stuff. I was too at the time, I was only 14 years, you know? I didn't know what I was into at the time. I was just like 'Is it aggressive? Is it violent? Is someone screaming? I'm there'. [Laughs]

NK: Got it!

Flora: "Oh, this is, you know, alternative nu-metal", and I'm like "I don't care, nu-, old, whateva!" Is we gettin' mad? Is we angry?

NK: Are we mad, okay? I'm feeling that energy, let's go! All right!

Flora: Are we mad or nah? And it was great, I mean they took me to some of my first hardcore shows. Most of the shows were straight-edge hardcore shows on college campuses, because the irony of D.C. at that time was that there weren't that many all-ages clubs.


NK: Oh, yeah, that's right!

Flora: And it's just like "Okay, Minor Threat did not spend all that money, sending us to that good school for us to come over with this".

NK: With this B.S., with this gentrification!

Flora: Right! All-ages, you know, and it was awesome straight-edge hardcore shows (I can't remember ANY of the bands). And they were at American University, and the University of Maryland. Shout-out to UMB and WMBC Station!

NK: UMBC Radio, yeah! They be blastin' the rock, don't they?

Flora: Yes! University of Maryland College Park, okay? College Park Campus, thank y'all! [Laughs]

NK: [Laughs]

Flora: That University of Maryland campus, my bands have played there several times and—

NK: Beautiful.


Flora: It was just awesome. It was a great time period, it really was. Black girls got me into punk and hardcore.

NK: 100%!

Flora: Yeah.

NK: So when did you first hear and play music overall, since they were your foray into hardcore?

Flora: Well, the funny part I don't think that many people know about me, is that I was born in Brazil. And my parents, and my uncles and most of my aunties and everybody, they're all professional jazz musicians. So my dad's a bassist, and my mom plays tenor sax. And that's what they've been doing for a living since before I was born.

And then we came to the United States and my dad went to Howard, studied jazz there with my uncles. And my mom went to UDC (University of D.C.), studied jazz there! So I grew up, first singin' because I'm loud.

And I'm okay with that, and then playing piano and saxophone when it was 199-I wanna say, 1997 probably after No Doubt—don't drag me, y'all. I feel differently today. I know Gwen is a-she, whew! What were we thinkin'?!

NK: I know, but that was a lot of our intro into that style. Like, a lot of Black girls, we love Gwen Stefani. That's how we started!

Flora: What? I made wallpaper, in my room!

NK: Okay! [Laughs]

Flora: I was like "Yas, pink hair, I want ALL of this". Whew. So Gwen and them came out with that one album Tragic Kingdom. And I liked it, it was cool but I really liked Beacon Street Collectiom which was their independent release right before it.

And when I heard that bassline to 'Open the Gate', that first song? I was like "You can DO that in this genre on the radio??"

NK: You can really do that!

Flora: Y'all can really play, Tony Kanal can play play. And then I turned to my father and I was like "Daddy, is this the instrument you play?" He was like "Yeah." I was like "Oh! I'ma do that now." And that was it.

NK: [Laughs] Beautiful, bam!

Flora: So between my father and Tony Kanal, they're responsible for me being a bassist.

NK: Beautiful. And it was jazz and it was punk, and I've been telling people for a long time: that overlap is where a lot of artists find their start, you know?

10 Classic Punk Jazz Albums

Flora: Absolutely.

NK: Like jazz, and punk and ska because there's so many similarities between them, right?

Flora: Absolutely and growing up that way is definitely interesting. You know, I started gigging professionally, I guess you could call, when I was very young. And tried to get my feet wet in the scene, you know I'm coming from the industry, I'm coming from jazz and Afro-Brazilian music and you know, watching my parents and their friends deal with labels and touring and all this other stuff.

And there's no real way to rebel against musician parents like that, unless you're gonna go for a genre that only uses three chords. So that's what I did! [Laughs] And that definitely pissed them off, made me feel satisfied so [Laughs]


The irony of it being so simple at the time, the bands that I was listening to like The Exploited and stuff like that. The irony is that I'm constantly reading and sight-reading these charts and everything's so complicated. You have to shed and you gotta know your time signatures, and syncopation and blah-blah-blah.

Then you get to punk and it's just like "But can you feel this?" [Laughs] "I'm using two chords in a major scale in standard tuning. You're welcome."

"This is the best song I've ever heard in my entire life!" You know?

NK: The jam!

Flora: This is the jam forever!

NK: And it's simple. And it gets you to the heart, you don't have to decipher it. It's just, it's a wave and you're just like, won by it. That's beautiful.

Flora: Absolutely. And a lot of it is very classic and timeless. A lot of songs, especially from bands like The Exploited, you know? Lyrics/songs like 'Fuck the USA' in alternative and things like that, you can dissect it to be applied for things that are happening today, and throughout.

Especially when Bush was in office. That was a big thing for us, you know, revisiting two weeks, it's gonna be the 15th anniversary of (Hurricane) Katrina.

A lot of my friends that I became friends with during that time had come up from New Orleans to D.C. because of Katrina.

NK: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Flora: Yeah...

NK: We go through Black August because it is here and we are living it.

Flora: We are!


NK: Maafa and its meaning to the African diaspora will never leave us. And when you explore our lived experience like Katrina through punk, can you tell us about that, Flora?

Flora: About the lived experience?

NK: Yeah. When you take Maafa, that word, how do you personify it in punk?

Flora: That's a great question, thank you. That's loaded, I'll try to condense. Well, the word 'maafa' is something that I kind of stumbled upon in college. And I didn't really know too much. Disclosure: I didn't know too much about the word at first, and had an amazing mentor/teacher-professor, Dr. Lawrence Watson. Shout-out to him at Berklee College of Music!

"We are here because there is something called the Maafa..."


And we had a really great conversation about how a lot of Pan-African scholars of the '90's and the '80's, and the '70's. [They] would take words that were from different traditional and native languages of East/West Africa then kind of apply them throughout the diaspora.

And Marimba Ani was the one who I later found out, it was her. Honestly, I'm gonna keep it 100% 'cause it's just family right now.

NK: Yeah!

Flora: I heard that word, I ain't know what it was! I was like "What does that mean?" And he was like "Oh, it's Swahili for greatest disaster or terrible occurence'. "That is the best metal name, ever!"

NK: It is!

Flora: That's gotta be a band. "Greatest disaster"! I was so siked! And then I learned what it really meant and why we use it the way that we do. Well, not all of us but a lot of us use it that way. And I'll be honest with you since we're talking about lived experiences, I hesitated to name the band Maafa at first because of how politically different, not in alignment I am with Marimba Ani in terms of our very queer and trans Black lives.

And our very Black feminist and just not here for the cishet bullshitters-ness way that I am, that my community is. And then I was like "Well, that's brilliant." [Laughs] Take the name Maafa since we do use it in context to refer to the Middle Passages and what's happened there.

NK: Ooh!

Flora: If ANYBODY should be using that term?

NK: It's us.

Flora: It's the rest of us! If you're not talking about all of us, then you're not really talking about anything. Not that I wanna hear, so I still struggle with that a little bit. "Is that okay?" Whatever, but it's a learning process and that's my intention behind it.


NK: Yeah!

Flora: And I think that's the lived experience. I'm not a trans woman for example, I'm not a dark-skinned unambiguous Black woman, you know? So I'm not about to sit here and speak on experiences that I haven't lived. And I think what I can do, is go into spaces that don't even know anything about us, that are predominantly punk and hardcore.

"It's those four dudes from the Bad Brains! That's it!"


Flora: "You only get one band at a time! And it's the Bad Brains! Be happy, sit ya ass down." That's how they be dealin' with us, you know?

NK: Absolutely, I get that. I do.


Flora: And so, in a lot of those spaces, I feel like bands like ours, Rebelmatic, things like that, Winter Wolf.

We inhabit those spaces to show you many things and say many things. But for me predominantly, it's that we are not monolithic. Now that's not an original idea of mine, of course.

I feel like part of having privilege that I do have is using my platform to kind of start dismantling some of these ideas. Just by inhabiting them [punk spaces] in a certain way, or by providing access to those spaces where other people who do have certain experiences that I don't, can feel more safe and more centered.


For me, I might get dragged for this, whew, I'm doing a lot today [laughs]. For me, I feel like inclusivity is dope and that's cool. "Yas!" You know? But I wanna be centered. And that's just me! I wanna learn somethin'. I wanna learn about Black experiences I haven't heard about. I want you to be like "We do that? We lived that? We go through that?"

I wanna walk into a space that has to do with hardcore and punk, and feel like everything else, it's not like it's an afterthought but I don't have to code-switch or feel some kind of way. And let you know that one joke, you know ain't right.

NK: Yes!

Flora: "Or bring that one guy", "didn't we just talk about him and say he wasn't shit", you know what I mean? Or "that band you're wearing, we been cancelled them back in '94." Whatever it is, I wanna be able to walk into a space and not have to explain things.

And not HAVE to go "UGH, I guess", and look around. And everybody looks like me or my family, or families that I know are Black, I haven't seen before. Teach me somethin', learn me somethin'.

You know? And I feel like Max Fish has been the closest that I've ever gotten to that in my lifetime for sure. Yas, shout-out to Quinn and the homies.

NK: You go, Max Fish, holdin' it down for Brooklyn!

Flora: Shhh-Brooklyn?

NK: Brooklyn hardcore is KILLING it.


Flora: Vs. everybody!


It's amazing. So I feel like those lived experiences are not going to be the same as the other, and the important thing is for Maafa, for me there's several things that I want Maafa to accomplish before I die. And one of those things is to create a space, I'm not gonna be the first and hoping to God, I'm not the last.

The people who are watching this have this interview right now, especially younger folks who feel like the band that they hesitated to start, that they go out and be "I'm gonna do it right NOW!"

NK: Same.

Flora: To me, if I can get that to happen? I'm good.

NK: I love that answer, Flora.

Flora: Thanks.


NK: Do you think we're in that era now with Black Rockers United and finally making that synergy seen that people will tap into that collective energy? "OH, something IS happening. This Black punk renaissance is goin'!"

Flora: Absolutely, I definitely feel that way, and I feel like even I was shocked. You know, you're doin' stuff and then you stop for a second, look around. It's like "Oh, we really did somethin'! That really happened!"

And I just actually did an interview a few days ago with Creature from Rebelmatic. We were both interviewed for something. And they wanted to talk about what we're doing and our band. You know, Rebelmatic's coming out with an album in a few weeks.

And so we're hangin' out, and we're talking to our friend who's interviewing us. They said something really interesting, like "I just wanna talk to you guys and ask you guys questions about the scene that y'all are building!"

People keep saying that and I'm just like "What scene? Where are we goin'?!" [Laughs] "Can Auntie get the invitation?

What scene is this? I thought it was just hardcore! I'm at Brooklyn Bazaar hangin' out!" What do you mean, scene?

NK: [Laughs]

Flora: Okay, I understand what they mean. I'm super-flattered and super-honored that that's happening organically. But then I also want to encourage people to, especially non-Black people, to really reflect on "Am I acknowledging that you're doing something different, or that you're doing something that is expanding a definition?"

Instead of redefining, because that's not what I'm about to do, is redefine. I want to expand the definition. Because redefining to me has an implicit erasure. And I'm not here for it.

"Or am I othering Maafa and Rebelmatic, these bands out of a space that they're more entitled to than I am? That they created, that their ancestors built?"


NK: There you go!

Flora: And it's like because I'm not sitting here with pigtails and a bandanna which I do sometimes, okay? And a sports bra and I'm two-steppin', and everyone in my band is white here at all these hardcore festivals.

Every song is about betrayal of my crew, and beatin' people up and whatever. Does that mean we're less hardcore?

NK: No! No.

Flora: Because I'm showing you through my band that this is the rhythm ya MEANT to play? It's what it's supposed to sound like!

NK: BIG facts.

Flora: About to say "Actually". I'm just joking.

NK: No, it's true.

Flora: You know? I wanna make sure that the people who have access to us, that are NOT Black and brown, understand that. Reflect upon yourself not just with my band, but with all of us. ALL of us.

"Am I really saying 'They're different, they're like this or like that'" because I really feel like they're doing something completely different? Or am I othering them out because I still believe that hardcore and punk is white, it's male, it's straight and it's "this"?

NK: Facts.

Flora: This kind of beat, this amount of minutes, etc.

NK: It's true. What is people's concept of punk? You would find that MANY people without thinking, it's white, the default. And you're building a scene that is centering us.

Flora: Right.


NK: So it IS different. But it's different in a way that we wanted, that we've been waiting for. It's home now, right? This is home for us.

Flora: Ooh, I love that! Home.

NK: Yeah.

Flora: Like, finally being able to be what it was always.

NK: Thank you. Yeah.

Flora: You didn't get those grooves in New York hardcore, and certain bands didn't just grow up with that groove out of nowhere. It just fell out the backyard in the middle of you know, Little Italy. New York. Yeah, you learned it somewhere. You heard it somewhere, you grew up in a hip-hop generation so you heard a lot of sampling of music music.

And you heard different types of beats and different things. You didn't just show up and decide [imitates R&B drum break]. "Oh yeah, we got that out of nowhere!" That came from church! Shut up!

NK: Thank you!

Flora: I am so sick of 'em! Sick of it.

NK: It's the colonial forgetting. "We have to forget these roots so that we can reclaim the history for ourself."

Flora: Right!

NK: So I wanted to talk about your piece Afoxé Oyá Alaxé from the Nago Candomble, right?

Flora: Yeah, wow! I know I'm gonna sound like Ryan but you really did your homework! [Laughs]

NK: [Laughs] Thank you!

Flora: The best ever.

NK: We're family and I find this kinship with Black Brazil because any Black rocker to me is someone Afro-descended that says "I am HERE."

Flora: Right.

NK: "You will listen and you will respect me on this path."

Flora: Absolutely.

NK: What do you think about that?


Flora: I definitely believe that. I feel like kinship with a lot of people. And I'm also not afraid to say that not all skinfolk or skin-adjacent folk are there, you know? I think those folks, I have a lot of compassion, I have a lot of patience, I have a lot of love in general.

But if anybody's worth of that, and more than anything, it's my people. And I think everyone's on their different journeys. And I'm always very afraid of perpetuating this monolithic idea on being placed on Black and punk too!

Because I've been seein' some things that kinda make me go "Hmmm, I don't know about that", like tagging bands as Afropunk who have never even played the festival or have nothing to do with the festival or don't want to have anything to do with the festival today, at least.

NK: I get that.

Flora: And using the term Afropunk as like, a genre or descriptor for bands that have nothing to do with it by non-Black journalists especially.

NK: Oh, my. It IS problematic, yeah.

Flora: It's very problematic. It's also another reason why I chose to call this "Afro-progressive hardcore" because I'm like "I really don't wanna give you space to try to define it. You do you, personally. But I'ma let you know what it is I wanna do!"

Black and punk and this kinda stuff, these terms can be used in ways to highlight and acknowledge things that have been erased historically in this community. But it can also be used to again, other, keep us in "Well, society's been telling you this is how to be Black. And if you're not like this, you're not really Black.

Now in punk rock, this is how to be a Black punk, and if you're not like this, you're not really a Black punk.

NK: Yeah, and you see the terminology is a big part of how that's defined. You're trying to make sure that you don't get it twisted and no one else gets it twisted either.

Flora: Absolutely, absolutely. 'Cause I mean, I overthink everything just so everybody knows and we're very clear on the same page. I'm still overthinking the term 'Afro' for the band. 'Cause I'm like "Well, then it's diasporic but what if it's problematic?" You know?

And I'm okay with that, I'm at peace with that because I'm thinking, I'm considering, I'm trying to do for others what hasn't been done for me frankly.


The only people, I don't really care what anybody thinks about what I do but the only people who I'll actually stop and go 'Hmmm, maybe I should reflect on that', is if it's comin' from my own folks and that's how that kinship really feels.

And that's why this community and these bands and everything that we're doing is so important for us to really support each other.

I don't HAVE to like your band. You are not required or obligated to like anything Maafa does at all! You can listen to this music and think "That's trash! I hate it! But Flora's cool!"


I don't like 90% of what I hear. I'm very picky, I am like that. I'm very picky when it comes to music I hear. If your guitar is even a quarter out of tune, I'm—"Cancelled!" It's over! You know what I mean?

But I don't care if I don't like your music. I don't care if you're a terrible musician, I could think the worst about your music as long as it's not problematic. It doesn't matter, I'm gonna show up for you.

I'm gonna create space for you and I'm gonna support you because there's 10 other people that have never heard you before, who's gonna love you. 10 other Black kids who are gonna see you perform and say "Now I can do it too!" You know what I mean?

NK: Yeah, just because they saw you. Same.


Flora: Exactly, and you know, I hate this comparison but it's real and it's coming up in my heart right now to speak on it. But I don't see other groups of people in these communities, tear each other down and do that to each other.

There are so many crappy all-white hardcore and punk bands. They sound the fuck terrible, like REAL bad. "How did you make it, that a whole festival hired you?"

NK: Yeah, the whole DMV area!

Flora: Right! I don't see them going back "You're not really punk because you play like this" or whatever, you know? And I see that happening a lot in Black punk spaces, and brown spaces. I'm over it frankly. You know?

So I feel like kinship and being able to support, I don't have to like what you do. But I'm gonna support your right and your protection which is mandatory for you to do it. And that's how I feel, what we should all be doing. That's just me.

NK: Thank you. Flora, that's so insightful. It builds on what Samantha, GhettoSongBird, was saying yesterday!

Flora: Can we just have a moment to just praise Grace Jones for Samantha Hollins, GhettoSongBird?

NK: Black rock is alive and well in her.

Flora: She is phenomenal.

NK: And they said there's room for all of us to shine, and the stars don't conquer and divide. They just do that: shine. And I was just like "WOW."

Flora: Oh my gosh. There's room!

NK: Yeah, there's room for all of us to do our own thing without feeling like there's competition. And 2020, we have to depend on that, coming together in solidarity, like, survival, love.

Flora: And it's really cool that you said that because this sense of competition is, I tend to argue a lot with some of my friends 'cause they're "We gotta do THIS and we gotta do that".

I was like "I ain't gotta do nothing but stay Black and live." That's all I have to do.

NK: Empowering to HEAR!

Flora: I'm like, divinely protected in my opinion. That's how I see the world. You know, I'm very spiritual. There's been many things that have happened in my life where I should not be here and I'm like "Well, if I'm done, that means there's something that's gotta be done!" You know?

I know my ancestors are, you know, "If you don't get your shit together! Wake up and go take a shower, do your hair and get to work?"

"You right!" You know? [Laughs]

NK: Right? Like "Damn, I'm your wildest dream, I have to live this for you!"

Flora: Right! Like "I gotta do this for you, Auntie, I know! I'm goin'!"All of that is part of that mission. And I feel that, you know, it's really interesting that you talked about unity and supporting one another, because if you look at the community that I'm a part of right now, we're kind of rebuilding, I don't know, this renaissance thing that I'm callin' it.

This thing of ours! So all these bands that are comin' out and we're all hangin' out and playing shows together! Rebelmatic and Maafa have the same drummer, shout-out to Ramsey Jones.

NK: Yeah!

Flora: We also share Biz who's also my drummer in The 1865, where I play bass! You know?

NK: That's so INCREDIBLE. Synergy!


Flora: "It's like [points out connection between the bands, laughs] And we just, some of it's necessity too, you know, because we need people who actually play certain types of music and hardcore at the same time well.

So it's amazing to me, going from one person back home in a community to punk rockers, that if I talked about Djembe, they're like "You mean bongos?" You know what I mean?

Girl, let me tell you somethin'. I'm not gonna shout—listen, you know who you are. I know you watchin'! You're wrong, okay? Shame on you! Okay, somebody described us as "a reggae band with bongos". Interview over.

NK: They're wrong for that! They are wrong for that.

Flora: They said this because Maafa had one song, we had one song called 'Libation'. That has one, little, itty-bitty breakdown that goes into reggae out of a bajillion. Straight-up hardcore song.

NK: Wow. They just honed in on that one little part.

Flora: They're like "Oooh, it's a reggae band! I'm so happy to be here!"

NK: They got their life!

Flora: "They gonna cover Bob Marley" [Laughs] And then recently, I went to a show with some of my friends in Winter Wolf, and there was this guy there, I don't know who he is, I don't care, a white man, and he'd never seen Winter Wolf before. And I'm standing there, minding my magical Black business. He's right here [standing nearby].

And we're about to watch this band, he turns me to me—a complete and total stranger, and says 'cause they love this, they just love to do it, goes "Oh, man, they're giving me some like, Living Colour vibes." The band hadn't even played yet!

They're a whole horror-punk, screamo type band! Garage-noise-horror punk screamo mixed together is Winterwolf, and some other shit too.

NK: Right on! That sounds dope, I'll check them out.

Flora: And this dude goes Living Colour! Living Colour.

NK: Loaded statement. Loaded statement!

Flora: #WeAllWeGot, that's all I gotta say.

NK: #WeAllWeGot, on the real because we're the only ones that seem to be giving each other that nuance when we hear each other play. It's like we don't automatically put a framework on each other the way that other people do when they see us.

Flora: Right.

NK: It's like "You fit the mold of this band that's come before!" I think we give each other [Black people] more leeway with that, you know?

Flora: Absolutely. And when we do compare to something, I feel more inclined to trust it because I feel like we've actually listened listen and actually heard "Oh, yeah, they must be using the same pedal, blah-blah-blah", you know? It's not just because you're Black and you're in a band, you can be one of three [laughs].


NK: Thank you for bringing that up, Flora, because we were just talking in the admin roundtable for BRU about "Do you think we're finally at the point where rock is as regular for Black community as other genres?" And I was like "NO, and that's largely because of other people's comments but that's also us too".

That's our expectations of each other in that framework of the most popular genres for Black people have been, you know, typically NOT rock.

Flora: Absolutely. It's interesting that we bring that up today because just a few days ago, one of the young ladies that I grew up with, who's a Black woman through high school that we used to go to all the hardcore shows and still do go to shows together today. Hey, Gi!

We were talking about something that we never said to each other, which was really beautiful 'cause we were just kind of living and going to shows and stuff. We never actually sat down to say to each other now that we're in our thirties, what it was like the first time we met each other and saw each other in a predominantly white school!

Which I only lasted a year and a half in, and I had to go! I had to go, I couldn't. I'm sorry, I love y'all. But no.

NK: Right? I get it, yo. Do what you gotta do. Save yourself.

Flora: I can't do it, so [laughs] Biaji were talking about it, and we sat there. And I told her what it was like to see her and her sister, walking up, two beautiful Black girls, up the street to where we were all hangin' out with spiked collars and chain wallets, pink and blue box braids and like, JNCO pants and their Kittie shirt and Metallica. I'm just like "Oh my God!"

NK: What a mood!

Flora: What? It's a whole vibe. I'm sitting there with like, my GBH cut-out shirt and my hair's all purple. I was like "Yas!" It was incredible, it was an amazing experience. But you know, you're just living and going through your life. And we never got to tell each other how much that was impactful and how much that's been a lifelong friendship of 15 years now.

And she said something really interesting. She was like "I know, I've been reflecting on how badly we used to get beat-up and teased, and mocked and beat-up. And lived in a lot of violence from some of our own people in that area of D.C. and PG County that umm, were not about letting us have, you know...

NK: That space.

Flora: That space to be whatever it is we're trying to figure out. And umm, they were very violently against it oftentimes. She said something I have yet to really process because it was so powerful. "This whole time, I've been feeling so excluded when we were kids," you know, "feeling so excluded and so exiled away from our own people and our own community in certain regards. I never thought about 'Maybe they felt like we turned our backs on them first'."

NK: Yeah...they did.

Flora: Right! Exactly, and it was just so brilliant and simple. Like "Oh, lightbulb! Duh"! That makes absolute sense now. You know, not for everybody. Some people were just being mean.

NK: Yeah. No, I get that!


Flora: But that was so profound. So I feel like we have a lot of work to do in this community to not just normalize, but also to center and recontextualize our own narrative around this!

NK: There you go.

Flora: You know, for sure.

NK: Yeah. So, Flora, how does a Maafa song and the creative process begin for you? Are there any lasting influences on your songwriting, listening tastes? The BRU loves to hear it!

Flora: A lot, umm, my writing process, some of the songs I wrote for Maafa that we kind of play every once in a while like 'Not Your Exotic'.

I actually wrote 'Not Your Exotic' when I was in high school after listening to a Biff Naked record which I used to LOVE Biff Naked! I still do, I love her a lot. She's an amazing woman and great survivor. She's awesome.

So I listened to some Biff Naked and got inspired to do this punky rock 'n roll thing. I was in a rockabilly band at the time. I been through a lot!

NK: You spanned music. You been through a lot, but I love to hear.

Flora: Thank you, I appreciate it. So I listened to that song and I just wrote 'Not Your Exotic'. I wrote the riff and whatever. Then I saw this poem by Suheir Hammad called 'Not Your Exotic, Not Your Erotic'. Maybe that was backwards.

But that stuck with me all these years, and then finally with Maafa. I rewrote it and took it down a few whole-steps, and made it into this song.


I don't really have any particular process where it's time to write a song, I'm gonna do this in that order. It kinda just comes out. I wrote everything you hear with Maafa on classical guitar because I never had an electrical guitar, never really had one until recently.

A lot of the songs like 'Deficit' and 'Filha da Luta' and stuff like that were originally just instrumentals! That were all just different African diasporic things, mainly Afro-Brazilian and djembe breaks, 'Deficit' has a djembe break.

I hear this, how does it sound with hardcore? How does this translate to hardcore and punk? You know, because my whole life coming from this community and my parents, and the way that I hear music in general, any kind of song...

I'm listening to a lot of New York hardcore growing up, I was OBSESSED with New York hardcore growing up. Everybody else was like "Discord this" and I was like "Gimme that Demise demo! Gimme that Warzone!" Hello, that shit is fi-re!

NK: It IS!

Flora: Till this day, gimme some Indecision, hallelu'! Yes, Indecision! "I believe too", baby! "I believe" too. Love Indecision, absolutely. Listening to their music and all these different hardcore bands especially District Nine and Everybody Gets Hurt.

I'm like "Wait a minute, that break, that's not no punk, that's a 6/8! That's some African shit, that's a djembe, that's some Nigerian, some Ewe." Some this or whatever! I'm like "You don't know what you're doin'! That's not what that is!" You know?

NK: There you go!

Flora: Especially with certain bands that love to mix, those Castle Heights band, they love to mix different rhythm changes really quickly. They're really good at doin' that! Going really fast, you know, circle pit stuff to a two-step and then all of a sudden, it's a sludgey-grimey kind of feel.


Flora: Perfect timing live and all that energy, the way the bassist would just spin around like a tornado onstage!

NK: Wasn't that incredible?

Flora: It's incredible! And that's the kind of stuff that I wish I could have been in New York first off, then old enough to have walked in the door. But I grew up listening to it anyway,  thank God. And it's very influential in my music because Maafa and part of my writing is just "I want y'all to hear what I hear!"

So when I hear certain break-downs, like Snap Case was a really good band who did that a lot. I'm listenin' to Snap Case and I'm like "Exactly, that's exactly what I'm talking about! Yeah, do that with the drums again! He did it again!"

Even some metalcore, you know? So they can do that, their writing, the way they play, I mean I could talk about this shit all day long! Of just how influential some of those things are like right now of Shai Halud's 'My Heart Bleeds The Darkest Blood'.

There you go, I had to sing it 'cause I can't say it! [Laughs] In that song I hear orchestration, I hear a lot of capoeira music. I hear all this STUFF in it. I'm like "Let's do it like this [Maafa]!" You know?

And I think Maafa is an idea that came to me out of that. Like I wanna play what I wanna play but I want you to hear what else I hear too. And let's just have fun with it! For sure.


NK: Beautiful! So who personifies Afro-progressive hardcore with Maafa? Rock that description, Flora! Afro-progressive hard-CORE.

Flora: Thank you! Thank you so much.

NK: So that is The 1865. That's Bad Brains, X-Ray Spex and Poly Styrene. That's even Screamin’ Jay Hawkins so, yeah.

Flora: Yas, yas. I feel like Afro-progressive hardcore is something that I just made up of needing to feel like I had some control, even though I know I'm not gonna have control over everybody else's way of seeing me. And I don't want that, just a little something like "You can feel how YOU feel about the band, but I'ma let you know what I thought. You know?

I think it has several meanings not just musically in terms of progressive song structures and taking complex ideas in songwriting, like with 'Blind Spot'.

Having all these odd meter intros and making it tangible to everybody. And making it feel familiar but also not so familiar. That is my goal at least, you know.

NK: You're achieving it.

Flora: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. With the progressive part and with the Afro- part, you know again, centering us, not just including us and taking back our narratives. Let's make up some new shit. Let's come up with some new ideas on how to not expand a definition but expand the possibilities of these sounds.


You know, as an educator, I also feel like, I try to teach that to as many folks as possible, to my private students and things about theory. "This is what I teach you but also, there's other things [like punk] that you can do with this. It doesn't have to be just what I'm telling you.

And then hardcore because you're not about to other me out of my own shit, frankly! You're not about to sit here and be like 'Oh, I like Maafa a lot! I think you're really great, just really different, you know? But it's really not hardcore!"

NK: No, we're hardcore!

And I'm like "Oh yeah? You wanna come say that outside? [Laughs] Wanna come say it to my face?" Like, "Okay, come to one of 0ur shows. Come and find out!"

NK: Why not? Hear it for yourself.

Flora: The worst. And the hardcore part, I struggled with that too and even my guitar player Anthony and I will go back and forth about, we knew we didn't want to add NYHC on there. That has its own connotation of certain things when you're actually in the community, that isn't necessarily honoring our truths so we decided not to do that.

But hardcore, having that in the title is important to me. And one of the major reasons for that is because a lot of people want to exclude. They have this fear of change, and this fear of reclaiming things because then it's gonna put you in the position of having to reflect on your own foundation and your own identity.

And a lot of people are not ready to be like "Well, if I don't have this identity, what am I gonna replace it with?" And I don't wanna hear it from them, what it is I'm supposed to be or what I'm gonna do. And no one's gonna tell you, you gotta figure that out for yourself.

We're tryna grow and evolve, you know what I mean? Just the spirit of it all. We're tryna just [laughs] we're tryna hold each other accountable, and break generational curses and cycles. We can't just be stuck here forever. Come on, y'all.


NK: Yeah, evolution is the natural order of things. Umm, it's scary but you have to go with the flow, you know?

Flora: It's terrifying.

NK: Queens of the Stone Age made a song about it: 'Go with the Flow'! [Laughs]

Flora: For sure.

NK: Your life matters, dear Flora, this #BRU joy is in itself resistance. It's this DIY space that we have. And we are at a scary, uncomfortable yet exciting point in history, you know? Afro-progressive art and ideology is widely known.

Angela Davis is part of like, mainstream conversation now. Pure Hell are part of mainstream conversation now.

Flora: It's wild.

NK: How do you feel?

Flora: That's wild. Pure Hell and people being able to—first of all, the fact that like, OkayAfrica MADE a list about Black punk bands. I'm already like "We made it, Mom! We don't hafta do nothin' else." You know, and then to put ANY of us, let alone all of us on that list? I was just "This is really happening. Like, this is REALLY happening."

I remember the college I went to before Berklee, having to explain what skinhead was to people all the time, and then my teacher being like "Well, this is a great opportunity for you to do a lecture in our class!" I'm like "Okay."

And I had to cut out photos of me and my friends drinking beer at soccer games and shit, and be like "This is a Black skinhead".

NK: So cool.

Flora: Which is great, but it's like pay me though!

NK: Yeah, I know that's unpaid labor to educate on that.

Flora: I could use a check for that kind of labor. It was very interesting. But that was out of necessity because it was very violent when I was growing up. Everyone is hated, everything is taboo, people with tattoos don't get jobs. You know what I mean?

You're really just if you get tattoos...especially some of my homeboys that had tattoos on their face and their necks, and their heads and everything. I'm just like, and back in the '80's and the 90's?

And I'm just sitting there as a baby, back in Brazil. "Mm. Mm-mm, could not be me". Could not be me! No, I'm just joking.

NK: Yeah.

Flora: Oh, if I see a neck tattoo, that's a whole other interview, we're gonna leave that alone! Keepin' it 100. But yeah, I feel like a lot of it is, it takes a minute for me to process and it takes a minute for me to really accept that we're here now, and it's happening. It's the beginning of something.

What I'm afraid of is sometimes, is people get mad comfortable with the "We're here", and I'm like "No, no, no, no, no!" No, we're not. We're not here yet. We're kind of getting there.

We're starting to kind of understand that oh, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Rebelmatic has her on their shirt, the yellow jawn in the middle.

NK: I was about to say, that looks like, that IS Rosetta.

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Flora: That's Sister Rosetta! You know what I mean? So I feel like it's so important that we're all reclaiming these icons, and really studying why they are icons. WHY are these people famous, and why they're relevant today? That kind of thing. It's so important.

I mean, why else put that on your shirt or claim it in a hash-tag if you're not going to understand how it's connected to us directly today? And I feel like a lot of that is completely new to my generation. My generation didn't grow up with that.

And my New York friends, they tell me all the time! "Oh, we grew up getting beat up and called all sort of names, people telling us that we're listenin' to that 'kill your mother, kill your father' music and white boy stuff."

NK: Yeah, real talk.

Flora: And da-da-da. And I'm just like, it's happening everywhere. And now we're in our thirties, I'm in my thirties and I'm the baby of that generation. And everybody else is in their forties and fifties. And they're like "Well, we've done this anyway."

Now it's like, kids, the 21-year-olds and the 22-year-olds, shout-out to my tribe, all the young folks that are comin' up. They call me Mom, they're like "Mom, what's Bane? Why is 'Song Came Running' so good? What's this? I'm obsessed with Bane now. What is Undertone?" I'm like "Yas. Yas!"

NK: Cool. This is the revolution. This is it!

Flora: Absolutely. And I think that it's little actions like that, little moments that kind of evolve and snowball into becoming movements, and then becoming the normalization of this group. I want us to never lose the necessity of keeping it underground to an extent.

You know? Get your credit, get what's due to you. But there's something really special about our spaces, about our communities being just for us.

NK: Yeah.

Flora: And within our control of who can and who can come in to harm us, you know? Everybody is welcome but we need to be very vigilant about harm, in my opinion.

NK: Yeah, you're absolutely right, Flora. Thank you for your wisdom in that because it's definitely about centering us in Black Rockers United.

I guess a lot of people are confused about what that means, because we do branch out to rock from non-Black people but it starts with us and it ends with us, yeah.

And it's a movement that's decentralized and not for the clout. It's just that Black Rockers United, and I see you rockin' and you see me doin' the same. And we uplift each other in doing that.

Flora: Absolutely.

NK: Musical revolution and love, Flora!

Flora: Yas, Nicole!

NK: Can you feel it?

Flora: I do, girl, I feel it in my spirit! [Laughs] I feel it because it's not just us hangin' out at shows 'n stuff. You know, during the quarantine it's been really rough for me and my family, especially my family in Brazil.

You know, and it's been amazing that I'm finally feeling comfortable at least, going to the park with a few of my 'Tribe kids and my friends. We just started doing that a week ago.

Just for like, an hour or two and then I'm like "I gotta go" because I am terrified, I'm terrified! It's like my worst nightmares. It's really cool that we'll meet up and talk about different types of music, and encourage each other.


Creature will take some of the kids to different cemeteries to visit the graves of James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, or whoever they wanna go visit Max Roach, and talk about why they're relevant to a bunch of Black metalhead kids and punk rockers today as musicians, as artists, as Black people. As revolutionaries, as radicals.

NK: Yes!

Flora: And then I'll always meet up with some of the kids. And I just love that I have a text message on my phone, from my nephew Jerome in Winter Wolf that was like: "Auntie! Auntie, I need you to teach me everything about Riot Grrl. What was Riot Grrl?

"[Laughs] I got you!"

NK: Riot Grrl was THE.

Flora: 'Cause lemme tell you, 'cause I have my opinions and views so I wanna make sure I give him the history. And that I also give him perspective so that then he can come to his own conclusion. And I think that that is incredible, that that's happening. Like, we're real friends and we're real family outside of shows.

Shows in hardcore and punk, and coming together and doing shows is something that for people like me, you do it because it's your livelihood. Literally to stay alive, to get through the trauma of living. To get through all of these questions about "Oh my gosh, I'm gonna just die one day. What am I doing until then, 'cause that's it?" kind of feeling. Everyday I ask myself "Is this what I want my legacy to be if I die today?"

NK: Cool. (This speaks to a personal truth for many of us with anxiety.)

Flora: And that's also my anxiety that makes me think that, it's not even that deep! [Laughs] So to have the support of our family and our friends, and to feel like I can pick up the phone and talk to Black women in my thirties now, I [and we] can just go crate-digging. Me and Honeychild hang out all the time!

And we go to different record stores. We go eat at Champ's, you know? And I can talk to Tamar. Tamar-kali, bless her heart, she stays on my butt to make sure I get my life together. She does NOT play and you know, we can talk about so many things and she's so validating!

NK: Yeah.

Flora: 'Cause she'll tell me. I'll call her to complain about something. And then she'll be like "I went through that back on this day and this person, and this happened." Like "[Sigh of relief] I don't feel so alone!"

NK: Mmhmm! Mmhmm, you need that validation [as a Black woman].

Flora: And that has nothing to do with punk and hardcore. That has everything to do with just being Black women and friends.

NK: In that consensus together.

Flora: Exactly, absolutely and I think that that's really the driving force behind this.

NK: Black women in punk.

Flora: And I also think that that's also gonna be the longevity for other people. It's that these kids that are coming in, 19, 20, 21, 22 years old are learning a different thing, that I did not learn. I had to find out on my own like many of us had to.

You don't have to be in competition! You don't have to be disrespectful and rude. You don't have to be judgmental. You don't have to be arrogant. You don't have to know every single band, and every demo and every cassette tape that was ever released in 1983 before ya ass was even born! So [Laughs]

I'm here, I'm teaching these kids. I teawse these kids a lot about listening to some of these bands like--what was that band called, "Ocean Avenue"?

NK: Yellowcard!

Flora: Yellowcard, okay! So I told them, you know, one of my baby girls. She'll be listening to the music and I know the words, it was on the radio. And so I'll mess with them and be like "Turn this crap off! this isn't real hardcore, what is this? This doesn't have anything to do with us!" And they'll just start cracking up. "Oh, Mom, you're so silly." You know?

Right, I'm just playing around because if anyone tries to come at my children with some ridiculousness of this elitist, arrogant attitude about music and whatever? I'm like "Lest you forget, you wasn't always listening to this kind of music."

NK: Right, right!

Flora: You didn't start here, you wasn't born in this. Stop that!

NK: Mmm-mm! Thank you for saying that, speakin' up for da youth! Because they are the future.

Flora: Yas! Absolutely.

NK: You know? Have some space for da youth, some patience for da youth.

Flora: Most definitely.

NK: Wrapping it up now, my dear friend Flora! Black punk is heavy, and it's unable to be stopped because revolutionary energy moves like tides.

And you bring the realness! The world’s not the same without you. And BRU has endless love and respect for you, Flora! We are UNITED.

Flora: Yes! Absolutely.

NK: Stay united with us and rock on, okay?

Flora: Thank you so much, Nicole. All right, love.

NK: Absolutely, thank you. Thank you. Stay safe and please stay punk, okay?

Flora: Hehe, ooh, I love that! Stay Black, stay punk, stay safe.

NK: Stay Black, stay punk, stay safe.

Flora is on . Maafa revolutionizes punk on       !