Beyond the Lyrics:

By: Arianna Washington


Words can’t describe the complete sense of autonomy I felt launching my body off a stage shortly after a size 11 men’s pair of Doc Martens spin-kicked my head. How swinging my arms across my body and throwing my feet in sync to the fast-paced aggressive beat of the drums in a crowd alleviates my social anxiety. 


While I may have the hearing of a 91-year-old at 19, the emotional solace I experience as a Black Chicana from the hardcore and punk scene in Southern California surmounts any long lasting damage to my hearing. 


Hardcore and punk have historically been pigeonholed in the public’s eye as a white dominated subculture of anguish and rebellion. Across the board, there lies an undeniable truth in that matter. 


Even with the overwhelming presence of white individuals, people of color have been present in and represented by punk ideologies long before its inception. For every Ramones, there is a Pure Hell. For every Sex Pistols or Crash there is a Death or Bad Brains.


Solely focusing on the whitewashed heteronormative narrative we have been spoon fed actively erases the history of people of color who participated in crafting the genres we know and consume today. 


The phenomenon of white people exploiting marginalized communities and diminishing the value of their spaces is not a recent development. It is visible in every facet of our culture, from the land we reside on, the food we eat, the way we style our hair, the way we speak and even music we make. 


Erratic Impulse, a Chicano fronted metal punk band from San Diego, aims to challenge this norm by creating music with the purpose of liberating minorities from the homogenization in American society.


At one of their concerts I attended, angsty white teens cried out the band’s lyrics that are intended to empower people of color. This had been my first encounter with the colonization of anti-colonialist hardcore and punk music. 


But it’s slowly changing. 

In Southern California, people of color and marginalized communities are actively challenging social norms by creating a counterculture within the counterculture. 


Bands such as Zulu or The Runts that are composed of people of color, tie their cultural identity to their music through exploring themes of police brutality, the prison-industrial complex and the plethora of systemic injustices their communities face. 


As the counterculture continues to evolve, it is essential to recognize and amplify the people of color creating community-based networks that actively address systemic oppression beyond the lyrics. 



Half conference, half show, PunkCon is an academic conference dedicated to showcasing and embracing the diversity within punk culture. Rooted in the DIY values innate to punk culture, PunkCon was co-founded by two Chicana femmes, Marlen Rios-Hernandez and Susana Sepuvelda, towards the end of their graduate programs. 


Since the first PunkCon in 2018, the leadership has evolved to being run by a fully Latine staff from Southern California. The conference fuses academic discourse and diverse performances, including drag artists, to remain a people’s event. Open to the public, this year’s PunkCon will be held at CSUF exploring the theme of  “Do They Owe Us a Living?: Punk, Nihilism and Going Analog in the End of Times”. 


Mosh For Youth 

Mosh For Youth is a non-profit organization founded by Victor Campos, a high school teacher and lead singer of hardcore band Barrio Slam. Campos’ purpose of creating this organization is to confront racial wealth inequalities head-on.


Established in 2021, Mosh For Youth coordinates hardcore benefit festivals to provide scholarships for underprivileged students in the Pomona and East LA areas. Each scholarship is estimated to be $3,500 for high school seniors, only requiring commitment to a four-year university and an essay reflecting on their connection to their neighborhood.

Growing up in a low-income household with eight siblings, Campos endured the ramifications of unequal distributions of wealth firsthand. Campos attributes education to paving the path for his current life and aims to curate the same opportunity for others with Mosh For Youth. 


“Mosh For Youth is created for the students that do want to pursue college, but they can’t because of [economic] burdens,” Campos said. “I do believe in the power of education to combat systemic factors that keep our people down. Because it worked for me.”


The festivals take place in the parking lot of Por Siempre, a tattoo parlor in Pomona, featuring around 13 bands from California, with plans to open up the festival to bands nationwide.


Midnight Hour: 

Record Store by day, venue by night, the Midnight Hour in the San Fernando Valley has been a cultural hub since 2017. Founded by Sergio Amalfitano, a queer veteran of the scene and valley native, the Midnight Hour has been home to historical benefit shows and a diverse range of culturally representative records. The space reflects the punk shows Amalfitano grew up attending in the backyards of working-class Chicanos.


Prior to the establishment of the Midnight Hour, Amalfitano spent his time touring globally with his powerviolence band ACxDC, standing for Antichrist Demoncore. The band uses Satan as a symbol for rejection of authority rather than worship, intricately weaving themes of self-discovery, queerness, environmentalism and body shaming into the fabrics of their lyrics. 


In November of 2023, Midnight Hour hosted a benefit show to raise awareness and support the Palestinian Youth Movement against the genocide in Gaza and the Israeli occupation. The sole necessity upon entry was for participants to email their local representatives to demand a  nceasefire, and to purchase a presale ticket or contribute a sliding scale donation. 


The show headlined outspoken figures in the hardcore scene, including Show Me the Body, a Jewish New York punk band, as well as acts such as ACxDC, Zulu and Clique. In conjunction with an additional show hosted in New York, a total of $16,250 was donated directly to the Palestinian Youth Movement and the Within Our Lifetime organizations.


“That night all coming together for the sole purpose of raising awareness about what’s happened, the genocide in Palestine, and speaking out about it through their music that show brought me to tears,” said Sirena Salas, an event attendee and hardcore enthusiast.


Amalfitano is no stranger to leveraging hardcore to promote community well-being and defend marginalized communities. In the past, he hosted benefit shows for friends facing eviction from their homes and family members with health issues. Recently, Amalfitano has been at the forefront of defending the LGBTQIA+ community in San Fernando Valley. 


In October 2023, Amalfitano was one of few to stand up against the crowd of ignorant protesters who blocked the entrance to a Drag storytime at the San Fernando Public Library.


Whether it’s mental health, financial challenges, trauma or addiction, people of color seek community and liberation from the establishments set up against them as the result of a broken society. At its essence, punk and hardcore serves as a means of personal expression and an outlet to channel the inherent frustration, anger and desire for societal change.

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