Rock Against Racism started in England during the late 70s as a mass movement of bands and music fans taking a stand against racist violence and far right fascist political groups. Hundreds of concerts, carnivals, rallies and night club shows were organized. Punk, reggae and new wave bands embraced the cause and became spokespersons for a progressive multiracial popular culture.


Rock Against Racism USA

In the early 80s Rock Against Racism came to the US and was organized under the name of Rock Against Racism USA as a network with a dozen chapters. From 1979 to1985 hundreds of concerts, rallies and night club gigs were organized against the Klan, police violence and the Regan republican right wing. The Youth International Party, AKA the Yippies, were the core of this network and their national underground newspaper "Overthrow" served as it's news and communication vehicle.

From 1989 to 1996 a new network and organizing formula was developed by music culture activists in the San Francisco bay area to continue the RAR tradition. Sam Cohen AKA Fat Dog, owner of Subway Guitars in Berkeley and Brian Webster, a RAR USA activist from New York, using the name Rock Against Racism and Voices for Choice, developed a format of coordinating the promotion of simultaneous shows in many cities to celebrate progressive holidays, such as Martin Luther King's birthday and International Women's Day. They along with other key volunteers coordinated the production of hundreds of RAR and Voices for Choice shows. The goal was inspire a new generation of bands and music fans to get politically involved and speak out for progressive causes and human rights.

The formula got hundreds of bands playing in hundreds of cities to participate. Promotional materials and a large poster listing all shows worldwide were produced and distributed for each mobilization. Bands were responsible for their own booking and working with nightclubs and promoters to make local arrangements for their show's participation in the larger celebration. Flexibility and openness were the keys to it's "big tent" success. Bands, managers, and club owners were free to promote local women's and human rights groups, or they could promote national groups and campaigns. Artwork, logos, posters, buttons, flyers and petitions were provided. Each band, promoter and club was free to use them at whatever level was appropriate for their unique show. No financial commitment was required. Any funds raised could be directed to a bands favorite cause or a national group promoted by the network, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and N.O.W.

Rock Against Racism and Voices for Choice is part of a rich history of artists and cultural workers at all levels participating in mass mobilizations and democratic campaigns in service to humanity. It's successful formula and the boundless spirit of music it taps into, is available to this season's people.


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