New Paltz Gets Nas-ty Over Racism

Rapper Nas was the main performer for the Normal/SSDP and Student Association Production’s Rock Against Racism.
Rapper Nas was the main performer for the Normal/SSDP and Student Association Production’s Rock Against Racism.

Nas graced the stage of the Elting Gym for a brief performance as the main act for Normal/SSDP and Student Association’s (SA) Production of the 12th annual Rock Against Racism, May 6 and 7.

According to Executive Vice President of Programming Anthony Lino, Nas was chosen through a collective decision made by SA Productions. They hoped his performance would reinforce the significance of unity and inspire students to come up with new possible solutions toward becoming more unified.

“We want to be able to provide an entertaining experience,” said Lino. “But also promote social, intellectual and academic awareness amongst students.”

According to Lino, the mission of Rock Against Racism was to promote unity and create a positive environment where students of all cultural backgrounds can meet.

For the past 12 years, New Paltz students and residents have gathered at the Old Main Quad for a community event that encourages unity and raises awareness about the racial disparities of the War on Drugs, a 40-year-old prohibition campaign intended to reduce the illegal drug trade.

Although many students said they thought the performance was great, some felt it was too short.

“I don’t know why $50,000 of the school’s money went to a 45-minute performance,” said first-year communications major Chris Owens. “It was a good performance, but it lasted for two seconds. [That money] could’ve been spent elsewhere.”

There were also some changes made to the event in an effort to incorporate the prevalent issue of racism, said Lino.

This year, Normal/SSDP and SA Productions kicked off the event with a student and faculty panel discussion on the impact of race and racism in the United States on Friday, May 6 in Lecture Center Room 102.

The open forum about race and racism was suggested to Lino by Professor Karanja Carroll of the Black Studies Department because he felt that in years prior to this, Rock Against Racism has dealt with a lot of rock but not racism.

“The message received from past Rock Against Racism events have been more on the legalization of marijuana than the significance of racism,” said third-year Black Studies major Faisal Awadallah. “[That isn’t going to] solve everything concerning the issues of white supremacy.”

Eirik Bjorkman, the organizer of the panel, said this event was important because it addressed race and racism specifically. He also said it was completely campus-driven.

“We didn’t bring people outside of campus. They were all connected to SUNY New Paltz [in one way or another],” said Bjorkman. “[Every year] there were always speakers who didn’t really speak about racism but drug policies.”

SA and Normal/SSDP co-sponsored with over 100 school organizations for this event, including the Poetry Association, Scholar’s Mentorship Advisory Board and the New Paltz Dance team.

Some of the local bands that performed at Rock Against Racism were Hamologna, Godchilla and The Mahopac Chord. The event also included speakers who discussed drug policies, including those from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. DJ Big Bird was the event’s DJ.

“It was fun and eye-opening,” said Andrew Jordan of The Mahopac Chord.

Lino’s said the panels echoed his view on Rock Against Racism.

“Actions speak louder than words in some shape or form and words bring it to reality,” said Lino.