This year’s Rock Against Racism (RAR) event is in the final stages of planning.
Plans for the annual concert and activism event, hosted by members of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and other organizations, have a sharper focus on social justice issues rather than its previous emphasis on the war on drugs, event organizer Misha Savage said.
“We are continuing to shift the focus,” Savage said. “We are trying to plan something that will not be geared toward drug issues, but instead institutional racism and making issues like that more apparent.”
Kelly Brennan, a Rock Against Racism organizer, said in past years, the event focused on the drug war, but student feedback led organizers to not only consider changing the culture of the event, but even explore the possibility of creating a Rock Against Racism club itself, separate from SSDP.
“I’m working very hard this year to see that RAR is more than what it was in the past,” Brennan said. “Although we will still have a day of music and speakers on stage, I intend to have more events on the stage that will discuss racism…I’m hoping to have a greater attendance than previous years and give RAR a more positive image.”
Savage said organizers have been working toward creating the new club to help distinguish between the more specific ideals of Rock Against Racism and the broad ones of SSDP.
“It’s something we’ve discussed in recent years,” Savage said. “We are tired of having the event stigmatized.”
Some of the changes to the event include a lecture series and “hands-on” discussions about racism leading up to the RAR event that will be held on Saturday, April 27 in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium, Brennan said.
Savage said the lecture will feature faculty and student activists who will examine racism not only in America, but on SUNY New Paltz’s campus as well.
To further this emphasis, Brennan said on the day of the event, there will be tables with information regarding racism.
The event will be capped off by a performance from Underground System Afro-Beat, an 11-piece Brooklyn-based band.
Savage said while many different names were discussed as possibilities to play at Rock Against Racism, scheduling conflicts or costs narrowed down the list. After a friend suggested he listen to Underground System Afro-Beat, Savage said he thought the band fit “perfectly” with the themes of the event.
“They have eastern and western sounds that are long-form, politically conscious but are really accessible – so people can either dance or relax,” Savage said.
In addition to the musical act, Savage and Brennan said the day will include student vendors, artists and activists tabling on Old Main Quad as well as other entertainment such as balloon animals, face painting, obstacle courses and hula hoops.
Savage said he looks forward to the event’s arrival in three weeks and hopes its change in theme will be helpful in educating the campus about racism.
“Besides all of the entertainment, this is a great opportunity for students and the community to come together and celebrate a message we can all get down with,” Savage said.