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Massachusetts Rock Against Racism : Records, 1979-1987 (Bulk 1982-1987)


3 boxes of files; 5 boxes of tapes


The records of Massachusetts Rock Against Racism were donated to the Healey Library Archives and Special Collections Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston by Reebee Garofalo on August 22, 2002.


Reebee Garofalo has been a professor at UMass Boston since 1978 in the College for Public and Community Service and with the American Studies Program. Garofalo has used mass media and popular music as a form of critical thinking, study, education, and as a tool for activism through projects like Rock Against Racism. He has written and edited several books, as well as articles for popular and scholarly publications. He served as chairperson of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music-US, and sits on the National Advisory Board of the Archives of African American Music and Culture. He is currently involved in launching a new degree program at CPCS, UMass in Community Media and Technology. He also plays drums and sings with the Blue Suede Boppers.


Massachusetts Rock Against Racism (RAR) came together at a time when City of Boston and its surrounding areas were rocked by racism. This was especially focused on the youth population as court-ordered desegregation and busing intensified festering problems. RAR’s name came from a movement started in England in the mid-1970s. It was organized and co-founded in the Boston area in 1979 by a group of volunteers consisting of musicians, radio announcers, and educators, including Reebee Garofalo who was at that time an assistant professor at the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) at UMass Boston. Designed to confront issues of racism in the Boston area, RAR used popular music and mass media as educational tools to address race relations for high school kids and the community. RAR carried out its mission through presentations to high school students, concerts and festivals, broadcast and TV production, workshops, performances, community screenings, and with print and media coverage.

“Can’t Music Bring Us Together?” was the first in a series of multi-media presentations held at a variety of area high schools from 1979 to 1981 which used popular music as a means to talk about issues of racism. They held the first in a series of benefit concerts and outdoor festivals on July 10, 1980, which featured a variety of multi-ethnic, multi-racial performance styles.

In 1982 they began video production on cable with TV show entitled “But, Can You Dance to It?” which was “designed to use popular music from different culture as a vehicle for overcoming racial and cultural isolation.” The show was taped at Somerville Community Access and broadcast to an estimated 240,000 subscribers. It was the winner of a national cable TV award in 1983.

In fall 1983 they received a contract from the Boston Public School Department. Until then they were run on a volunteer basis. This, combined with other grants, contributions, as well as office space at UMass Boston, allowed RAR to have a paid professional staff, a board of directors, and interns. A mixed group of students from District Nine high schools were gathered to undergo “extensive workshop training in the areas of race relations, music history and video production.”

Expanding on the success of the cable TV show, the Boston Public Schools Video Project was initiated to enhance awareness of other cultures and improve race relations in the public schools. It was a collaboration among RAR, UMass Boston, District Nine of the Boston Public Schools, and The Boston Community Access and Programming Foundation. Half hour shows were produced by youth from Boston high schools and broadcast on cable TV.

The First and Second Annual Boston Youth Culture Festivals were held at Jamaica Pond in 1984 and 1985. RAR was involved in setting up the event, performing in it, and videotaping it for cable. In 1985, Youth Leadership Project was developed to work with a group of students who had been through their programs to deliver and develop workshops and performances.

Scope and Content

This collection includes records and videotapes of the organization Massachusetts Rock Against Racism. It covers the time period of 1979 to 1987 with the majority of the materials covering 1982-1987.

The files are organized in their original order. There are file folders are arranged alphabetically by main subject and with some divided by sub-subjects. Papers in the folders are often in reverse chronological order.

The collection is divided into four series:

  1. Administrative and Project Files
  2. Fundraising/Foundations
  3. Agency Information
  4. Videos

Series I: Administrative

This series includes administrative records of the organization. This includes, contracts, forms, organizational plans, correspondence, mailing lists, and personnel files. Staff and board minutes and budgets are also included. The administrative series is divided into sub-series. The largest sub-series is Projects/Events. This sub-series has one or more files for each project or event sponsored by RAR. The files include cable TV shows, concerts, performances, festivals, Youth Leadership Project and the Boston Public School Video Project. Folders include scripts and outlines, memorandum, student questionnaires, financial statements, and release forms.

Series II: Foundation

Funding for RAR came through various foundations and grants. This series contains both fundraising information and foundations files. The foundation files are in alphabetical order. Files include information about foundations, proposals, and correspondence.

Series III: Agency Information

Includes folders for various state and local agencies that worked with RAR on various projects.

Series IV: Videos

5 boxes of videos.

There are 70 ¾” tapes, including raw footage and finished products. Tapes include those made by the Boston Public School Video Project, tapes of events and concerts, interviews, and work tapes.

There are 7 ½” tapes of issues related to racism and popular music.