In the Archives: Massachusetts Rock Against Racism – Antiracism in the ‘80s

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Mass. RAR, Inc.: The First 5 Years, 1985 February 19. This video is an excellent summary of the work that Rock Against Racism did from 1979 to 1985. It shows news clips, different RAR performances, and interviews with RAR leaders, including Reebee Garofalo, Fran Smith, Mackie McLeod, and student leader/producer Trae Myers. Some of the clips also include footage from “But Can You Dance to It?,” recordings from break dance crew performances, and sections from a remake of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video.

One of our digital video collections is from a group called Massachusetts Rock Against Racism (RAR). Back in the late 1970s and 1980s, this organization formed in order to address racism in the Boston community. Founders and leaders from RAR felt that popular music could transcend boundaries and bring people together, no matter how different these people were. Adults formed the organization and then brought it to Boston youth, specifically high school students. They held festivals where students and adults performed all kinds of music including rap, reggae, rock, and Latin. The festivals also featured break dancing and speeches from local officials and activists, including Mel King. In addition to these concerts, RAR worked with students to create variety shows at their schools and to script and produce a TV show called Living in a Rainbow World. RAR broadcast all of these shows. The leaders of the organization hoped that not only would students get to express themselves and reach across racial divides in the program, but they could also gain valuable workforce skills by being actively involved in the production and broadcasting of their work.

Footage used in Madison Park Rocks, English High All the Way Live, and the Jeremiah E. Burke Jam, 1984 March 18. Here are clips from three of the Rock Against Racism productions in Boston high schools. These include news clips with people like Donna Summers as well as a diverse group of students dancing, rapping, and singing.

In our collection we have final and unedited footage of these broadcasts, including several episodes of Living in a Rainbow World, three of the RAR Youth Cultural Festivals in Jamaica Plain and elsewhere in Boston, and variety shows from different Boston high schools. In addition, we have digital video of interviews with the leaders of RAR such as Reebee Garofalo, Fran Smith, Dan Richardson, Mackie McLeod, and student leader Trae Myers, as well as footage from professional concerts like the “World of Difference” Rock Against Racism television special, and from a one-time music and dance program called “But Can You Dance to It?” We also have videos featuring related people and organizations, including Project Aries (a similar program in Charlotte, North Carolina) and Karen Hutt (a woman working with the Business Connection, a youth entrepreneurial development program in Cambridge).

World of Difference television special, 1985 July 26. This is a Rock Against Racism concert and television special that aired on WCVB Channel 5 on July 26, 1985. Performers included the Red Rockers (rock), the O’Jays (R&B), the Rainbow Dance Company of Boston (modern/lyrical dance), Livingston Taylor (singer-songwriter/folk), and George Benson (jazz, funk, soul, R&B). The production also includes interviews with people such as Reebee Garofalo, Natalie Cole, The Fools, and Al Jarreau.

To see the rest of this footage, take a look at our digital collection and its finding aid (which includes descriptions of all the other RAR documents we hold in the UASC). To learn more about the Massachusetts Rock Against Racism program both then and now, check out their active Facebook page.

Let me know if you stumble across the footage of five young boys dressed up in matching outfits, singing and dancing to “El Coquí (Merengue)” by Carlos Pizarro (hint: they performed at the second Youth Culture Festival).

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Join us on Saturday, June 15 for discussion of Graffiti Art in Hip-Hop Culture at Grove Hall Branch of the BPL

Flyer for BPL graffiti art event at the Grove Hall branch of the Boston Public LibraryWhat: Element of Graffiti Art in Hip-Hop

When: Saturday, June 15, 2019 | 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Where: Grove Hall Branch of the Boston Public Library, 41 Geneva Avenue, Dorchester, Mass. 02121

Click here for directions.

Boston Public Library, UMass Boston, and members of the hip-hop community invite hip-hop enthusiasts of all ages to attend a free event at the Grove Hall Branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, June 15, from 1:00-3:00 p.m.

“Element of Graffiti Art in Hip-Hop” is the final event in a series of hip-hop programs to take place as part of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Boston-based artists Rob Stull, Problak (Rob Gibbs), and Fabian Murray will lead a conversation and participate in a panel discussion about their identities as graffiti artists and their careers as graphic designers. Collectively, these gentlemen represent over 100 years of artistic expertise. They will be sharing their stories and individual experiences of maneuvering through the intricate world of professional art. An art demonstration will take place following the discussion. Boston is home. Hip-Hop is the foundation.

Learn more about this event and let us know on Facebook if you’re planning to join us. Read more about past programs in this series here.

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

This event is presented in partnership through Boston Public Library and the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives and Special Collections is working to expand its collections related to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts and welcomes donations of archival materials from musicians, DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, producers, promoters, and fans that will help document the area’s rich heritage and legacy of hip-hop culture. Click here to learn more about what we collect. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Join us on Saturday, May 25 for a Hip-Hop Dance Jam at the Codman Square Branch of the BPL

Flyer for BPL HIPHOP DANCE JAM event at the Codman Square branch of the Boston Public LibraryWhat: BPL Hip-Hop Dance Jam

When: Saturday, May 25, 2019 | 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Where: Codman Square Branch of the Boston Public Library, 690 Washington Street, Dorchester, MA 02124

Click here for directions.

Boston Public Library, UMass Boston, and members of the hip-hop community invite hip-hop enthusiasts of all ages to attend a free event at the Codman Square Branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, May 25, from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

“BPL Hip-Hop Dance Jam” is the third in a series of hip-hop programs to take place as part of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This program will focus on and celebrate the dance element of hip-hop, including demonstrations, narration, and a dance competition featuring local dancers. The event is hosted by Dash Boogy with music by DJ Flyte. The “Freshest Dancer” will take home $400 in prize money. All levels of dancers are welcome.

Learn more about this event here, and let us know on Facebook if you’re planning to join us. Read more about past programs in this series here.

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

This event is presented in partnership through Boston Public Library and the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives and Special Collections is working to expand its collections related to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts and welcomes donations of archival materials from musicians, DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, producers, promoters, and fans that will help document the area’s rich heritage and legacy of hip-hop culture. Click here to learn more about what we collect. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Videos from “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show available online now

The 42 videos collected at the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition are available online now.

Held at the Boston Public Library in May, the event was a collaboration between UMass Boston’s Healey Library and the Boston Public Library. It was part of a larger project called “Local Rappers, DJs, B-Boys, and Graff: Documenting the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Community from the 1970s to the present” and was supported by a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor and the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund. Learn more about this project here.

Contributors shared memories of their roots in the Boston hip-hop scene and launching a wide range of careers as visual artists, dancers, musicians, and producers. Many artists described their experiences creating original music and choreography, touring local, national and international stages, and producing events. Local success stories include major performing and record contracts which brought widespread recognition to Boston hip-hop and inspired up-and-coming artists.

The videos in the collection also testify to the significant contributions of Boston hip-hop artists in the development of innovative MCing, DJing, engineering and production techniques and technologies. This pioneering work led to cutting-edge recordings and the founding of independent Boston-based hip-hop record labels, which gained global audiences and recognition. Contributors described the importance of historic albums and recent discs to the hip-hop legacy.

Additionally, the video collection documents contributors’ stories about launching a number of Boston-area radio programs such as Hip-Hope Nation and TV shows such as The Somerville Line, which shared local hip-hop music and culture with wider regional and national audiences.

A few of the videos in the collection further highlight contributors’ experiences launching projects and founding organizations to use music as a vehicle for social change.  For example, the Loop Lab engages Boston youth-at-risk in training programs that address the opportunity gap, by teaching audio and video production skills. Other contributors have started peace-building initiatives to end violence through hip-hop and produced hip-hop performances that explore social justice and other current political issues. All of these initiatives illustrate how members of Boston’s hip-hop community have shaped a local music scene that communicates messages of hope for future generations.

Note to contributors: We need your help to finish processing this collection! If you see something incorrect or misspelled–names and spellings of individuals and performing groups, for example–we want to fix it.  Please email carolyn.goldstein@umb.edu with the details and our team will make the corrections as soon as we can. Thank you!

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.

If you have questions about the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive, please contact an archivist at UMass Boston, connect with the project on Facebook, or click here to explore the collections and learn how you can contribute materials.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Cutz Beatz & Blendz: Free event at the Boston Public Library this Saturday about the art of DJing and making beats

Flyer for hip-hop event at the Boston Public Library, graphic shows outline of DJ as sound board.What: Cutz Beatz & Blendz: Beat Makers, Producers, and DJs!

When: Saturday, November 10, 2018 | 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

Where: Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square, 700 Boylston Street, Teen Central

Boston Public Library and UMass Boston invite hip-hop enthusiasts of all ages to attend a free hip-hop event in Teen Central at the BPL’s Central Library on Saturday, November 10, from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Spend the afternoon with Dane “DanejaZone” Bradley and fellow DJs learning the art of DJing and making beats. Enjoy live performances, special guests and more. Participants will wear headphones that allow them to switch to different channels and hear everything going on at the individual DJ stations. Participants will also have a chance to explore Teen Central’s Digital Maker Lab and learn how to use the music software. In addition, Michael Jeffries, Associate Professor of American Studies at Wellesley College, will share a documentary entitled “Scratch” as well as insights about DJ history.

Since 2016, Boston Public Library and the Healey Library at UMass Boston have been working together to preserve and share the history of hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts. They continued their collaboration to expand awareness and access to the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. As part of this grant, UMass Boston and the BPL hosted the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” hip-hop digitization event in May 2019 at the Central Library, which was attended by more than 200 members of the local hip-hop community. View the digital collection here and learn about other grant-related events here.

The Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive at UMass Boston includes a collection of almost 300 demo tapes featuring the biggest artists from Boston’s early hip-hop scene, which were digitized thanks to the support of the Boston Public Library. University Archives and Special Collections in the Healey Library at UMass Boston is currently working to expand the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive and welcomes donations of archival materials from musicians, DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, producers, promoters, and fans that will help document the rich heritage and legacy of hip-hop culture in Boston and Massachusetts. Click here to learn more about what we collect.

Download and share the flyer for this event.

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Special thanks to Dane “DanejaZone” Bradley for helping to make this event possible. Cutz Beatz & Blendz is presented in partnership through Boston Public Library and the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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