The Georgia Straight

Sadly, there’s still a need for Rock Against Racism

- By Mike Usinger

Almost a half-century ago, when punk rock was first entrenchin­g itself on the shores of the West Coast, nuclear war, the struggles of the working class, and systemic racism all served as lyrical flashpoint­s.

Ask yourself how much has changed in 2022. Thanks to Vladimir Putin, the threat of a nuclear catastroph­e looms over the planet, owning a house in Vancouver is a sad pipe dream for those not named Howard Hamlin, and tragedies like George Floyd continue to make horrific headlines.

Need further evidence that the more things change, the more they remain the same?

In 1978 D.O.A. played one of the first Rock Against Racism concerts in Vancouver, with a Smilin’ Buddha show on May 8 funding an appearance at a massive R.A.R. Anti-Nazi Rally later that year.

On June 4 D.O.A. will stage a Rock Against Racism benefit at the Rickshaw Theatre, with all benefits going to local organizati­ons that have devoted their efforts to making the world a more tolerant place. In addition to headliner D.O.A., the evening features Roots Round Up, Kàrá-Kàtá Afrobeat Group, Buckman Coe, China Syndrome, and the Asian Persuasion All Stars. In announcing the benefit, D.O.A. founder and mainstay Joe Keithley said, “We are in a tough and unsettled time right now and as we have gone through the pandemic we have seen racism grow in Canada, to the point where racist organizati­ons are seemingly getting stronger. So as a way of trying to fight this scourge I thought back to the Rock Against Racism rallies that D.O.A. played on in the late 1970’s.

“Those rallies were a great success and they motivated people to stand up to this kind of BS,” he continued. “So the Rickshaw Theatre and I have asked musicians to join this cause,” he continues. “I really believe this will work because music has always had the effect of making us stronger and it has the power of healing at the same time.”

Groups benefiting from the Rickshaw fundraiser will include Nation Skates Youth, South Burnaby Metro Club, Urban Native Youth Associatio­n, Aboriginal Mothers Centre, and Kàrá-Kàtá African Village.

For those who need a quick history lesson, Eric Clapton was—for all the wrong reasons—the man who inspired the very first Rock Against Racism concert in England.

At a concert on August 5, 1976, a drunken Clapton told the audience, “I think we should send them all back,” arguing that Britain was in danger of becoming a “Black colony”.

Just weeks later Carol Grimes played the initial RAR show in a London pub, followed by a slew of U.K. concerts that matched reggae giants like Aswad and Steel Pulse playing with punk provocateu­rs like the Slits, Stiff Little Fingers, and Generation X.

As for today, all you need to think of is the Black Lives Matter movement to get a handle on why the Rock Against Racism movement endures today.

For more informatio­n on Rock Against Racism at the Rickshaw, visit RickshawTh­

Those rallies were a great success and they motivated people…

– Joe Keithley

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