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The Black Rock Coalition Marks 30 Years Of Stalwart Support Of Musically And Politically Progressive African-American Artists With Panel At SXSW

For artists, activists, and audiences of color, the efforts of this volunteer-run, non-profit organization prove evermore relevant in this era of renewed protest and unrest.

The Black Rock Coalition (BRC) was founded in 1985 to be a Pro-Active insurgency for all those who rocked while Black around the globe and were ready to Fight The Power. In the ensuing three decades, it has become a globally-recognized support network for Black musicians of all genres committed to non-compromise, defining their Art on their own terms and defying industry-imposed convention, stereotypes, and ghettofication.

Nascent membership included comrades-in-arms from the Bad Brains, Living Colour, Fishbone, 24-7 Spyz, LaBelle, Rage Against The Machine, and Parliament-Funkadelic camps. And the BRC’s network is still growing strong. The organization’s youngest band, indie metal phenoms Unlocking The Truth, has been a card-carrying member since 2011 (when they were 10-11 years old).

“My initial engagement with the BRC was like meeting family members I never knew I had…or The Avengers,” says Bevis Griffin, musician and Texas Music Museum inductee.

In recognition of the unique perspective gained by 30 years at the grassroot level, the Black Rock Coalition will host a panel titled “Deep Roots of Rock” at SXSW in Austin, TX on March 20, 2015 at the Austin Convention Center, Room 13AB at 3:30p. This discussion, led by BRC co-founder Greg Tate, will explore the white-washing of American music, the taming of the genre, and the ways in which rock’s darker, renegade past can help artists push boundaries and cut their own paths through today’s rocky musical landscape.

“It’s not that music today isn’t saying anything, it’s just that the same tired voices get more play for saying the same trifling things over and over again—to the point where they drown out the sound of people trying to move music forward,” says LaRonda Davis, National President of the BRC and panelist at SXSW. “Broadly speaking, the spirit of rock can be a perfect soundtrack to the times we live in, as long as it provides the vital accompaniment to movement for a more progressive, inclusive and just world for everyone,” adds fellow panelist and marketer Rob Fields, founder and publisher of black alt site Bold As Love Magazine. Rounding out the dappled quartet will be Griffin, who founded Deux Voix Ltd. Artist Development to help progressive artists like himself succeed.

With the mainstream acceptance of hip-hop and the criminalization of communities of color, it has become even more crucial that alternative African-American voices be given space to be seen as well as heard. “We in the By Every Furthermucking Means Necessary BRC are the stubborn-ass-hella-funk-da-fide step-chillun of Malcolm X and Jimi Hendrix. We’ve been brandishing No Sell Out on our freak flags since Michael Jackson beat out Paul McCartney for The Beatles catalogue,” expounds Tate. To that end, the organization (which has members around the globe) focuses its resources on five major programs: BRC Orchestra, BRC Showcase, BRC Records, BRC University, & BRC Community—all to serve its mission of championing, investing in, reclaiming, embracing, and otherwise doing all it can to support the best in progressive Black musicianship and the communities that foster it.

To sum it all up, Earl Douglas, Jr., Executive Director of the New York chapter of the Black Rock Coalition said: “To echo the BRC’s Manifesto, Rock n Roll is Black Music and we are its heirs. SXSW is the premier forum to discuss the hows and whys and, more importantly, reinforce this fact in terms that everyone can easily understand.” Get ready, things are about to get loud.

Now entering its 30th year, the BRC is a non-profit, member-supported organization founded to facilitate the maximum empowerment, exposure and expression of Black alternative musicians and their art. Founded by Vernon Reid, Greg Tate and Konda Mason, in reaction to the constrictions that the music industry (and society as a whole) places on minority artists, the BRC is a collective of musicians, writers, producers, publicists, activists and music fans mobilized to provide support and resources for artists who defy perceived convention. Since 1985, the group has proudly exerted and loudly exclaimed its community's right to make itself heard—irrespective of genre.

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