The Black Rock Coalition: Empowering Artists Who Break the Mold

By Danielle Cordovez, Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound
March 1, 2016
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

In 1985, a group of musicians fed up with industry-imposed limitations that pigeonholed Black artists into either R&B singers or rappers, formed the Black Rock Coalition (BRC). Founders Vernon Reid, Greg Tate, DK Dyson, and Konda Mason made proverbial lemonade by creating an outlet for alternative Black musicians to showcase their talents.

At the time, record labels believed there was no audience for rock music performed by Black bands, nor were they interested in marketing artists to create one. Record labels rarely included images of Black bands on album covers, concerned that they might confuse and alienate rock music fans—and hinder record sales.

The irony of this exclusion was not lost on the founders of the BRC, who understood the strong influence of Black musicians on mainstream rock music. Artists such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix served as role models for many commercially successful rockers. For this reason, an organization dedicated to support Black artists whose musical scope fell outside of the industry standard was created.

The objectives of the BRC are to provide the following:

  • Performance outlets for progressive Black artists
  • Recording opportunities for Black artists
  • Equitable distribution opportunities for progressive Black artists
  • Resource development for progressive Black artists
  • Documentation of cultural events (via videotape, film, print, etc.) for archival purposes
  • Educational opportunities for people inside and outside of the organization in the form of lectures, workshops, seminars, research, library resources, audio-visual resources and public forums/discussions.
  • Creative funding and fund location resources for individual and collaborative artists¹ projects
  • Networking opportunities so that like-minded individuals can come together and share ideas and resources

September 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of Black Rock Coalition. A month-long party ensued celebrating each year of the organization has been in existence with performances, and other social events. The Library for the Performing Arts is extending the celebration with a photo exhibit featuring contributions from Earl Douglas Jr., Petra Richterova, Al Pereira, and Sally A. Foxen, who have photographed many performers from the BRC throughout the years. The exhibit includes photos of Vernon Reid, Angelo Moore, Honeychild Coleman, Sophia Ramos, and Bernie Worrell, to name a few.

As an enhancement to the viewing experience, a three-part artist compilation of music from BRC artists titled “Rock ‘N’ Roll Reparations” is also provided through wireless headphones.

The “Black Rock” photo exhibit is currently located on the 3rd floor of the Library for the Performing Arts  and is available until March 31, 2016.  Photos and music from the exhibit will be archived in the Music Division, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound thereafter.

To learn more about the Black Rock Coalition and upcoming events, visit their website: