Rock Hall opens new social justice exhibit today

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Rock Hall

(Photo: Greg Lockhart/FOX 8)

CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is opening its social justice exhibit on Saturday. The exhibit comes at a time where protests in support of civil rights, racial equality and police reform have outbroken across the nation.

The new exhibit is called “It’s Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope & Empowerment” and features musical trailblazers throughout generations speaking for the cause of equality.

Exhibit curators say that artists have elevated the conversation about race, equality, justice and peace in every generation. The new exhibit spotlights how musical artists have channeled the power of rock & roll to respond to racism over the decades.

They cite the work of Rock Hall Inductees Chuck Berry, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Little Richard, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin, who were trailblazers in speaking for the cause of dignity and equality.

However, the museum says voices continued throughout the generations, referring music from Public Enemy, N.W.A., Tupac Shakur, Janelle Monáe, Rage Against the Machine, Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé.

The exhibit showcases artists and musical moments that have rocked the world with expressions of rage, hope and empowerment, captured through the lenses of influential African American photographers Chuck Stewart, Bruce Talamon, Bob Douglas, and others.

Highlights of artifacts on display include:

  • Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” lyrics.
  • N.W.A.’s jacket reflecting the relevance of their single “F*ck the Police.”
  • Aretha Franklin’s Valentino dress worn during her first appearance at Radio City Music Hall, where she sang “Respect.”
  • A jumpsuit worn by James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul” who brought motion to the Civil Rights Movement with style.
  • 1973 Wattstax film poster representing a cross-section of Black music from gospel to pop and was the largest gathering of African Americans during that time.
  • Handwritten lyrics from songwriter and rapper D Smoke, “Let Go” recorded hours before the killing of George Floyd, and recently performed live for the first time on the 2020 BET Awards.

Throughout the day Saturday, there will be special spoken word and live music performances on Rock Hall plaza. All performances are free on the plaza.

Some notable performances include:

  • Distinguished Gentlemen of the Spoken Word’s Clay ‘Bama at 1:45 p.m.
  • King Weatherspoon at 2 p.m.
  • Lunch by the Lake acoustic set with Jack Harris,
  • Live & Local series performance by David Smeltz, founder of Cleveland’s first reggae band outside the Jamaican community. RSVP at rockhall.com required for the Live & Local performance from 5-7 p.m.

The outdoor plaza event is free to all and pet friendly. The plaza will offer socially distanced outdoor seating, food and beer trucks, and free motorcycle and bicycle parking.

Click here for more information on the exhibit or to purchase tickets.

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