'Straight Outta Fresno' Exhibit Seeks Oral Histories, Photos

'Straight Outta Fresno' Exhibit Seeks Oral Histories, PhotosPhoto: Ge Vang/Valley Public History Initiative at Fresno State
Published on December 06, 2017

The Bronx gets the credit as the birthplace of hip-hop and breakdancing, but thousands of miles away, Fresno played a critical part in the evolution of breakdancing. 

Straight Outta Fresno, a public history project from Fresno State, is hoping capture that history. On Wednesday, December 7th, the project will launch an exhibition at Fres.Co at 1918 Fresno St., which will also feature performances. 

The project has reached out to b-boys past and present for their oral histories, photographs, and videos. 

Climax crew battle, late 1990s. | Photo: Sean "Mega Man" Burgess of Climax/Soul Control, courtesy of Charles "Goku" Montgomery

Fresno was where the jerky, robotic dance known as popping was invented, part of a thriving breakdance scene with African-American, Latino and Hmong communities at its center.

Two Fresno brothers, Sammy and Timothy Solomon, first popularized popping (also known as boogaloo) on Soul Train

According to professors Romeo Guzman and Sean Slusser, the historians behind the project, Fresno's hip-hop scene has its own distinct history, one that isn't as well-documented as those in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

But it's precisely Fresno's distance from those major metropolitan areas that allowed the communities here to develop their own distinct styles in breakdancing, Slusser told us.

"One of the side effects of being on the outside [is that] you develop this DIY attitude," he explained. Fresno's b-boys and b-girls developed their own vernacular and styles as they participated in local battles. They brought moves from larger cities and developed their own local takes for battles. 

Andy Photiraj at Fresno State b-boy event. | Photo: Nhia Yang

The reception from the community has been enthusiastic, as many former b-boys and b-girls have contributed their memories, photos and other souvenirs of their time in the scene. 

"People have been really excited to understand themselves as historical, explained Guzman. "Their stories are important."

The work for Straight Outta Fresno doesn't stop with the launch, which will continue to welcome those who wish to share their stories from 3pm to 6pm.

"This archive and history is incomplete," Guzman told us. "This project is only possible with active community participation."

Straight Outta Fresno launches on December 7th at Fres.Co.