Exhibit Preview: Straight Outta Fresno

Mike Lopez of Climax Crew in Downtown Fresno 1990s, photo courtesy of Charles “Goku” Montgomery

We began our project in the Fall of 2016 with no more than a few sources: YouTube video of the Electric Bogaloos on Soul Train, a few scattered footnotes about hip-hop in Fresno, a book chapter by Thomas Guzman-Sanchez. The lack of historical writing on the subject makes it hard to know where to start, what archives to visit, sources to examine, theories to use. We quickly realized that in order to tell the history of hip-hop in Fresno we would need to find and interview folks who are and were part of this movement, to find old fliers and photographs. In short, to build the archive. So we did. With guidance from legendary Fresno b-boy Charles “Goku” Montgomery, we dove in. Our graduate and undergraduate students conducted in-depth oral histories, we drove to peoples’ homes and dance studios to scan photographs, to collect old fliers, trophies, and material objects.

In a little over a year, our archive has grown to include over thirty oral histories and dozens of photographs. Now the time has come to share these materials with Fresno and collaborate on the construction of Fresno hip-hop narratives.

The exhibit opens with the birth of popping, a dance style characterized by rhythmic pops, spasms, and hitting of the joints. It highlights pioneers like the Solomon brothers as well as amazing dancers like siblings Deborah and Ken McCoy.

Photograph of Deborah and Ken in their group The Puppets

Straight Outta Fresno takes us to working-class neighborhoods like Southeast Fresno, where Hmong refugees made a home for themselves. We follow Hmong youth and document their pioneering efforts to found some of Fresno’s first b-boy crews.

Finally, we connect the past to the present, by documenting the origins and importance of Climax grew, particularly the “fab five,” and following the meteoric success of one of its founders, Charles “Goku” Montgomery.

Climax crew battle late 1990s back handstand
Sean “Mega Man” Burgess of Climax/Soul Control, photo courtesy of Charles “Goku” Montgomery
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Flier courtesy of Charles “Goku” Montgomery

Lastly, we invite community members to add to our archive, to help us make history. From 3 to 6pm on December 7th, Fresno State faculty and graduate students will conduct interview with anyone who was part of Fresno’s hip-hop scene and scan and digitize photos and fliers.




This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit www.calhum.org.

Author: Romeo Guzman

I am an assistant professor in U.S. and Public History at Fresno State, where I direct the Valley Public History Initiative. I received my Ph.D. in Latin American history at Columbia University. I currently reside in the Central Valley (with regular visits to the San Gabriel Valley) with Carribean Fragoza, the writer, and Aura, our sassy and fierce six year old. For more on my writings visit romeoguzman.com

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