Photos by Samuel Contreras, Valley Public History
Hundreds of people witnessed the “Battle for Fresno State” presented by “Straight Outta Fresno,” a project of Fresno State’s Valley Public History Initiative, at Arte Americas.
The main event took place in the gallery, in front of a large black and pink figurative painting. Above the main stage and cypher was a practice session and the exhibition of “Straight Outta Fresno.”
Attendees had the opportunity to watch the battle, learn about the origin of hip hop through the exhibit and watch live painting outside. Fresno State faculty and undergraduate public history fellows were also available to conduct oral histories.
In the battle for a prize, fifteen different b-boy crews from the Central Valley and Southern California battled 3-on-3 for a chance to win money and hoping to dance their way to first place.
“As a project of the Valley Public History Initiative, ‘Straight Outta Fresno’ is a great example of how we re imagine the relationship between historians and the community,” said Dr. Romeo Guzman, director of the Valley Public History Initiative and history professor. “In all my classes and public history projects, we place the community at the center of the entire historical process. Community members help us build the archive by donating material and speaking with us, they are the intended recipients of the knowledge we produce and archives we create, and they help us imagine the many ways in which history exist and can be experienced.”
Dr. Guzman believes the project is an example of what can happen when historians think of community members as partners. He says together they are writing a new history of Fresno, a history that focuses on youth culture and Fresno’s communities of color.
The event was the first of two battles hosted by Fresno State’s Valley Public History Initiative. BE Shogun, a dance crew from Southern California, won the battle and will go on to the championship round at Fresno State’s North Gym on April 15.
The “Straight Outta Fresno” project launched in the Fall 2016 and is co-directed by Dr. Guzman and professor Sean Slusser, an adjunct professor in history and UCR PhD candidate. All of the oral histories and photographs collected will be archived and housed in the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State.
Dr. Guzman said there is still much more to come for the project. “We’ll continue to write new essays about Fresno and hip-hop. In the spring, we’ll officially launch a new digital archive and website dedicated to Straight Outta Fresno. Next academic year, we’ll begin working with local educators to incorporate both the archive and our essays into the curriculum.”
You can find an essay written by professor Slusser about the project here.