Racial tensions and violence have been escalating at South Philadelphia High School, and peaked a little over a month ago when 30 Asian students were the target of a violent attack. But one group of diverse students have resisted the divisive racial tensions by breakdancing.
Nicholas White, Trung Tran and David Seng, students at South Philadelphia High and Bok Tech have been breaking for the past year and a half. They dance after school in a program run by SEAMAAC, the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition. Breaking has brought these young men together in ways they never expected. Nicholas White, an African-American student at South Philadelphia High School now counts Trun Tran, an Asian student at South Philly High, as one of his best friends.
“I call him my brother now, and the fact of the matter is that you can tell we don’t look alike.” The two of them are also ambassadors for their school—Trung Tran is the vice president of the Asian society—and have spoken out against the recent violence and negligence of school authorities.
“It’s like breakdancing is bringing one group of people together, it’s not even about your color or where you came from, it’s all the way you break and how well you break together.”
We live in a weird, media-driven age in which even junior-high school students will spin you, stay relentlessly on-message and repeat meaningless slogans until your head swims in a haze of doublespeak. And they do it quite well.
The Philadelphia Public School Notebook reports: "A series of nine speakers at Wednesday's School Reform Commission came to the defense of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, praising her Imagine 2014 agenda, while members of a group of parents raised signs saying, 'We support our superintendent,' and 'Dr. Ackerman's way or no way!' The speakers directly and indirectly alluded to the fact that the superintendent has come under criticism recently, particularly for her handling of the recent violence at South Philadelphia High School. One elected official, State Rep. Tony Payton, was also there to back up Ackerman and Imagine 2014. 'I am in full support of what you're trying to do and I'll continue to be a voice in support of additional resources for the District, he said in his testimony."
Asian students from South Philly High marched to school district headquarters Wednesday to protest recent violence at their school. PW's Joel Mathis was there to capture the scene.
Community organizers say 30 or more Asian students were attacked Thursday at South Philadelphia High School. In September, PW's George Miller wrote this cover story about how Asian students are regularly targeted in Philadelphia schools.
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom