The DollarBoyz: Don't Call Them a Flash Mob

A youth group brings positivity and hope to inner-city kids through dance and music.

By Aaron Kase
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 27 | Posted Jun. 22, 2010

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The group is also working on a new documentary, which Kaufman hopes will be aired on MTV. “It’s an art, and a technical skill,” he says. “There’s a message behind the videos but also a message in making them.”

“I do my best to teach them technical things, but it’s more exposure than anything else. There’s always a few that will take it further,” says Kaufman.

One of the participants is Saul Miller, 12, who lives nearby.

“I come every day,” he says. Like most of the kids, he was attracted to the DollarBoyz by the parties and dancing.

Kaufman lets Saul shoot the intro for a new documentary.

“Come on Saul, get up to eye level, what I told you,” he instructs.

Shawayne Tavares and Johnnay Bradford, both 15, speak while Saul holds the camera steady.

“They say our voice doesn’t count ... They say if you want something known, you have to spread the word. Well, this is the youth speaking on our view of the violence in Philadelphia,” the girls read out, after a few retakes provoked by uncontrollable giggling.

“It’s basically showing a positive side of Philadelphia youth,” Bradford says about the documentary. “Everyone around us views us as ‘bad.’”

At a later meeting, the video class works on a sketch to show at an upcoming rally against straw purchasing, when a legal buyer acquires a gun and transfers it to a felon or other party barred by law from owning a firearm. The event is sponsored by Heeding God’s Call, the group behind last year’s protests at Colosimo’s, a Spring Garden gun shop that was shut down in September for facilitating straw purchases.

The DollarBoyz sketch moves backward in time, from a funeral to an argument prompting the killing, back to how the gun was bought in a store before being sold to another customer in the street.

They discuss how to shoot the funeral and the logistics of getting enough DollarBoyz to show up wearing black to simulate mourners.

“Where we gonna get a coffin from?” TopDollar asks.

They decide to just have the corpse covered by a sheet.

“Better to get a younger kid to be the victim,” someone else muses. “It’s more tragic that way.”

“What’s the shooting over?” They debate over a girl, a basketball game and money before settling on a simple jostling between two people in the street.

Kaufman explains the logistics of setting up a scene. “When you walk into the room, what’s the first thing you see?” he asks. “What do you see out on the block?”

They decide to create atmosphere by showing little girls jumping rope and people sitting on the step braiding hair in the background.

In the middle of the planning, Saul bursts into the office from the common area where he had been dancing. “Guess what ya’ll, I did a flare!” he yells excitedly. He drops to execute the move, hands on the floor while kicking his legs out behind, and falls to the ground in laughter.

“Saul, you need to stop dancing and start studying,” his friends joke.

Youth of all kinds have found refuge with Top and the DollarBoyz. Rhonda Sanders, 18, moved to Philadelphia last winter from Atlanta to visit her mother. In March, she had a baby, who she calls the newest DollarBaby. She was just hanging around outside the church when the DollarBoyz walked up, chanting their name, and she’s been coming to meetings ever since. “I don’t know nobody,” she says about her recent arrival in the city. “They get me out of the house.”

“I been on board, it’s related to my goal,” Sanders says. “I want to open my own dance studio.”

First, she hopes to attend Temple or Drexel to study business administration and dance.

She was a subject in Kaufman’s documentary, and also participated by interviewing others on their views about teen motherhood.

“It’ll be a milestone when my son turns one,” she says.

Trevor Scott, 17, goes by the name “Tech.” “I’m good with computers, and work in the IT field,” he says.

He will be a senior at Swenson Arts and Technology High School, earning certificates in IT essentials, Cisco networking and other software programs. He plans on attending a four-year college and continuing in the IT field.

Tech is also a musician. “It’s my dream,” he says. “But it doesn’t always happen for everybody,” explaining his dedication to education.

He’s been rapping for five years, but recently decided to explicitly pursue a more positive tone. He shows an old video he made on YouTube, touching on standard hip-hop themes of drugs, violence and women.

“Tech, I thought you said you was being positive,” someone jokes.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 27 of 27
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1. Bobby said... on Jun 25, 2010 at 10:21AM

“Great Article!!!”

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2. Philly BBoys said... on Jun 25, 2010 at 01:23PM

“Never even heard of the Dollar Boyz, nor have anyone in the bboy community worldwide. Why? They aren't part of it. Repstyles, reppin Philadephia worldwide since '04 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3roaUj97SU”

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3. Shotime said... on Jun 25, 2010 at 06:34PM

“I'm looking forward to reading your cover story. I tried to find the other article you wrote this week about the walk with the retirees, but couldn't find it. I admit I was a little skeptical about it when I saw the article's title, but that was gone once I read the piece you wrote. Wisdom is ageless. It brought back some very funny moments for me, and was glad to see the experience you had was positive. This in sharp contrast to all the negativity in the Wells memorium piece. Especially the remarks about some of the more revered, elderly artists of that generation. I wasn't sure if that's how anyone would want to be remebered.

In any case, well done. We have enough negativity going on around us.”

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4. tiffany holmes said... on Jun 25, 2010 at 07:22PM

“dollar boyz pop n dont forget dollar girls cause they hang around too”

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5. Mike said... on Jun 25, 2010 at 07:36PM

“@ Philly BBoys

clearly you missed the point of the article. its not just about bboying and breaking. its about underserved youth doing all kinds of positive things. maybe you should come to the Dollarboyz and help them with some dancing?”

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6. Philly BBoys said... on Jun 28, 2010 at 11:40AM

“We intend to. But I must say it was a WTF moment when it was reported that "The people behind the flash mob on south st were breakers/bboys/a bboy crew" Of course we said that wasn't true because we would know, but even that it was reported in such a way stains the image of real bboys in Philly who are trying to maintain relationships with public entities or schools that are already strained by hiphop's sometimes unsavory reputation or stereotype. The equivalent would be a rogue squad of unskilled fixed gear kids causing trouble for the bicycle association in philly, or a bunch of newbie skaters that are outside of the philly skate community causing all sorts of trouble for skaters who follow the rules of the city and messing up their reputation with police or otherwise.”

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7. Philly BBoys said... on Jun 28, 2010 at 11:40AM

“We intend to. But I must say it was a WTF moment when it was reported that "The people behind the flash mob on south st were breakers/bboys/a bboy crew" Of course we said that wasn't true because we would know, but even that it was reported in such a way stains the image of real bboys in Philly who are trying to maintain relationships with public entities or schools that are already strained by hiphop's sometimes unsavory reputation or stereotype. The equivalent would be a rogue squad of unskilled fixed gear kids causing trouble for the bicycle association in philly, or a bunch of newbie skaters that are outside of the philly skate community causing all sorts of trouble for skaters who follow the rules of the city and messing up their reputation with police or otherwise.”

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8. Gerri Mitchell said... on Jun 29, 2010 at 01:40PM

“here's the article Klint and I mentioned earlier this morning. Hope you enjoy reading it!- Farrah”

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9. Dollar Girl LIv-staxx said... on Jul 6, 2010 at 12:01AM

“This shows young people as my self that we need to get up and go do what we can for our world!!!!”

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10. bre said... on Jul 13, 2010 at 11:48PM

“this is a qreat article for these younq kids out here! TopDollar, I qive yu props on this 1 man...”

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11. new girl on deck said... on Jul 17, 2010 at 10:22AM

“can yall hit me up on face book i want to be in dollar girls and i want to get it rocken soooooo my email is juarvezpierce@yahoo.com”

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12. Anonymous said... on Sep 20, 2010 at 10:44PM

“i see what top is trying to do and it is very noble of him
so i commend him for his motivation to keep these kids doing things that they love instead of being on the streets acting crazy (which i was also glad that my mom said i couldn't go to south street that night either because i had just got home from a college visit and she wasn't taking me lol)

BUT I've seen them in action working for the summer because i was in the same summer job program as well
and @Philly Bboys - shut up it doesn't matter if you don't know who they are....they dance for fun like look it up on youtube and they are staying out of trouble”

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13. Db flex said... on Feb 22, 2011 at 02:16AM

“Best article i read yet!
I love ma dollarfam”

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14. ramond said... on Mar 9, 2011 at 03:22PM

“wat up can i join dollar boyz”

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15. Anonymous said... on Apr 5, 2011 at 01:10PM

“who aint hear about dollar boys....sitting here wit top dollar cuzin
dolla boy mir daddy. hope on dat.
dey doin big in the philadelphia streets. i see you d squad”

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16. db manman said... on May 3, 2011 at 01:15PM

“DOLLARBOYZ

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17. db zaire said... on Jun 23, 2011 at 07:17PM

“dollarboyz get it popin”

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18. Nahtif said... on Jul 24, 2011 at 12:21PM

“can i join you”

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19. db crombie e said... on Aug 11, 2011 at 12:14AM

“This jawnn DOPE !

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20. jeneen briana robinson said... on Sep 20, 2011 at 08:00AM

“dolla boyz got it popping and they got it rocking keep your head up ant no shit stoping.$

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21. Anonymous said... on Sep 20, 2011 at 08:03AM

“dolla boyz got it popping and they got it rocking keep your head up ant no shit stoping.$

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22. db bangA said... on Apr 29, 2012 at 09:25PM

“DB POP LIK POPCORN.BUT ITS DB TO THE DEATH OF ME

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23. db dy said... on May 31, 2012 at 01:21PM

“we getz it poppin”

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24. Dollarboy Hide said... on Sep 24, 2012 at 12:55PM

“DB Till The DEATH!!! DOLLARBOYZ”

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25. Ariel Gaddis said... on Dec 31, 2012 at 01:33PM

“i love dollarboyz beause DB Woody in it”

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26. IDB_KEEM said... on Jan 5, 2013 at 05:48AM

“BEING A DOLLARBOY IS PREPAIRING US FOR THE REAL WORLD & HATER & THAT EVERYTHING SHOULDNT BE NAGITIVE

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27. eli said... on Mar 9, 2013 at 05:46AM

“I want to join im nice in rapping”

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