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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“I heard some kids repeating things that I said and it wasn’t good,” he says about his choice to change direction, leaving behind videos like the one he just played for a more productive message. Currently he’s contemplating a rock track focusing on the importance of education. “Kids don’t think logically, they just think of today,” he says.

Tech has been with the DollarBoyz for about a year after discovering them through Internet videos. “It’s a family. It brings in kids that get less attention at home,” he says.

Donna Jones, the reverend at Cookman, says the church welcomes the DollarBoyz with open arms. Jones smiles when she thinks about the church’s basement, previously underutilized, filling up with people every day. “Just a lot of life. A lot of kids.” She adds: “Wherever [the DollarBoyz] go there’s music. They attract a lot of young people.”

Jones says she appreciates the DollarBoyz’s efforts to promote education and nonviolence as a more positive approach to problems in vulnerable neighborhoods.

“We need a cultural overhaul around violence and poverty,” she says. “The criminal system tears families apart. If all you get is blame there’s no opportunity to remediate the situation. It’s just a vicious cycle.”

Jones laments the lack of city funding for soft programs—libraries, rec centers, teen centers and art—which are the first to see cuts in hard times. “As money gets tight the city’s hands are tied,” she says. “Who picks up the slack?”

Top agrees that there’s little for kids to do. He complains about all the money spent on police and prisons instead of reaching out to help at-risk youths before they get in trouble.

“It’s jail, right away,” he says. “Michael Nutter—what reason does he have to spend billions on police and prisons and taking other things away like parks and rec centers? Just work with the youth instead of locking them away,” he says.

If the city won’t step up, Top sees it as his job to fill the void.

In addition to the programming at the church, the DollarBoyz are making their presence felt at events all over Philly. A group of 20 attended the Hands Off African Youth Conference at the New Freedom Theater on Broad Street in May. The conference, hosted by International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, was held in reaction to the arrest of 29 African-American children after the South Street incident.

Organizer Diop Olugbala railed against the mayor for spending more money on police and prisons than on youth programming, but the real highlights were the performances: First a show by youth fashion group Fire Clothing, then the DollarBoyz. Members Jrock and D-Wav took the stage and performed “Jus Gotta,” an R&B/hip-hop take on growing up in the city.

“Love and peace we bringin’ it back/Putting our city on the map/Don’t know if we’ll make it day to day/But this is the streets of Philly PA,” Da-Me Harris sings. “I speak the truth/I spit it for the youth/Because the city’s so ruthless/Young brother it don’t matter where you from/What matters is the path that you’re choosin’. Time to get that education/Standing on this corner precious time you wastin’.”

The Boyz also flexed social muscle at a “Be Yourself Love Yourself (BYLY)” Youth Pep Rally at MLK High June 4. BYLY works to encourage youth empowerment through “focusing on youth assets and strengths, civic engagement,” to “engage, empower, and educate our youth to become self-motivated, socially-responsible, academically and civically engaged.” The group was there to create a video of the event.

On Friday afternoon, the DollarBoyz descended on the Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club in Germantown to celebrate the grand opening block party for the new Villa Teen Center. Villa is an urban apparel company committed to engaging in the community through volunteer service, economic investment and education opportunities.

“We offer targeted programming around college or career planning,” says Erin Trent, Villa’s community director.

“During the height of the ‘flash mobs’, we started spending more time with teens to find out why they were exhibiting such behavior,” she says. “There are tons of things kids could be doing.”

Villa works with the DollarBoyz to market their programming. “They are organizing street teens and promoting other teens to get them to come to the center,” says Trent. “We learned from the work they were doing, galvanizing teens and reversing negative perceptions.”

The Boyz are starting to gain national attention as well. They filmed a short promo for MTV for Philly Day on May 2 and were recently featured by BET. Network reporter Samson Styles met Top while filming news clips investigating the flash mob incidents. In one news short, the DollarBoyz are shown dancing in several sequences while Styles interviews others about the violence that went down on South Street in March.

In a different clip, he talks to Top and D&G, another promoter, about their use of social media to get the word out about parties.

“I think the way the media portrays a group of young black men is to get together to do something negative. [The DollarBoyz’s] role is completely the opposite,” Styles says. “Maybe young blacks will be less stereotyped if people see the work Top and his crew are doing.”

“What captures my interest about the DollarBoyz is really Top, being that he’s only 20,” Styles says. “He’s taking on this father role. He’s making a daily commitment to make a change and that’s real inspiring to me.”

Styles says he wants to do a longer documentary on the DollarBoyz for BET, although the network hasn’t given him the go-ahead yet.

Since the so-called “flash mobs,” the city has been paying more attentions to city kids. The Philadelphia Youth Commission, which was created though a ballot vote in 2007 and works with City Council to give a youthful perspective on legislation, has taken a more active role in promoting positive youth activities.

“When given options to do the right thing, many of our young people will,” says Jordan Harris, the agency’s executive director. “There are so many youth groups out there that are doing the right thing and many times we don’t hear those names.”

Last month, the Youth Commission sponsored a summer opportunities fair. “Our mission was to provide parents and young people with an opportunity to see all of the options that are present during the summer months,” Harris says. They also convinced the mayor to put a large banner link to a listing of youth programs front and center on the city’s website. The page highlights summer learning programs, employment opportunities, sports, arts and leadership activities.

Top acknowledges the monumental challenges facing inner city youth. “Kids don’t have nobody to look up to,” he says. “Fathers locked up, older brothers in jail or dead. Or dealing drugs. And who they do, they want to use them and make money off them with drugs.”

“They’re ignorant and misguided,” Top says, referring to the perpetrators of neighborhood crime. “They givin’ us a bad look. When one person do something, they look at all African-Americans.”

Violence in urban neighborhoods is “the outcry of kids looking for an outlet to let their voice be heard,” says Youth Commission Chairwoman Jamira Burley. “Too often youth don’t realize the impact those actions can have on their future.”

Top is trying to change that.

A junior DollarBoy wanders into the back office at the church during an interview and Top scolds him for getting suspended for fighting at school. “Don’t let that happen again,” he warns. “I see a lot of potential in you.” He adds: “I’m very high on the kids getting good grades in school.”

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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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