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Hartford History Center Exhibits: Hip Hop in Hartford: 1981-1991

Online exhibits on Hartford history curated by the Hartford History Center team

Introduction

Dooney Bates, Myron Moye, Jonathan Baxter,
Mike "Nice" Wilson, and BT of "The Master Poppers"

Peace Train's Breaking and Popping Contest
Bushnell Park, Hartford, August 14, 1983
Photograph by Wayne Fleming

Hip Hop in Hartford: 1981 - 1991

Curated by the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library (originally presented physically November 2016)

Hip Hop is a global arts movement that was started by African American and Latino youth in 1973 in the South Bronx as a response to the criminalization of youth, the lack of quality education supports, and the burning down of their dilapidated housing neglected by property owners and the New York City government. These young people took their situation and flipped it into dance, visual arts, and music, which they shared at community block parties to tell their stories and express their realities. This community-rooted creative process resulted in the minimizing of gang culture, transforming the violence of the streets into playful dance and rap battles. Afrika Bambaataa of the Universal Zulu Nation pulled the elements of the culture together, including DJing, emceeing (rapping), bboying (breakdancing), graffiti, and knowledge (self-awareness, history, philosophy), to formalize and unify the culture under the term hip hop.

Hip Hop culture emerged in Hartford in the late 1970s and early 1980s in neighborhood landscapes similar to those of the South Bronx.  An exhibition at Real Art Ways in 1981 brought young up-and-coming New York City-based graffiti artists Lady Pink and Crash to paint on Real Art Ways’ (RAW) State Street Hartford walls. RAW, founded in 1975 by four Hartford-based avant-garde artists in music, visual art, and film, is today one of the nation’s great venues for contemporary art. A portion of RAW’s archives have been donated to the Hartford History Center, and RAW assisted the Hartford History Center in locating images, footage and newspaper articles that provide insight into RAW’s promotion of hip hop events. Tim Wolf, formerly of Peace Train, shared photographs, fliers, and recordings documenting the early 1980s bboying (breakdancing) and popping community in Hartford. Peace Train was a Hartford-based organization that produced large-scale concerts during the 1970s and 1980s. More on the story of Peace Train's Breaking and Popping All-Stars can be found here: Peace Train's Breaking and Popping All-Stars. The Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library would like to thank our partners at Real Art Ways and Tim Wolf for their help with this exhibition.

Please find our full Hartford Hip Hop Collection on the CT Digital Archive.

Photo Gallery

Chill Breakers Crew
Hungerford Street, circa 1980
Courtesy of Antonio "Apollo T" Villarini
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public LIbrary

Chill Breakers Crew was an early breakdancing crew that formed in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford and used to meet to practice their moves at this abandoned house off of Park Street on Hungerford Street. Villarini found out about the exhibit as a security guard at the Hartford Public Library and shared his personal polaroid with the history center.

Lady Pink & Crash Graffiti Exhibit Mailer
Real Art Ways, State Street, Hartford
July 1981

Real Art Ways Collection
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library
 

Crash paints
Real Art Ways, 40 State Street
July 1981

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide, unknown photographer
Real Art Ways Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Johnny “Crash” Matos is an NYC-based graffiti artist that was featured in hip hop cult classic film, Wild Style, released in 1983. He was featured in Real Art Ways’ graffiti exhibition with Lady Pink on exhibit in the summer of 1981.

Crash piece
Real Art Ways, 40 State Street
July 1981

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide, unknown photographer
Real Art Ways Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Lady Pink paints
Real Art Ways, 40 State Street
July 1981

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide, unknown photographer
Real Art Ways Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Sandra “Lady Pink” Fabara is an NYC-based graffiti artist that was featured in hip hop cult classic film, Wild Style, released in 1983.

Lady Pink piece
Real Art Ways, 40 State Street
July 1981

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide, unknown photographer
Real Art Ways Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Peace Train's Breaking and Popping Contest
August 1983

Flier Designed by Ruth Hofstatter
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Bboys and the Capitol
Peace Train's Breaking & Popping Contest, Bushnell Park
August 13, 1983

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford Hip Hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Hartford-based teenage crews competed in either the breakdancing or popping divisions at Peace Train’s first Breaking & Popping Contest in Bushnell Park.  

Master Poppers
Peace Train's Breaking & Popping Contest, Bushnell Park
August 13, 1983

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Jonathan Baxter of the Master Poppers competes. In the line: Myron Moye, Mike "Nice" Wilson, Dooney Bates and BT (Warren Ward).

City Street Rockers
Peace Train's Breaking & Popping Contest, Bushnell Park
August 13, 1983

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Pac City Crew
Peace Train's Breaking & Popping Contest, Bushnell Park
August 13, 1983

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford Hip Hop Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

The Rapping Crew
Peace Train's Breaking & Popping Contest, Bushnell Park
August 13, 1983

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Jay Rap, Herb Superb, Sky Nation and A.C.E. perform during a break in the competition.

Felix LaBoy of Block Boys on two hands 
Peace Train's Breaking & Popping Contest, Bushnell Park
August 13, 1983

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Tite Gonzalez, also of Block Boys, looks on. A week after Peace Train's 1983 Breaking & Popping Contest, the winners were invited to be the opening act for Alvin Ailey Dance.

Peace Train’s Breaking & Popping All-Stars
Hartford Civic Center
Winter 1983

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Members of Peace Train’s Breaking & Popping All-Stars pose with two members of the Boston Celtics before the All-Stars performed at halftime at the Hartford Civic Center. The All-Stars were created from the top winning crews of the Breaking & Popping contest in August 1983.

Peace Train's Breaking & Popping All-Stars brochure
1984

Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

The All-Stars were made up of African American and Latino teenage dancers that traveled around Connecticut and the New England area to perform and conduct workshops in schools, community centers, and organizations.

YMCA Fundraiser featuring Peace Train's Breaking & Popping All Stars Flier
February 4, 1984

Courtesy of Rick Torres, Hartford Hop Hop Collection
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

“FINALS” Graffiti and Bboys
"Wall of Fame" off Van Dyke Avenue
April 1984

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Painters Joe "Freek" Santiago, Jamie Wolf (on wall), Tim Wolf and two breakdancers. Graffiti piece was created to promote Peace Train's statewide breaking and popping championship finals.

“FINALS” Graffiti and Bboys
Wall of Fame, off Van Dyke Avenue
April 1984

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

"Baby" (Elias Cruz), Peter Rodríguez, Richie Tavares, "Freek" (Joe Santiago) and unidentified bboy. Graffiti piece was created to promote Peace Train's 1984 statewide breaking and popping championship finals.

CT State Breaking & Popping Championship Series: Finals! 
Designed by Ruth Hofstatter
May 1984

Flier for final competition of winners from four regional contests in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury.

Freak-a-zoids
Central Row and Main Street
circa 1984

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Wayne Fleming
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Chewy Lee (Jose Davila) performs on Peace Train's portable stage at lunchtime in front of the Old State House.

"Break - Pop"
Society for Savings wall calendar
1984

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by Frank Marchese
Hartford hip hop collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Photograph concept by Frank Marchese. Graffiti by "Freek" (Joe Santiago). Dancers: Felix Laboy of the Wildstyle Breakers, Baby (Elias Cruz) of the Wildstyle Breakers, and "Freek" of the Block Boys; all members of the Peace Train Breaking and Popping All-Stars.

Society for Savings 1984 Calendar
featuring Peace Train's Breaking & Popping All-Stars
photography by Frank Marchese
calendar design by Alan Colavecchio

Courtesy of Rick Torres, Hartford Hip Hop Collection
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library
 

Hip Hop Nation Press Release
February 1991
Real Art Ways, Arbor Street, Hartford

Real Art Ways Collection
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Hip Hop Nation Flier
Real Art Ways, Arbor Street, Hartford
February 1981

Real Art Ways Collection
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Hip Hop Nation 1991 exhibition
Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street
February 1991

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by an unknown photographer
Real Art Ways collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Exhibition was curated by Anne Pasternak from February 8 - March 9, 1991. It featured graffiti artists Crash, Lady Pink, Lee, Daze; Photographers Coreen Simpson, Janette Beckman, Ricky Powell; and style makers Head Hunter, Bead Master, Medallion Master.   

Hip Hop Nation exhibition, opening celebration
Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street
February 1991

Digital photograph, original: 35mm slide by an unknown photographer
Real Art Ways collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Storytelling Project

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Storytelling Project

This project was created by the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library in collaboration with students from Professor Seth Markle’s Global Hip Hop Cultures fall 2017 course at Trinity College and Tim Wolf. Special thanks to the Community Learning Initiative and the Center for Caribbean Studies at Trinity College. Digital stories, full interviews, transcripts, and photographs are archived at the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library.

Photo by Jen Fiereck (trincoll), February 13, 2018 featuring: Hartford Hip Hop pioneers (from left to right): Juanita Chislom aka Empress Nijuabi, Myron Moye, Rick Torres, Tony Villarini, Hjalmar Garcia; Trinity College students (from left to right): Enrique Loya, Kaytlin Ernske, Isabel Exstein, Giana Moren, Jervon Adams Jr., Karen Navarrete, Yisbell Marrero, Cody Maldonado, and Giselle Galan; Trinity professor Seth Markle, former Peace Train Breaking and Popping All-Stars manager Tim Wolf, and Hartford History Center team member Jasmin Agosto for screening of Hartford Hip Hop Digital Stories at Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library.

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Story: Apollo T
Hartford Hip Hop Pioneer featured: Antonio "Apollo T" Villarini
Video created by Giselle Galan & Yisbell Marrero, 2017

 

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Story: Janice Flemming Butler
Video created by Tshion Assefa & Enrique Loya, 2017

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Story: Rick Torres
Video created by Cody Maldonado & Yasmin Affey, 2017

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Story: Empress Nijuabi
Hartford Hip Hop Pioneer featured: Juanita "Empress Nijuabi" Chislom
Video created by Giana Moreno & Isabel Exstein, 2017

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Story: Dooney "Miser" Bates
Video created by Karen Navarrete & A'Kala Chaires, 2017

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Story: Myron "Krush Money" Moye
Video created by Jervon Adams Jr & John Dolan, 2017

Hartford Hip Hop Digital Story: Mike Nice
Video created by Niles Easley & Kaytlin Ernske, 2017

Newspaper Clippings

Hartford Advocate article by Linda Blaker Hirsh
Photo by Steve Miller
July 22, 1981

Hartford Courant article by Garret Condon
August 12, 1983

Hartford Courant / August 18, 1983
Photos by Thomas Giroir

The Concord Monitor article by John Oudens
June 9, 1984

The Concord Monitor June 9, 1984
Photo by Ken Williams

Hartford Courant article by Colin McEnroe
Photos by Steve Silk and Jeff Wheeler
August 5, 1984

Hartford Courant / July 4, 1984
Photo by Anacieto Rapping

New Haven Register / April 30, 1984

The Hartford Advocate / May 23, 1984
Photos by Nick Lacy

Hartford Courant / May 13, 1984
Photos by Michael Lennahan

Register Citizen article by Julie Hansen
Photos by John Ward
April 9, 1984

The Hartford Advocate cover / November 29, 1990
Photo by Nick Lacy

The Hartford Advocate article by Jayne Keedle
Photo by Nick Lacy
November 29, 1990

Hartford Courant article Roger Catlin
Photo by Patrick Flynn
February 8, 1991

Hartford Courant article by Roger Catlin
February 9, 1991

Hartford Advocate article by Wendy Jackson
February 21, 1991

Northeast Magazine, Hartford Courant blurb by David Kendrick
February 24, 1991


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