Oakland’s original boogaloos speak out

Pioneers of a funky Bay Area dance style are fighting to preserve their history, after an extremist alt-right movement appropriates their name.

In early June, the killing of a Santa Cruz police officer made national headlines. The murder was later linked to the drive-by fatal shooting of a security guard at Oakland’s federal courthouse building, during what began as a peaceful protest for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Black Lives Matter. Both incidents were linked to the upstart “boogaloo bois,” a loose national community often described as an extremist alt-right movement.… Dozens of articles describing the movement appeared all over mainstream media outlets, from CNN to NPR to the BBC. But none of those reports mentioned that for more than 50 years, the term “boogaloo” has been associated with an African-American-derived dance culture that began in the Bay Area.

When William “Mr. Penguin” Randolph—a member of the legendary East Oakland dance group The Black Resurgents—found out about boogaloo’s violent doppelgangers, he was appalled. “I heard a news clip talking about these guys in Hawaiian shirts and semiautomatic weapons, talking about they were boogaloos and the boogaloo movement was a movement that would create civil war and neo-Nazism or anti-American government in the United States,” he said. “And I’m like, wait a minute, hold on.” …

Standing in front of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center (previously the Oakland Civic Auditorium), the site of dozens of boogaloo competitions over the years, Randolph describes the reaction to what he and other members of the original boogaloo community consider cultural appropriation of the worst kind.

“A lot of people said they could not use the term boogaloo to promote what they’re doing, because it’s not correct, it’s not right, it’s not what we stand for,” Randolph said. “I know for a fact the term didn’t originate with these anti-American culture people.”

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