Excited to announce that N'tegrity In Motion will be recognizing Bgirl Tynee, GoShow Your Self Merchandise in #fellowshipfridays next Blog Issue. She supported me with her line Resilient last year, giving me the courage to follow through and use my voice.
Photo by Tckproinc
I almost can’t believe that one year has passed since I published my first blog! It simultaneously feels like a lifetime has passed and in no time at all so much has happened!
First, I want to extend a gigantic and genuine thank you to everyone who read my story, shared the blog, and supported me. Together, we reached over 12,500 people and four continents (North America, South America, Europe, and Asia)! We had the blog translated into Spanish and a petition to remove Xcel from his position was signed over 700 times.
I have had the incredible support of some truly impactful organizations including Dance Safe, Floor Lords, Unscripted Podcast, Breaking Barriers, Child of this culture, Bgirl Collective, Not All That Glitters, Rede Bgirls do Brasil, United Hip Hop Vanguard, and people have rallied by my side to fight for a safer breakin’ community.
Although that blog I published one year ago made a huge impact, we still have a long way to go! But that’s okay. I’m looking to the future and I see a world that is safer, happier, and more inclusive for all!
In this blog, I want to celebrate how far we’ve come and begin to pave the way for anyone who wants to fight against sexual abuse, harassment, and bullying in the breakin community. With the Paris Olympic games right around the corner, I believe there has never been a more important time to pull our resources together and create a environment where everyone feels safe enough to follow their dreams - wherever those dreams may lead.
US Breakin’ Announces Xcel’s Resignation
The first and biggest result of the blog is Xcel (Jonathan Escotto), the Vice President of USA Breakin’ resigned from his position. I was hoping that the blog would spark an official investigation that ended in Xcel’s removal. However, that is not what happened.
First, USA Dance released a letter saying that he was suspended from his position while they investigated the claims I made in the blog. You can read that letter here.
Ken Richards, President of USA Dance, said:
“USA Dance, Inc. has been notified by the USA Breakin’ Board of Directors that their DanceSport Vice President, Jonathan ‘Xcel’ Escotto, has been accused of a SafeSport Violation and as such has been suspended from his position pending an investigation.”
USA Breakin’ also released a letter. It simply stated:
“Dear USA Breakin’ Community,
An article was posted online today accusing a member of our Board of Directors, Jonathan "Xcel" Escotto, of rape in 2011.
USA Breakin’ has a zero tolerance policy for abuse or misconduct and seeks to ensure a safe environment in which dance athletes all can thrive.
Given the allegations, we are immediately suspending Jonathan's role in our organization as we conduct an investigation of this matter.
Our hearts are heavy to learn of these allegations and for all victims who have experienced abuse. We will do everything in our power to ensure our athletes can practice their sport in a safe and healthy environment.
You can view the Facebook post with this letter here.
Unfortunately, the investigation was never able to occur because Xcel resigned. With his resignation, the investigation was called off. Along with that, USA Breakin’ did not themselves announce that Xcel would be leaving his position, nor did they allow for an unbiased announcement. Instead, they let Xcel speak for himself. You can read his resignation letter below.
USA Breakin’ posting his resignation letter effectively allows Xcel to control the narrative. At worst, posting this was an act of solidarity with Xcel. At best, it was a really awful mistake - one that caused a lot of backlash.
Understandably, people in the breakin’ community were immediately outraged. They communicated their feelings on Facebook.
“As a dance sport athlete and as an individual who’s been Safe Sport Certified since 2016 and has a Bachelors in Public Relations, the blatant bias in this announcement is quite disheartening.
Moving forward, how will you ensure that any and all allegations or concerns will be taken seriously and investigated fully without bias or personal interest?
What steps will you take to prioritize safety over image and/or results?” -Michiko Sharpe (Facebook)
“1. Nah a full investigation needs to be done and the results told to the community to ensure 1, USA Breakin cares about the community’s women/female practioners or organizers who maybe don’t break directly.
2. The accused in his letter is also doing what must abusers to, centering the letter around himself, talking about their love for the thing or group they’re in, and then finishing it out with ‘they’re lying and I’ll handle it lowkey.’” - Hauston Grimes (Facebook)
“While I understand your organization’s attempt at transparency by sharing the letter, your organization's statement and non-reply regarding the contents in the letter does not make anyone feel safe.
If you are here to build public trust, you are failing at it.
If I have a daughter, female students, and/or female colleagues who want to join breaking at the Olympic level, given what I have stated, why should I bother recommending your organization to them? -Sheng Tan (Facebook)
After being inundated with questions and concerns from the community, USA Breakin’ disabled comments underneath the resignation letter and released another statement, which did not allow any comments at all:
I want to thank Floor Lords, Xcel’s crew for taking immediate action and removing Xcel from their crew. They posted the following letter on their Instagram:
This is a step in the right direction for the breakin’ community, which is exactly what I want this blog to focus on. I have spent too much time dwelling on the past. Now, I want to look toward the future.
Healing the Community and Moving Forward
Abusers often make it difficult to move on. Not only can the grip of trauma hold you back, but many abusers will go to great lengths to silence you, discredit you, and position themselves as the victim.
I experienced cyberbullying and stalking after my blog was published. Once I called out injustices in the breakin’ community, I saw people hide behind fake online accounts to call me a liar, make horrible claims about my faith, and spread lies about my past. Xcel even went so far as filing a restraining order against me and not showing up to court.
I am glad to say that I have more people supporting me than opposing me, but it’s important to mention that abusers will go to great lengths to defend themselves. Please remember, you are doing the right thing if this ever happens to you!
I believe that survivors can work to heal by sticking together and lifting each other up. There is strength in numbers. I would like to offer some community resources to anyone who needs them. The following resources have been instrumental in my healing, and I hope they can help someone reading this, too.
I host #inmotionmondays on my Instagram, which includes fun dance content, inspirational quotes, and resources for survivors of sexual assault. In these posts, I share stories of my own alongside other strong women in the community. Together, we help spread awareness of sexual assault and share resources for anyone who needs help, protection, or just someone to listen to.
I truly believe that talking about our experiences as survivors is the first step to healing. If you have a story to tell, and you’re ready to share it, please reach out to me. I will use my blog as a safe space to share your stories.
Not All That Glitters is Gold
Not All That Glitters is Gold addresses sexual abuse through the lens of the music industry, activating the community to call out violations and support survivors. They have supported me throughout the process of sharing my story and have been an incredibly valuable resource for me.
Unscripted Podcast, by Speak Your Truth Worldwide, provides a platform known for having and sharing uncomfortable conversations around mental health, sexual assault, and abuse issues affecting creatives within the entertainment industry. I was interviewed on the podcast on July, 26th 2021. If you would like to listen to the episode, click here. These conversations are difficult, but they are catalysts for change.
A community discussion supporting cultural re-growth of Hip Hop and BIPOC engagement. Last year they invited me with guest panelists and community leaders Asia One, Rockefeller, Genesis, Teknyc, Abstrak and therepist Robert Anthony. To find out more please visit the United Hip Hop Vanguard, this was an amazing event for healing and growth.
This documentary is to shed light on the darker aspects of the breakin scene covering sexual assault, addiction, mental illness, poverty, and violence. It reveals how the multitude of impossible barriers can be broken through a strong community that helps build, uplift, and empower the individuals within it to push them to do the extraordinary, brave, and evolutionary things that bring about change not just for the community, but for society. Raising over 12k in crowdfunding already, if you wish to support or partner up with them please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Coordinated by the Florida art community, presented by This or That. If you want to learn how to spot, stop, and prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, and bullying, I highly recommend taking a class by a reputable organization. I recently took one that the Florida Art Community hosted virtually, for free. The training and prevention class was provided by Victim Service Center of Central Florida.
Classes like this can help you learn how to cope and respond to harassment, sexual assault, and bullying. Abusers will go to extreme lengths to protect themselves, and you need to be able to do the same.
We learned things like:
What survivors often live with. Headaches, fear, self-consciousness, embarrassment, questioning themselves.
What sexual assault looks like.
Physical. Unwanted touching, lewd gestures, exposing private parts, following or standing too close to a person.
Verbal. Spreading sexual rumors, making sexual jokes, calling someone degrading names of a sexual nature, catcalling or whistling.
Visual. Sexual drawings or pictures, sexually suggestive emails or test messages, wearing clothing with sexually explicit graphics.
Effects of sexual assault. Quitting a job, avoiding certain places, depression, anxiety, difficulty paying attention, not going to work or school.
The difference between flirting and harassing. Flirting makes both people feel good. Harassment makes one or more people feel bad.
How to protect yourself. We discussed the importance of having boundaries, demanding respect, and giving respect.
New Processes and Procedures Within the Breakdance Community
Although I believe that USA Breakin’ handled Xcel’s resignation and investigation (or lack thereof) horribly, I have to commend them for implementing new procedures and policies. After they apologized for their rushed statement, they said that they added two pages to their website:
USA Dance, the organization going to the Olympics, has their own set of policies and procedures in place to protect Bgirls and Bboys:
I believe these processes and procedures will help keep our community safer as we look toward the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Looking Toward the Olympics
I would like to clarify that I have nothing but love and passion for the art of breakin’ and the community. I am beyond thrilled to know that the sport I have dedicated so much of my life to is now recognized on a global scale and will be represented at the 2024 Paris Olympics!
I have to put an abrupt end to the accusations that I published the blog last year for attention, to tear the community down, and to prevent a USA break dancing team from getting into the Olympics - none of this is true.
There is never a “perfect time” to speak about sexual assault. It will always be uncomfortable. However, I felt it was my responsibility to protect the community that I love from someone who I knew to be an abuser. I did not want Xcel to be in a position of power while traveling to the other side of the globe with Bgirls and Bboys who fought so hard to get to the 2024 Games.
The journey to the Olympics and the competition itself is one of the most grueling experiences a person can have. As we saw with the Larry Nassar case, abuse can go on behind closed doors for years and affect hundreds of people for the rest of their lives. I want to do what I can to protect the Bgirls and Bboys in my community from those people who would try to take advantage of them during such an important and stressful time.
We also learned from the Larry Nassar case that it only takes one person speaking up to spark real change. In 2016, former gymnast, Rachael Denhollander, was the first person to publicly accuse Larry Nassar. In an interview with the Guardian, Rachael said, “When you speak out against your own community – whether that’s the gymnastics community, the religious community – you lose everything that formed a sense of security for you.”
In that same interview, she also said, “I get asked all the time, what’s the single most important thing we can do to combat abuse? And most of the time when people ask that question, they’re thinking policy: What policy provision do we need in place? But the single most important thing you can do [isn’t policy]. It’s to communicate that it matters, because that’s what changes the culture around you.”
Simone Biles, a high-profile survivor of Larry Nassar’s abuse and decorated Olympic gymnast, is another leader in the community who shows us the importance of standing up for ourselves, and the change we can create.
"I feel like coming back, gymnastics wasn’t the only purpose I was supposed to do.”
In a recent interview with the Today Show, Simone said, “I just feel like everything that happened, I had to come back to the sport. To be a voice, to have change happen, because I feel like if there weren’t a remaining survivor in the sport they would have just brushed it to the side. But since I’m still here and I have quite a social media presence and platform they have to do something. I feel like coming back, gymnastics wasn’t the only purpose I was supposed to do.”
These women are two clear examples that having conversations about issues in the community is the first step to creating change. Once the issues are recognized, only then can we begin to heal and put systems into place that protect women and others from becoming victims of abuse.
I believe that another important step toward protecting women is putting more women in positions of power. Women need to have a voice in situations that concern their health, safety, and general well-being. We must fight to get women elected and empower members of our community to become leaders and decision-makers.
As International Women’s Month comes to a close, we prepare to welcome Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Let’s all pledge to support women in and out of our community, protect each other, and raise awareness of sexual misconduct so we can put an end to violence against women.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
This year The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVR) is calling attention to harassment, cyberbullying, and sexual abuse and exploitation. Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) this year is dedicated to Building Safe Spaces Online Together:
“Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse can happen anywhere, including in online spaces. For too long harassment, cyberbullying, and sexual abuse and exploitation have come to be expected as typical and unavoidable behaviors online. Building Safe Online Spaces Together is possible when we practice digital consent, intervene when we see harmful content and behaviors, and promote online communities that value respect, inclusion, and safety.”
You can find a list of SAAM events and ways to get involved here.
Trinity International Hip Hop Festival
Trinity International Hip Hop Festival, hosted by Trinity College, is going down March 31-April 3rd this year. This is an incredible event that focuses on unity, education, culture, healing, and growth. Events include dance workshops, panel discussions, film screenings, live graffiti mural painting, and art galleries.
Each day is jam-packed with events! You can view the schedule on the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival Facebook page.
Break the Cycle 2023
Part of my healing process is throwing my first Jam! Break the Cycle will be a celebration of healing and love. Dedicated to educating the community, providing discussion panels with topics like “What is Respect?” and “What Do Boundaries Look Like for Our Community?" and creating a safe space for all dancers to thrive.
This will be an annual event that is focused on all things Hip Hop, community healing, survivor resources, and also abuser resources. I believe that offering resources to abusers is equally important as offering resources to survivors because they are the only people who can really break the cycle of abuse.
What I said in my previous blog, still holds true:
“It’s important to know that most people who are abusers are often acting with an abused soul. In other words, they have been abused too. This doesn’t mean that they are allowed to lash out at others or be excused for their actions. It means they need to be held responsible for their actions and afforded the opportunity to get help and STOP the cycle of abuse.”
I encourage anyone out there who has begun or perpetuated a cycle of abuse to seek help in healing. Getting help from mental health professionals and breaking the dangerous cycle is more important than being punished or outcasted from the community.
When an abuser is punished or outcasted, they may seek other ways to continue their abuse. True and genuine healing must happen in order to say that an abuser will not intentionally hurt another person ever again.
Anyone who is interested in abuser healing resources within the breakin’ community is more than welcome to attend Break the Cycle in 2023. Stay tuned for more details about dates, events, guest speakers, and more.
Thank you again to everyone who has stuck by my side throughout this painful yet rewarding journey. I am proud of the changes that have been made so far, but I realize that there is still a lot of work to do and I can’t do it alone! Together, we can continue calling out injustices in the community and protect the women who speak out in a male-dominated scene. Together, we can keep these difficult yet important conversations going so influential organizations cannot sweep these issues under the rug and act like they aren’t occurring. Together, we can put people in power who genuinely care about the health, safety, and general well-being of our community.
I am here to listen if anyone has a story they’d like to share, whether it be on my platform or just between us. Please share this blog to spread the word about how far we’ve come in the last year and to share community resources with those who need them.
I hope to see you at Break the Cycle 2023! Stay tuned for more information.
Special Thanks to my editor Jane L., Bgirl Michiko, Miguel Teck, Bgirl Trinity, Anna Nyakana, United Outkast Cru, and of course my family, and everyone who supports survivors in finding their voices.
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