In alternative sports and subcultures, skateboarding and roller skating stand out as vibrant communities with rich histories. Skateboarding, once the favored pastime of California surfers who weren’t able to catch waves in the 1970s, has often been associated with a particular image: the carefree, the rebellious, freewheeling spirit embodied by White skateboarders. In contrast, roller skating has enjoyed a long-standing presence in the Black community, dating back to the era of segregated rinks during the civil rights movement and finding renewed popularity in the disco era.
These two distinct cultures are finding common ground, breaking down barriers, and coming together in a harmonious way, thanks to Black Girls Skate. Black Girls Skate—also known as BGS— is an organization that prioritizes Black and Brown women and femme-identifying people in the skate world. In a skate culture where diversity sometimes takes a backseat, BGS is forgoing a colorful, inclusive path for skaters.
Take a trip to the northside with us and experience the energy and community created by BGS at a pop-up skate event at Wilson Skate Park. We connected with the women and femmes in this community on how BGS makes space for Black skaters of every niche to come together in love, movement, and creativity.
CULTURE CLASH: MEET THE SKATERS
On Deck: Mia Vesely
Skater Niche: Skateboarding
Skate Park Soundtrack: “All Beyonce,” said Vesely. “She has an empowering voice and she makes me want to skate and be outside.”
Mia Vesely, a skateboarder from the West Coast, found herself drawn to the world of skating during the pandemic. “I picked up skating during the pandemic and took a break for a while,” Vesely explained. “But now I’m picking it up again and reacquainting myself with the sport.” BGS welcomed her back into the skating world with open arms, love, and boundless energy. She discovered BGS on Instagram and was immediately captivated by the diverse representation she saw on their page. “I found their Instagram, and it was just a community of Black women being highlighted, and I was so pumped because I’d never seen anything like it before,” said Vesely.
When reflecting on the topic of culture clash within the skating world, Vesely had plenty to share. “As a Black woman in the skating world, when I think of roller skating, I think of Black women,” she explained. “I think of fun colors, girlhood, and community.” She holds similar sentiments about skateboarding but believes there’s significantly less representation in that community. “I think skate culture, in general, tends to focus on White men and men in general,” she expressed. However, this lack of representation never pushed her away from her passion. Vesely has always been aware of the presence of Black people in these spaces and is thrilled to be part of a community like BGS, which represents Black skaters from various niches and is pioneering a new path of harmony within skate culture.
On Deck: Passion
Skater Niche: Roller skating
Skate Park Soundtrack: “I’m going to be biased and say Usher because he skates,” said Passion.
Passion, a roller-skating instructor with BGS, associates roller skating and skate culture overall with freedom. “It’s a safe space for people from all over the world to just come together for the love of something,” she says. “No matter what we have going on in life. Like we can all come together and have a good time.”
Inspired by skaters like Willow Smith and Oumi Janta, Passion saw these femmes skating and immediately knew roller skating was something she wanted to learn how to do. “I saw a video of Willow skating in the park, and I thought it was so cool and realized I wanted to do that,” she exclaimed. After she saw Viola Davis share a video of Oumi skating in an all yellow outfit she knew it was time for her to pick up some skates. “After I saw [that],I got skates right away, like, instantly,” she said. “If it wasn’t for that video I wouldn’t be skating right now. And this is why representation is important.”
Representation and community are why Passion is so fond of BGS and enjoys collaborating with them. Organizations like BGS spread the word and make it clear that Black women and femmes not only exist in skate culture but also thrive and set trends in it. “All it takes is seeing one person that looks like you,” said Passion. “I hope that anytime I’m skating around in the streets, a little Black girl sees me, goes home, and asks their parents, ‘Hey, can I get some skates’?'”
On Deck: Ariah, Anilah, Ariannah
Skater Niche: Roller skating/Skateboarding
Skate Park Soundtrack: “Usher,” said Ariannah and Anilah. “Chris Brown for me,” said Ariah.
Three sisters from the West Side of Chicago, Ariah, Anilah, and Ariannah, discovered BGS on Facebook. Normally, they skate on their street or visit skating rinks on the west side, but they were excited to try something new with BGS in Uptown.
“It feels great to be out here today,” said Ariannah. “I tried skateboarding for the first time even though it was out of my comfort zone. I typically roller skate or rollerblade, but it felt good to try something new.”
“I’ve never skated in a skate park before,” said Anilah. “So, this is an exciting and fun experience to have.”
Drawn to skating because of the joy it makes them feel, these sisters were thrilled to be in community with an org like BGS.
“Black girls are the best skaters,” said Ariah. “So, it’s nice that Black girls are able to come out and skate without being mistreated.”
This event marked their introduction to the BGS community, and they were not disappointed.
“This is my first time hearing about and experiencing an organization like this,” said Ariannah. “It’s so creative and I’m glad to be a part of this and hope stuff like this is talked about more.”
Rolling Forward with Black Girls Skate
In the dynamic world of skating, where the culture is ever-changing, Black Girls Skate emerges as a powerful force, dismantling barriers and inspiring connection and community within the skate space. As wheels turn and skaters roll into the future, BGS stands as a symbol of hope, a reminder that the clash of cultures can be a catalyst for unity, and that the love for skating knows no bounds.
In this issue, we step into worlds different (or similar to) than our own and share our experiences. What does culture/community look like, and how does it affect you? Dive into our “Culture” Issue to hear how youth journalists address this topic.
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