On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Skateboarding has had a handful of different reputations throughout the decades. It started as a surfer-dude sport in California. Then, it became an anti-establishment subculture in the 80s and 90s. Now, the sport is more mainstream than ever: In Tokyo next year, skateboarding will make its Olympic debut.
Another stereotype skateboarding has bucked: White men are the only ones who skate. Skaters of color and different genders are active in skating communities. And a recent study from the University of Southern California (funded by the Tony Hawk Foundation) found that skateboarding and skateparks foster community and encourage intercultural communication.
But what do skateboarders think? Does their identity impact what sponsorships they get, if they’re welcomed at a certain skate spot or if they’re followed on Instagram? We’ll check in with local skateboarders about diversity and identity in the skate scene.
Produced by Cydney Grannan
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome.
KOJO NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll talk with Maryland activist and law enforcement officers about police reform in the state, but first, racism and sexism have long plagued sports, but what about something a little less official, skateboarding. We're checking in with local skateboarders about diversity in D.C.'s skateboarding scene, and we'd love to have you join the conversation. Are you a skateboarder? Do you think skateboarding has a diversity problem? Joining us now is Cadia Montero and Rashad Murray. They are both skateboarders here in D.C. Cadia, thank you for joining us.
CADIA MONTEROThank you so much. It's an honor.
NNAMDIAnd, Rashad, thank you for joining us.
RASHAD MURRAYThank you. Appreciate being here.
NNAMDIRashad, when did you start skateboarding and what drew you to it?
MURRAYI started skateboarding, when I think I was 12 years. I was mostly drawn to it just because I played a lot of video games. And also when I would come to D.C. to visit my aunt I would see people skateboarding here.
NNAMDIWell, now you're sponsored. What does that mean in the skateboarding world? Does skateboarding pay your bills?
MURRAYAbsolutely not, being sponsored can mean a lot of things. You know, it can mean you get free things. It can mean, you know, being presented with new opportunities. It can mean you get paid, but for me money is not -- I don't have that yet.
NNAMDISo you're not making a living skateboarding.
NNAMDICadia, you started skating much later than Rashad. He started at 12. When did you start and tell us what drew you to skateboarding and why you started when you did?
MONTEROI started skateboarding when I was 20. That's actually when I got my board, And I started skating much later, like when I was 21. I'd always wanted to skate when I was younger, but I was largely discouraged by my parents. And when I got older I just thought, hey, you know, I have my own money and I'm an adult now and no one can tell me what to do.
NNAMDIAnd so you went ahead and started. Where can you skateboard here in our area? And I guess I should clarify, where are the good skate parks and where are the unofficial places to skateboard? I'll start with you, Cadia.
MONTEROSo there are official spots like Freedom Plaza. I'm sure you know the spot. There's a lot of skaters skating around. There's Shaw Skate Park. There's RFK, Banneker. There's a bunch of skate parks in the DMV area. And then there's unofficial spots like the African American Civil War Memorial. Spots that -- I mean, people could just drive by a spot and skate it.
NNAMDIHow about you, Rashad? Same question to you.
MURRAYI would have to agree also. Like there's like smaller places like Archives and this place called Welfare. There are a lot of places, you know, that are unofficial that you can skate. You can skate anywhere you want.
NNAMDIHow about official places? What are the good official skate parks?
MURRAYI guess the best official one in this area would probably be the Shaw Skate Park or Maloof Skate Park. But that's kind of out the way. But those are probably the only and maybe under the bridge, a Bridge Spot is another good place to skate.
NNAMDICadia, skateboarding seems crazy to a lot of people. You're jumping on this wooden board with wheels making it do all kinds of crazy things often without a helmet. So why do you do it?
MONTEROIt's amazing. It's kind of hard to explain unless you try it. But there's nothing like the feeling of landing something that you never thought that you could. It seemed impossible and you did it. Skateboarding just kind of teaches you this lesson that like you are capable if you work for something. And it's a lesson that like I wasn't really able to learn with anything else that I had in my life.
NNAMDIRashad, what's your favorite part about skateboarding? Why do you keep at it for hours upon hours every week?
MURRAYWell, for me it was more like an outlet from the other things that I had going on in my household. So it was just something to get my mind off of the other things that are putting a lot of pressure on me. I got to put, you know, all of my energy into something that felt good and it made me feel good and it gave me a lot of self-confidence. So that was probably the thing that made me want to do it the most was just being able to prove to myself that I, you know, that I had the talent to be something and do something with my life and I didn't have to fall victim to the other things that I was seeing.
NNAMDIRashad, how diverse is the skateboarding scene in D.C.? Do you feel welcomed in most places you go to skate?
MURRAYYeah, I would say skateboarding in D.C. is very diverse. I see a lot of different people coming together and I think for the most part I might feel accepted even if that's not what's coming off right away. But it kind of takes more diving into the scene to kind of, you know, to see the things that's wrong with skateboarding.
NNAMDIHave you ever felt discriminated against by other skateboarders based on your race?
NNAMDIOkay. Cadia, you are an Afro Latina woman. What has been your experience like in the skateboarding community?
MONTEROIt's definitely been interesting. I've definitely faced some aggression. I've been yelled at. I've been hit. I've been -- somebody threw a beer can at my face one time, but there's also been good. I like recognize my privilege as like a light skinned racially ambiguous woman that like I'm generally not a very -- I'm just not very intimidating to a lot of people unless like I'm standing up for myself. So it hasn't been too hard.
NNAMDIWell, Tim tweets: there are no racist skaters; there are a few racist posers out there, though. Here is Ray in Silver Spring. Ray, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RAYHey, thanks, Kojo. Appreciate the opportunity and I love the topic. I've been skating in the DMV since 1986. So I think my perspective is a little bit -- I'm Afro Caribbean or Black, whichever way you want to put it down. But I'm from the Caribbean, but I grew up in this area. So the thing I have to say is that, there definitely is racism everywhere. The beauty of skateboarding, though, is that when you have the passion for it and other people recognize you're passionate about it and not posing like Tim just said, you typically can find your tribe or your family.
RAYSo I'm excited about this conversation and the study that you also mentioned on your website about, you know, the fact that it builds resilience. You know, but it's also a challenge within our own race that it's not what we're supposed to do, right? Black is supposed to play basketball or you're supposed to do this. And I could do all those things. I just didn't like them. I love skateboarding. So that's the big difference.
NNAMDIThank you for sharing that with us. Is that your sentiment also, Rashad?
MURRAYYeah. You know, the part about finding -- to me that's just something that's a part of life is finding people that, you know, make you feel comfortable, but it doesn't change the reality of that. You know, there's a lot things coming at you because you may or may not be like the ideal person for this thing that, you know, for skateboarding. But, yeah, I agree to that part. It's all about finding who makes you feel comfortable and sticking with them. And, you know, breaking some boundaries.
NNAMDIAnd, Cadia, how about finding the sport that makes you feel comfortable, because our caller Ray said he could have played basketball. I guess he could have played baseball, but skating -- skateboarding is what he liked. And that's why he did it. Same for you, Cadia?
MONTEROYeah, I mean, obviously, as a woman I was discouraged to skate. As a Black Afro Latina woman also not really encouraged. I was told it was like a white person thing. But I love it. So it didn't really stop me.
NNAMDIHere's Miles Jackson who is in Los Angeles. Miles Jackson, you're on the air. Have you moved to Los Angeles?
MILES JACKSONHey, good morning, Mr. Nnamdi. Yeah, I moved out here a couple of years ago.
NNAMDIOkay. Well, go right ahead, please.
JACKSONYeah, well, first of all I'd like to say hello to my friend Rashad. I knew him pretty well when I was in D.C. and so glad to hear him on the show and see that he's still skating and pushing the needle forward. I guess, I would pose the question -- I think that there is much more diversity in terms of participation within skateboarding. But having moved here to Los Angeles, I run a skateboarding organization. My partner and I, we work with a number of pros in the industry and things like that.
JACKSONI think that it kind of mirrors basketball and other sports where there's a tremendous participation of African Americans and other minorities. But there's not much ownership on our part. And I think that that's something that we need to reconsider and I would like to shout out Crush Skate Shop, which is on 14th and U Street, which is Black-owned by Brian and some other, you know, Black employees and things like that. But maybe also, Rashad, I'd love to hear from you about when you started skateboarding and looking up to folks in the D.C. area and how at that point in time -- you know, now there's so many skaters.
JACKSONBut at that point in time it was kind of frowned upon for Black people to get on a skateboard, because it was a white person activity. But none the less I would just like to appreciate you all doing this conversation. I think it's very important especially in these times.
NNAMDIWell, we know what you do in Cuba. Tell us a little bit about what's going on.
JACKSONOh, sure. So my partner and I started a non-profit organization there where we deliver skateboarding materials to the skateboarders down there, because of the embargo, because Cuba is a third world country they just have a tremendous difficulty in accessing resources. And so we started our organization Cuba Skate about 10 years ago. And now beyond giving away materials we build skate parks and we have a wood shop set up. And our idea is that, you know, we're trying to provide youth with the tools to skate through life and not just, you know, go and give a skateboard that breaks. But really create sustainability. And, you know, our organization is rooted in Afro Caribbean, Afro Cuban, you know, just energy. Yeah.
NNAMDIRashad, we only have about a minute left in this segment. You want to give Miles a shout out?
MURRAYYeah. It's so nice to hear from you Miles and I'm happy with everything that you're doing. I really am. I think it's a great thing.
NNAMDIBy the nature of the sport skateboarders often deal with police. Some of the best skate spots are places in the city where skateboarding isn't allowed. So when we come back we'll start with that part of the conversation. If you've called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about Washington D.C.'s skateboarding scene. And when we broke, I was going to talk about dealing with police. And, Rashad, I can imagine, because some of the best skate spots in the city are places where skateboarding isn't allowed. And I guess it's even tougher for a Black skateboarder. Rashad, it's my understanding that when you were 15 or 16, you and your friends were skateboarding here in D.C. when you were approached by police officers. Can you tell us what happened?
MURRAYThat's happened a lot.
MURRAYBut this particular story I definitely want to, you know, take some blame for this. But also want to explain why. So we were skating this memorial and I think -- I don't know why. But when the cops came I just had this instinct to just run. And then I eventually ended up just walking back. And the cop was like, oh, like why did you run; do you have drugs on you; do you have a weapon on you? And, you know, I'm 15 years old. I don't have any of those things on me. I just ran simply out of fear, and that's something that like as a Black person we feel every time we even see -- like when we feel the presence of police. We scared because we don't know what's going to happen next. We don't know what the -- you know, what's to come. So we take our chances some times and we run even when we don't necessarily have anything to run for.
NNAMDIHow did that incident end?
MURRAYThey ended up calling my mom, I think. And they took me home or they made me go home. You know, something like that and she spoke to me about it, but I only ran because I was afraid. I didn't run because I had anything to hide. I was just scared. I was 15, you know. I had never -- I didn't know what to expect next. All I had known was that like, you know, the cops may or may not treat me differently and I wasn't really trying to take that chance that day.
NNAMDIAnd you were skating in a location where skateboarding was not allowed?
MURRAYYeah, I'm not sure. I honestly don't remember the name of the memorial.
NNAMDIOkay. Here is Roz in Washington D.C. Roz, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ROZHi. I'm calling. I'm so happy you all did this show. I just wanted to talk about what it's like being a Black non-binary person, who skates and feeling like there's not much community out there for people who are non-binary. There's a skater named Leo Baker and they're really pushing forward LGBTQ skating. But in D.C. I don't really -- like I feel like it's hard to reach out to Black and queer skaters. So I'd be interested to know what you all think about that and if you have any experience in that type of community.
MONTEROYeah. You should get in contact with me. I love -- well, now I have a broken leg. But I could totally connect you with Black queer skaters. We are here in D.C. and I connected with a lot of people through online communities specifically Instagram. So that's a great place to like find people to meet up and skate with. But, yeah, I think my contact info is on the website and you should hit me up.
NNAMDIRoz, thank you very much for your call. Cadia, when you are going to a new skate spot how do you approach it? What kinds of things are you paying attention to and who do you go with?
MONTEROI usually like to go places with friends. It's more fun. But when I'm scoping out a place, I look around and see if I know anybody. Say hi. I think it was a lot different when I first started skating. It's really intimidating going into a space when you don't know anybody and everyone is so much better than you. When you're a girl, you already feel judged and you really do feel like you have to prove yourself. But now I don't feel that way, luckily. And I feel like it's giving me more freedom to just have fun doing it.
NNAMDIBut are there places that you avoid skating because you know you might not feel welcome?
MONTEROI think that what I've gone through -- I've gone through phases with certain skate spots due to like things that have gone down. If I've gotten into an argument with somebody or I've gotten threatened I usually will stay away from there or I'll continue to go to like prove a point. But it's less of the spot and more of like the people. But now I don't really feel that way.
NNAMDIHere is Tub in McLean, Virginia. Tub, your turn.
TUBHi, how are you doing? I just wanted to talk a little bit just about my experience. So I'm a 20 year old Asian American from McLean like you mentioned, which is a little bit outside of D.C. So when I was younger I was really the only skateboarder around in my area, and it was kind of a white suburban area, kind of a very good area, and I just never really found a great space to connect with anybody in that area. And I just honestly had a pretty rough time.
TUBBut as I moved a little bit out more towards D.C. and hung around more people in that area and met a couple more skateboarders, I really found a group. And I found a great dynamic of people from the city. And I just wanted to share that experience of how open and accepting some of the D.C. skateboarders were. And I know how earlier in the show you guys were talking about a few racial topics in the city. But I just wanted to share that lighter experience on my experience skateboarding in the DMV area.
NNAMDIWell, Tub, thank you very much for sharing that story with us. Rashad, how has the skateboarding community in D.C. responded to the Black Lives Matter movement?
MURRAYWell, I think they kind of responded how, you know, most people responded. Like, you know, some people dove in head first and wanted to be a part of it. And there was some people who think that nothing is going to change so they don't do anything at all. Then you have people who only want to be involved for, you know, a short amount of time. And so I just think there have been a lot of skateboarders who have stepped up and are trying their best to understand that like even though we are -- we can, you know, label ourselves as skateboarders that's not all that we are.
MURRAYAnd a lot of us have a lot of different things going on that prevent us from just having the privilege of just saying, oh, I just want to skate today, nothing else matters, you know? And I think that's something that a lot of skateboarders have to kind of come to terms with is that, even though, we want to just have the freedom to just skate the things that are happening in, you know, our day to day are very important to talk about. So some people have stepped up and others you can tell are still very lenient in, you know, letting a lot of things still go by and not really addressing issues that don't directly affect them.
NNAMDIYou organized an event called "Roll for Justice." Tell us about that event.
MURRAYYeah. It was just me trying to put something together so I could -- because I feel like nothing has really changed. And I feel like we still see a lot of marginalized groups get treated poorly day by day. Every day we see it. And I just felt like I wanted to do something instead of just talking about it. I wanted to try to organize something so we could all come together and, you know, use our voices together to speak out.
NNAMDIHere's Chris in Silver Spring. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISHi, there. Am I on?
CHRISAll right. Hi, I'm Chris. And I mostly -- I heard about this show through Instagram. I was going to shout out, say hi to Rashad, Do-rag. I skated with him for a little bit. I'm not specifically D.C. But I've skated like -- I mostly skate in Maryland. And I've had the privilege to go all the way up and down a lot of the East Coast, different spots, different parks. I've skateboarded since I was like nine. And I'm like -- I'm just about 20 now.
NNAMDIHave you seen discrimination?
CHRISYeah, yeah. I was going to talk about this.
NNAMDIWell, you only got about 20 seconds.
CHRISDifferent problems that I've seen. And there's a lot of different stuff specifically with regards to females, regards to people with non -- cisgenders, right. Lots of different problems with getting hit on, being randomly questioned and the same thing with a lot of different racial stuff.
CHRISDifferent people coming from a lot of different grounds being questioned all the time.
NNAMDII'm afraid that's about all the time we have. But thank you for your call, Chris. And Rashad Murray and Cadia Montero, thank you both for joining us. A special thanks to our engineer Ben Privett for pitching this show and for the funky skateboard music we played at the beginning. Ben is one of the taller skateboarders you'll see around town. But thanks a lot Ben Privett. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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