How Roller Skating Helped Me Reclaim My Joy
During the Black Lives Matter movement last June, it was more common to see Black pain, opposed to Black love and joy. Viewing Black skaters reclaiming their happiness convinced me that I had to do the same.
As a beginner skater, I was clueless about how Black skaters fought to keep rinks open within their community. So I watched the HBO documentary “United Skates” to learn more about the intersection of Black culture and roller skating rinks.
Shortly thereafter, I found many Black roller skaters at once. Skaters like Jasmine Moore (@justseconds), Toni Nicole (@gr00vyquads) and Lilliana Ruiz (@lilyskatesalot) inspired my mission to find skates and dominate my local skate park. I noticed how all three of these Black women had a radiant energy that I could feel beyond my phone screen. Discovering Black-owned skate shops like Adrienne Cooper’s Moonlight Roller made me feel like there was a space for me in the skating world.
However, apparently there was a worldwide shortage of roller skates, since I and every other person doom-scrolling on TikTok was longing for a pair. At the time, I had an obsession with checking Facebook Marketplace religiously. Whether I was searching for a wicker piece of furniture or vintage decor, I can embarrassingly say that I updated my Facebook Marketplace feed at least four times a day. Around mid-June, I finally found a pair of pink Chicago roller skates on Facebook Marketplace for their original price on Amazon.
I never would’ve imagined that an impulse purchase on Facebook Marketplace would bring me immense joy in a short span of time.
As I was building my confidence to skate, I looked forward to squeezing in time every other day to glide aimlessly around a nearby parking garage in my now broken-in skates. It’s comforting that I wasn’t starting from scratch though. In my hometown of Pensacola, Florida, I frequently visited my local rink and can recall hearing nostalgic bops like Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls.” Due to the pandemic, empty parking garage rooftops and tennis courts were my temporary rink.
After learning to go backwards, I felt an unstoppable force within me that was fueled even further after seeing Berlin skater Oumi Janta’s viral video. Between her euphoric energy and upbeat house music, I found my new mission –– jam skating. Anytime that I’m about to do anything new or unfamiliar, I create a playlist. Honestly, I create a playlist for most situations. My roller skating playlist on Spotify currently has 100+ tracks with a variety of genres ranging from Tame Impala to Thundercat. Feel-good, groovy music has definitely influenced my skating skill from beginner to somewhat intermediate.
When I decided that I was ready to conquer a new territory, I traveled to Tallahassee’s main skate park. What I expected to be an exciting experience turned out to be an anxious, bad decision. The smooth, seemingly perfect pavement didn’t make up for the offputting energy from the predominantly white crowd at the park. This male-dominated area paired with my anxiety to enter the ramps convinced me to go back to my familiar practice spot.
Although I met a few kind women at the skatepark, I still longed for a group of Black women, due to the countless TikTok meetups that I would see in San Diego or Los Angeles. I created a now-inactive group chat on Instagram with primarily BIPOC to make it easier for us to avoid going solo and feeling welcomed. Prior to the school year, I frequently skated with a few members of the group chat, but classes eventually tightened everyone’s schedules.
The early spring Florida weather has kept my skates collecting dust in the backseat of my car for now, but I cherish the innumerable amount of skating videos that are holding my phone’s memory hostage. I’m grateful for the Black skaters on TikTok who have shared our culture’s connection with roller skating and the history behind how the trend is being whitewashed. The feeling of putting on my headphones and playing Teedra Moses’ and Kaytranada’s “Be Your Girl” on a quiet parking garage rooftop can’t compare to most experiences.
I never would’ve thought that roller skating would go from a weekly activity to becoming therapy, but I’m glad that it has.