Rollerblading is back! … But it never really went away
by Beverly Aarons
Four wheels, five, three and even two – in-line, quads or whatever suits you. Pick an ice rink and play some songs – the roller skating craze is also in Seattle.
When I first heard that roller skates were out of stock and hard to find, I laughed. First there was a run on toilet paper and now skates too? Pandemic gods have a great sense of humor. But then I started to remember some of my dearest childhood moments: Friday nights when I was an ’80s preteen rolling on the floor of a local ice rink in Chicago. I felt a deep sense of nostalgia as I remembered the remixed and pumped up James Brown songs that accompanied my wobbly skate legs. And I wondered: how has one of America’s most beloved hobbies behaved 150 years after James Plimpton invented the modern roller skating and 50 years after his heyday in disco?
I interviewed two Seattle-area skaters: Tiffany Mason, founder of Roll Around Seatown and speed skater and musician Maurice Hall (52Kings) about their love of the sport and how skating continues to grow. have an impact on the lives of its enthusiasts.
Tiffany Mason laughed at the idea of roller skating resurfacing. “Really there is no [a resurgence]”Mason said in our phone interview.” It’s people who aren’t in the skate world who think so. “Mason insists that skating has never really lost its popularity – at least. not in the black community. And that statement seems true. United skates and 8 wheels and soul music Brotha ‘ explore the history of roller skating and its long-standing popularity in black communities across the country. The Skating Party – local and regional skating events hosted mostly by black skaters – features prominently in both films. And Mason, born and raised in the Seattle area, is a staple in the skate party scene. She’s been skating for almost 37 years, and before pandemic restrictions ended large gatherings, she attended 12 to 15 skate parties a year – nationally and internationally.
“The skate party is definitely a black activity,” Mason said. And they’ve been around for at least 25 years, she added. Skateboarding parties aren’t held in all states, but they do take place in cities with a strong skate community. They have their own skate music and DJs who understand the musical preferences of the area. Seattle does not have an official skate DJ or style of skate music – yet.
“It’s all about the sport,” Mason said of the skating parties, which are typically two to five day events that last from midnight to six in the morning. “It’s about relationships; it is about brotherhood. It’s just about vibrating and learning from each other and having pure fun. ”
Maurice Hall is not part of the skate-party scene but he is having fun on his wheels. He has been speed skating professionally with the Tacoma, Wash., National Speed Skating Circuit since 2015, and he incorporates roller skating into his musical performances because playing on wheels allows him to move freely. and quickly on the stage.
“I like to look good, clean and cool,” Hall said of his skating style. “But I seem to be in control. That’s what it’s about. It’s almost like I’m not skating – it’s just my feet and [I] it turns out that there are wheels on them.
Mason and Hall both started skating as children, a few years before they became teenagers. Mason learned to skate in a pair of white quads with metal wheels and red and blue stripes. His mother bought them from a Sears catalog after Mason begged for a pair for his birthday. She trained in her front yard on asphalt and even learned to skate backwards. Hall’s first time on a set of wheels were inline skates which he borrowed from a cousin who was also his babysitter. He was bored and there wasn’t much to do with his cousin. He had three choices for entertainment: bike, Nintendo or skates. He wanted these skates. She gave in to his harassment. They were three sizes too big, but Hall didn’t care – he skated around the neighborhood and possibly the rink during school fundraisers.
The rink has been a central figure in America’s skating obsession. During the heyday of roller skating (1940s and 1950s), there were about 5,000 rinks in the United States, but today there are only about 1,000, and every year more and more ice rinks are closing.
“We lost four [rinks] in a year, right here in Seattle – all within 30 minutes of each other, ”Mason said. “It’s not that skating is dead or dead, it’s our facilities. We are losing facilities across the country. And soon we will be like Europe. Europe does not have ice rinks. You go to London, they don’t have an ice rink in downtown London. You have to drive almost three hours to get to an ice rink in Barcelona. I skated there. They have an outdoor skate festival – they don’t have indoor rinks. Unfortunately, we are following this trend. And it’s sad because we still need a place where we can meet and have a good time.
United skates emphasizes the importance of indoor rinks in black skating cultures. In many cities that still have ice rinks, black youth depend on roller skating as one of the few indoor activities the whole family can enjoy. As Mason and Hall made it clear in my interviews with them, skating is not a sport that requires strength, it only requires skill. Young and old, strong or weak can practice rollerblading, which makes it a unique sport. In 8 wheels and soul music Brotha ‘ seniors aged 70 to 80 easily rolled on the rinks, did figure skating and interacted with the younger generations. Skating is a bridge – something Mason constantly pointed out during our conversation. But the loss of American rinks continues and there is no sign of slowing down, especially since the pandemic.
“My goal is to work with the City of Seattle – not just the Parks Department but our government officials – to see if we can have an outdoor rink here in Washington state,” Mason said. His organization, Roll Around Seatown, is currently skating at Judkins Park, but the amount of space and terrain is not comparable to an ice rink. There is a proposed skatepark under design review for Rainier Beach, but it is an outdoor skatepark designed primarily for skateboarders.
The struggle for space to skate has historical roots. Even during the heyday of roller skating, black skaters were prohibited from entering white roller rinks. United skates documents how black skaters picketed and protested just to get one night per month. Eventually, black skaters were given one night per week – often referred to as Soul Night (or similar names). Today it’s called Adult Night. And while it is technically illegal to exclude anyone from an ice rink or other public facility because of their running, United skates clearly states that rink restrictions on R&B music and the type of skates and clothing worn prevent some black skaters from accessing rinks outside of black communities.
Hall said his mother was happy when he started skating because he was starting to find himself in “situations” at his school in Virginia, which he said “was not. [good] a place for people with dark skin. So when her speed skating trainer Kelly Springer invited Hall to continue his four-hour drive, his mother moved the whole family away. The rest is history. Hall, who describes himself as speed skater Dennis Rodman in his single Gripping, turned pro in 2005 and is known for his colored hair and his ability to use an opponent’s mistakes to his advantage.
Like Mason, Hall sees skating as a community and an opportunity to connect and help others, especially young people. “I’m more of a coach and a mentor,” Hall said. He teaches young speed skaters public speaking and marketing skills so they know how to market themselves and get potentially lucrative sponsorships. He wants young skaters to “use speed skating as a tool” so that they can contribute to their homes and secure their personal futures.
And what would a skater’s future look like without skating?
“My everyday life involves skating in one way or another…” Mason said. “I skate outside or skate inside or do something for the community that supports skating. So I couldn’t imagine my life [without skating]. I think I would be really, really depressed and alone, because it gives me so much – it gives me so much joy.
Beverly aarons is a writer and game developer. She works in several disciplines as an editor, journalist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter and short story writer. She explores futuristic worlds in fiction but also enjoys discovering the stories of unsung heroes of modern times. She is currently writing an immersive play on migration themes as well as a series of non-fiction stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their local communities and around the world. In August 2018, she produced a game and a live event where community members worked together to imagine an economic future that they really wanted to leave for future generations.
📸 Featured Image: Community members skate at a June 17, 2020 celebration held at Judkins Park. (Photo: Jake Gravbrot)
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