The future is here, the girls are taking over!
Skateboarding has played a significant role in my life since the age of 10. I remember how it felt to step on my board for the first time, terrifying yet exhilarating. Scraped knees and bruises didn’t stop me from progressing, I wasn’t afraid to get in there with the boys. For years I was the only girl at the skatepark and it always came with a little anxiety because I knew that I would be the center of attention as soon as I entered the park. Boys would come up to me and ask, “Are you good?” or they would tell me to do a trick that I was unable to perform at the snap of their fingers. It was hard to progress with strangers watching you, judging you, laughing at you when you fell.
It wasn’t until I went to skateboard camp that I met other girls who skated. We all bonded quickly and became a little supportive family. It was easy to ignore the boys negativity when we skated, we only focused on each other. It all comes down to community because all we had were each other. That’s why I chose to create and facilitate a positive learning environment for the skater girls of Baltimore for my activist project.
The female skateboard community in Baltimore quite simply doesn’t exist, that’s when I realized that I could be the one to change that. I started the project with one goal: Host an all-girls skate session for girls of all ages and abilities. There are also little to no skatepark in Baltimore and those that do exist aren’t positive environments for little girls who are just starting to skate. The parks here in Baltimore are dirty and locals/male skaters tend to drink and do drugs at the skateparks. The attitude beginners receive is completely off-putting, especially for the parents of these young girls. The only other option is for these girls to learn at home, if they are lucky enough to have a nice driveway or safe space in their neighborhoods to practice on. VU Skateshop, however, is changing the Baltimore skateboard community and is supported by positive people. I decided to host my skate session at the VU shop on Harford Road where there is a small mini ramp (half pipe) in the back of the store. I contacted the shop owner, Gary Smith, and he was more than willing to let me use the ramp for my event.
I started reaching out to female owned and operated skateboard brands like Hoopla and Meow Skateboards out of California. I emailed these brands to see if they would be interested in donating product for the girls who would come participate at my event, even stickers would make a difference. Sadly, I didn’t receive a response from them. This was a part of my project that didn’t work out, but I’m sure that in the future, if the female community grows here in Baltimore, they might start to take notice.
My next step was to create a poster for the event and begin posting it around the city, advertising it on social media as well. Gary Smith, VU Skate Shop owner, left my poster out in the store by the registers. I put my personal email on the poster, in case anyone had questions about the event…but I never received any emails. I was starting to worry that no one would show up at all. I planned to host the event on May 1st at 1pm. When I showed up for my event on May 1st, a little 5 year old girl named Jonah and her father were waiting for me.
Jonah melted my heart. She was brave and eager to learn, only having about a month of experience on a board. When I arrived she was holding onto the wall for dear life, slowly making her way up and down the ramp. I started by showing her some tricks of my own for motivation. I was surprised by how comfortable she was with me and she was very patient while I was teaching her. She worked her way from holding onto the wall to starting in the middle of the ramp. I taught Jonah how to properly stand on the board, how to push, how to pump, and how to drop into the ramp. She smiled and laughed with me the whole time and I knew that all of my effort with this project was completely worth it. I remember how influenced I was by positive, older female skateboarders when I was growing up, so I reminded myself that I was probably making that much of an impact on little Jonah. I told her to never quit skating, to push forward and learn as much as she could because she is the future of female skateboarding. We need these little girls to continue to progress!
This project completely changed my relationship to activism. I realized I can create my own definition for activism. If I can make an impact on one little girls life, that’s all I need to be an activist. One girl will lead to another and eventually there will be just as many female skateboarders as there are men within the skateboarding industry. Every project has to start somewhere, it’s okay to start small. I will continue to host these events here in Baltimore, I can’t give up on these girls! The future is here… just in small packages!