Celebrating BIPOC skaters and supporting local charity: A few days ago, the first edition of Roll Call went down at the Lost Bowl in Richmond, Virginia. Brought to life by Kathleen Macias who in her free time tries to connect her skating with community outreach. While rollerskating for a lot of people is just rollerskating, the fact that skaters of color are experiencing racism, bias and are underrepresented in (social) media is something that’s been bothering her for a while. We hit her up to learn more about the event.
What was the idea behind Roll Call?
Quite honestly, I had it out of frustration, specifically with myself. There is a charity skate event I’ve attended for the past few summers and another POC skater reached out to me asking me how they could attend. This particular event is usually based by invitation and after explaining that situation to my friend I started to think about how for the past 3 years I’ve been the only skater of color to attend. I found myself not only angry with myself for not doing more for this skater, but also by the lack of representation at the event. I had been feeling really inspired by all the work Neon from @BIPOCwhoskate had been doing with their page. I wanted to create an event that specifically brought together and celebrated skaters of color. There are so many of us and yet we are so underrepresented in social media. Why not come together for a common love that could give back to the community? So after some brief thought I brought it up to Neon, Kiana, Cuban, and my friend Renee. We really struggled with the name! I think we originally threw out “Rip&Dip” and scrapped that, Cuban came up with Roll Call to blend with the idea of skaters coming from cities all over the US. It stuck!
What reactions did you receive in the beginning from the community?
Once the event was live we sold half of our tickets in the first few days! I generally think everyone was not only excited for an east coast-based event, but to see a flyer advertising a POC skater! Of course, we had a few folks reach out who were upset it wasn’t closer to them, but everyone seemed very supportive and interested in what we were trying to do.
Did people contact you prior who had questions or felt excluded? How did you explain your idea and intentions?
We had a few people who did not identify as BIPOC skaters who were curious as whether or not they would be welcomed. A few even expressed wanting to attend but voiced they would not be out of respect for the event’s mission. However, everyone was welcome to attend! We did have some initial fears of the event becoming “white-washed” but in the end we had a very diverse group of skaters from multiple heritages and ethnicities. When we responded to skaters who were unsure if they should attend, we just explained our desire for allies while also asking that they were active listeners during the discussion periods. I felt like everyone was very respectful of this and created a safe, welcoming environment.
Tell us a bit about the purpose of the event.
Not only was the purpose of this event to celebrate BIPOC skaters but we also wanted to donate to local charity. There is an amazing group here in Richmond called Girls for A Change. They provide after school programs for young African American girls focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), the arts, entrepreneur, and leadership skills. So, there were coaching clinics for both park and jam skaters, open sessions, an all-day pool party, a bonfire and movie night…all while incorporating heavy discussions about racism and bias in the skating community and we still gave to a cause. We were all able to come together and have a great time while raising awareness, creating and strengthening these bonds with one another. We tried to make the event as affordable as possible, which meant asking skaters to be self-reliant for housing and meal planning. Since we have additional space at our home, a few skaters set up tents and had a camp out. I can also attest that I witnessed some of the most gnarly skating ever that weekend!
The location looked really rad. Is it a private backyard park?
Yes! Lost Bowl is kind of a backyard skate compound. I’m just lucky enough to live there with my partner Pat, who built this crazy monstrosity with his friends over the past nine years. We’ve got a bit of street in the front, a pool, and a solid flow bowl area that works for all skill levels. It made planning Roll Call very accessible and gave skaters comfort to have a space all for themselves during the weekend.
How is the feedback so far?
I think many of us went home with a very heavy emotional weight. While mainly positive, for some of us this was the first time any of us felt comfortable speaking up about our heritages and personal experiences. There were a lot of tears during the open discussion. Afterward we received messages from skaters expressing their gratitude for the event. Some spoke on feeling validated after years of trying to assimilate, others just felt more connected and wanted to know what more they could do to strengthen the community. It’s hard to put into words exactly the impact it’s made on each of us. The important part is that these conversations keep continuing, and that our allies are willing to listen.
Why are this kind of events important?
Regardless of location, people of marginalized communities deserve to be heard. They deserve to be recognized for their strengths and NOT as a token figures for marketing. Roller skating is often used as an escape for most of us, but it is not immune to the everyday realities of oppression. It’s up to us to take ownership of our past mistakes and make positive change. Events like Roll Call and others that participate outreach can not only help your community grow in size, but into its best self. There are lots of young skaters looking up to us and depending on us to be leaders. We should be able to show them that those leaders can look just like them: Skaters of all body types, colors, and identities.
Do you plan to organize the event again? Will it be at the same location?
As of right now we are 100% in to do it again. We want to plan for more discussion time as we’ve only began to scratch the surface. Currently there are a few conversations going on to possibly have this be an ongoing event in multiple cities throughout the year. It’s important to me to not to take ownership over this idea. My hope is that others will be inspired to create and host similar events like Roll Call, whether it be through meet ups, roll outs, or on a larger scale. I recommend skaters check out the BIPOCWhoSkate page and read up on what others are saying. Take time to educate yourselves, and be a part of the conversation!
I also just want to give a special shout out to Neon, Kiana, Cuban, Missy, and Pat for all the hard work they did. Without their support and effort behind the scenes, none of this would be possible. Thank you to all the sponsors and skaters who donated and helped us raise $1,526.00 for Girls for a Change. We hope that you’ll continue to tell your stories and inspire everyone you meet.