Blacks on a New Grind

It’s no secret skateboarding has become increasingly popular in the black community. Celebrities like music producer Pharrell Williams have moved the culture beyond the scope of just music.

Pharrell, for example, has created not only the “Billionaire Boys Club Ice Cream” clothing line that features shoes and accessories for skaters, but also the “Ice Cream Skate team,” which is comprised of mostly black skaters.

With so many facets of the skateboard genre emerging from urban music and fashion, is this extreme sport experiencing a renaissance or is this just another fad that is here today and gone tomorrow? FAMU students and the community have mixed feelings about blacks skateboarding.

“I think it’s a fad now,” said Sean Howell, a pharmacy student from Los Angeles. “People come and ask me to teach them to skate, especially in the black community. It was more looked down upon like ‘Why you acting white?’ but now with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell talking about it – it’s more accepted.”

Wynton Campbell, 20, from Tampa agreed there weren’t very many black skateboarders when he started skating at the age of 13. The junior architecture student grew up admiring black skaters like Kareem Campbell and became interested in the culture.

Campbell said back then being black and a skater was considered out of the ordinary. “When I was trying to learn, people would say ‘he can’t skate because he’s black.'” But despite these stereotypes, Campbell enjoyed the sport and continued to skate.

Some in the black community said they feel that black artists who endorse skating are creating positive examples for youth and offering them alternative pastimes that can keep them out of trouble.

“I think it is good (‘the Ice Cream Team’),” said 15-year-old Dion Kelly from Tallahassee. “It is motivation. He has skaters that came off the streets, and it shows that we can do the same thing. I skate to stay out of trouble.”

“It scares me that they’re (black children) one dimensional,” said Robert Mayberry, a senior business student from Houston. Mayberry is working on a documentary that shows the positive and negative aspects of skateboard culture. “I love their passion, but I want them to see that there are different things that you can do with skating. Life is so much bigger.”

While there are some who are true to the skateboard culture, some just aren’t convinced about how long this extreme sport’s fashion and following will be around.

“I don’t knock anybody who tries to do it (the skateboard culture), but the real hardcore people know what the deal is,” said Ryan Young, 21, from Jackson, Miss. The third-year business administration student said skateboarding is going mainstream, and just like all things it will return to the underground, “but the people who really like it will continue to follow it,” Young said.

But Young believes this exposure is positive because “eventually more black kids will pick it up as an actual hobby.”

But, according to Howell, this can also bring skaters who lack appreciation for the culture. “They think it’s cool and don’t take it serious.”

“They are doing it to follow everyone else as opposed to doing it because you like it,” Howell said.