When I was a little girl, I thought my Aunt Linda was the coolest person I knew. And when I was about 5 years old, I was the only girl child among the aggregate of male cousins. It was the summer I turned 6 that my aunt gave me a jump rope.
In a summer, my aunt showed me how to skip rope. She stood in front of me, did like 10 jumps, and handed me the rope. “Your turn.” From there? I took me all summer to get the hand-eye-foot rhythm together enough to do it. When I got it down, that’s when I showed out! I did tricks, jump rope competitions with girls at school–and in 5th grade? I learned how to jump Double-Dutch!
Jumping rope was my introduction to how athletic I was, and to form quick friendships with the other Black girls I knew in my apartment complex and at school. The conversations went something like this:
Random girl in my complex: “Can you jump rope?”
RGIMC: “You wanna play with us?”
And it would be that easy! Jump rope culture allowed me to create a Black girl space wherever I was! This place of safety within the world around all of us. In showing my daughters how to master that hand-eye-feet combination, the tradition continues. It is a way to preserve culture, memories, and still serve as a milestone for all Black girls. Now, with the resurgence of Jump rope (especially Double Dutch!), that culture that I grew up with and tried to emulate–these everyday acrobatics and acrobats!–it makes being a Black girl that much more special.
And let’s not even talk about SKATING, FAM! Bruh!
I learned to skate when I was in like third, fourth grade. A friend of my father’s, Ms. Melanie, took me and my sister to this skating rink called Skate King. It was the coolest thing I had ever, ever seen! There were people doing tricks, skating backwards, the music was lit! It was the most culture-rich space I had ever been in!
I mean I had seen figure-skating during the Olympics, and this was the closing thing to it! But there was something so much deeper than that–I mean, it’s hard to explain to someone whom has not seen it first hand. I would see the skates that were customized, costumes, teams that would do tricks and compete, and couples with their own songs.
It was…is so beautiful!
I guess I can liken it to the Jazz Age when Lindy-hopping was everything. There is a rhythm to this being Black that allows you to create culture wherever you are! Invent what is new and familiar all at once. The cool thing about Skate Culture is how unique it is! And with the documentary United Skates it shows just how historic, athletic and DOPE this community is!
There are things that were introduced to me in my Black girlhood that I thought were common to global Black girlness! And to be a part of that, and share it with my daughters? Even more amazing! Preservation of culture is more than pictures, and memories and stories. The best preservation involves participation.
Jump rope is gotten, next is these roller skates. Being Black is lit.
[images form (1) Medium.com, (2) Vice.com]