If Cities Could Dance

S4 E2 | FULL EPISODE

How Black Roller Skaters Carry Forward LA's Iconic Scene

In LA, jam skaters draw from a community and culture built over generations at Venice Beach and at rinks across the city. Over the past year, roller skating hit the mainstream as a safe and relatively accessible pandemic-era pastime. Skates were sold out for months, and skaters became major influencers on Instagram and TikTok. But longtime skaters are quick to remind everyone: This isn’t a fad.

AIRED: October 05, 2021 | 0:06:33
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TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I'm Alicia Reason, here in Los Angeles,

the roller skating capital of the world,

with "If Cities Could Dance."

Let's keep rolling!

(chilled out stylish trance music)

Roller skating to me is a chance to freely express myself

without any distractions from the outside world.

It's the truest form of me.

- [Kamry] It gives us a freedom to do what we want

and gain a sense of artistic liberation.

And we have to acknowledge the history

and the power that comes with roller skating.

(chilled out stylish trance music)

- [Raquel] This is nothing new.

This is our culture.

This is our lifestyle, passed down in generations.

(Funky upbeat percussion music)

(R&B soulful music)

- [Alicia] The vibes in Venice are just very creative.

L.A. is a lot of opportunities.

You just never know who's watching.

People come from all over the world.

They see these YouTube videos, shows on TV or whatever.

(R&B soulful music)

- [Kamry] I haven't been around in the skate community

as long as a lot of other skaters have.

But to me jam skating is you have more freedom

to express yourself.

There's not that many rules when it comes to jam skating.

It's just jammin', you know?

I got more into roller skating when I lived in Seattle.

There wasn't a ton of Black people,

so when I moved to LA two years ago

that's when I really started dabbling in it.

I started to skate during a time of racial reconciliation.

I realized that there needed to be not only a safe space

for Black and Brown women to learn roller skating

but also to thrive in the field of roller skating.

We need to have a place where we can shine light

on all the talent that's happening around us.

(R&B with intoxicating synth music)

- [Alicia] I grew up skating,

so I started when I was eight years old at Detroit Roller Rink.

The most dancing they would do on skates

is like ballroom hustle.

I moved out to California.

I saw that there was a community

at Venice Beach for skating.

And then when I saw them infusing dancing and skating,

this is my world right here.

(R&B lofi smooth music)

I have to give it up for the OGs.

They brought essentially break dancing on skates.

People would really crowd around them

and were just really fan boy and fan girling around them,

allowing for them to freely express themselves.

They were just like one of a kind.

(R&B lofi smooth music)

Generation after generation just comes in

and learns from them.

They've just set the tone.

(Hiphop with 80's synth music)

Mar Vista, the reason why we're skating there

is because our floor at Venice

is currently under construction.

It has become well known

because of Instagram's postings and all of that.

It's like the staple right now for pandemic skating.

(Hiphop with 80's synth music)

(Contemporary R&B Hiphop music)

- [Raquel] In a skating rink, it's a huge difference.

(laughs)

The wood floors, it's just a whole different vibe.

It's more like family oriented.

It's more like a tight knit community.

We do a lot of trios, the circle, like the unity roll.

It started with my grandmother, just went down generations,

my immediate family and my four kids.

I started them at three.

Three sounds early, but that's not even that early.

My cousin, her baby is a year, and she's in skates.

(Laid back and groovy funk music)

We're known for like sliding.

We are like really international.

We pick up a lot of different moves from all over.

The DJs are very important.

You just need that certain sound, that certain beat.

(Laid back and groovy funk music)

Skate Depot was my home rink.

They closed in 2014.

That's where I grew up.

They tore everything down.

You wouldn't even recognize it.

World on Wheels is a legendary landmark in California.

My cousin Nip was able to help reopen the establishment,

but during this pandemic they couldn't make it.

I was kind of losing it.

I was skating inside the house, and I need to do something.

That's when I created my Roxy's Backyard Boogie.

I invited small businesses also

to come out and showcase their work.

I turned that negative into a positive

by creating this Boogie

and bringing all genres of skaters together.

- [Kamry] Even though the pandemic has been horrible,

roller skating now encourages us to take up any space.

Roller skating is resistance,

because it's creating joy and peace.

As long as we have like our wheels,

we still feel like a sense of strength and empowerment.

- [Alicia] Thanks for watching, everyone.

Be sure to check out more episodes

of "If Cities Could Dance" and keep rolling!

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