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Black History is Skate History

Curated from my 2019 Instagram series – @WCrollerskate

This #BlackHistoryMonth we’ll be taking a look at the African-American pioneers and champions of modern popular skating! These are the people that brought the style and the flavor to traditional roller skating, and made it COOL. As roller skate dancing regains popularity, it’s important to honor its cultural origins and to share these stories as they are often overlooked by the media. Here are a few notable names and faces as a starting point. (Full descriptions after the photo gallery.)

Bill “Jamma” Butler
This is no ordinary skater. When people were rolling to organ music in the 40’s, Bill Butler is the man that brought the funk and jazz to skating in Detroit and then most famously in New York. His artistry, skill and style inspired many of the popular incarnations of roller skate dance that exist today.

Michael Johnson
A protege of Bill Butler and a star in his own right. The late Michael Johnson is probably best known for being Bow Wow’s skate double in “Roll Bounce.” Spend some time on YouTube searching for some of his performances, you won’t be sorry.

Calvin Small – Chicago
He is one of the original creators of the moves and style that would come to be known as the popular “JB Style”

Empire Roller Rink, Brooklyn, NewYork
Famously known as the birthplace of “Roller Disco.” The pioneers of the region’s skate style would change the focus of the music from the melody, to the GROOVE. Dancing on skates would never be the same! Unfortunately, Empire closed it’s doors after 66 years in 2007 and the building now sits dormant as a storage facility.

Edna Davoll – East Coast Matriarch
Edna Davoll caught the attention of the media after she went viral roller skating on her 81st birthday, but she has been a main staple of the East Coast skate community for decades. Known as the matriarch of the East Coast skate community, Edna started skating at 45 and is still rolling strong into her 80’s! She continues to inspire us all!

“Rockin” Richard Houston
A world-renowned skater, retired postman and Air Force vet out of Detroit. He just released a book entitled “The Motown Sound on Wheels”, chronicling the pioneering skate community and his life in the rinks of Detroit and beyond. “Rockin” Richard Houston gave the Gong Show a taste of that #Detroit seasoning back in the 1970’s. Watch Richard dazzle the judges to unanimous perfect 10 scores!

David Miles Jr. – San Francisco’s Godfather of Roller Skating
While rinks are closing down across America, San Francisco’s Godfather of Skate, David Miles Jr. finds new ways to bring skating to the people. Whether indoors or outdoors, D has worked tirelessly with local community leaders for 40 years to make sure skaters have a place to skate and a funky good time doing it!

Before the Church of 8 Wheels dominated the San Francisco weekend nightlife, David Miles was a force for skaters outdoors at Golden Gate Park, heading up the Skate Patrol to help others. He also stood up to local government when the community tried to push skaters out and tried to regulate their music, etc. He helped get smooth, recreational pavement installed and a safe, traffic-free environment for skaters. Although we have lost many of our rinks, San Francisco skaters can still enjoy a healthy lifestyle through roller skating thanks to the tireless advocacy work of David Miles Jr.

DJ “Big Bob” Clayton
New York’s legendary skate DJ. Starting in 1980, Clayton would provide the groove for thousands of roller skaters at Empire until its closure in 2007. Clayton still DJ’s for adult skate jams across the country. One of the best to EVER do it.

Skateland U.S.A. Compton
The roller rink that helped launched the careers of legendary R&B/Hip-Hop acts like N.W.A., Eric B and Rakim, Queen Latifah, and New Edition. Skateland USA Compton was a refuge for many young people as well as an important concert venue opportunity for hip-hop when other venues pushed it away.

READ: The Roller Rink Origins of N.W.A. – New York Times, August, 2015

Richard Humphrey “Rollerdance Man”
Known as the “Father of Rollerdance.” Richard is a renowned instructor, performer and inventor, featured on TV and in print. Richard choreographed many of the classic line dance steps that are still popular today. He has wowed thousands of spectators in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park with his original skate crew, The Golden Rollers and even by himself still today!! He also partnered with Riedell to create the innovative “No Strings Attached” skate boot. He continues to teach weekly classes in San Francisco.

Joi Loftin “Joi’s Skate-a-Thon”
If you’ve been roller skating for long, you know that the “Super Bowl” of annual skate parties is “Joi’s Skate-a-thon” in Atlanta, Georgia. Held annually since 1995, (with the exception of 2020, due to Co-vid19) Skate-a-thon is the place to be to see the best roller skaters from all over the world! I don’t know the entire origin story of this incredible and historic event, but Joi is included here as a skate legend because the work it takes to put this event on year after year is nothing short of super-heroic, and the experiences I’ve had there are priceless. Visit: www.joisk8athon.com

Caught on Camera!

Photo: Randy Wong

Most of the content on my pages focuses on the talented skaters I admire from our skating community. I’m usually behind the camera, but on occasion I get caught out in the wild myself!

Since I haven’t been skating much while I’ve been rehabilitating my neck, I thought I would compile some of those old clips together for fun! They are taken from around 2014 – 2019.

People sometimes ask me to teach them my “moves,” but the truth is, the MUSIC tells my feet what to do. You can definitely see that in these clips.

#ProTip Learn the fundamentals then FEEL what your body wants to do with it. ❤️🎶❤️🎶

Enjoy these silly moments of showboating fun! 😂😂😂

Support our Skate DJs

On occasion, Bandcamp.com hosts #BandcampFriday – a day where they will waive its revenue share so 100% of proceeds will go to independent artists, including our skate DJ’s who have been impacted by the cancellation of skate jams due to Corona virus.

Greg Harris "Djay Taz" and DJ Joe Bowen rockin the annual 2Raw Skate Jam in Nor Cal.
Greg Harris “Djay Taz” and DJ Joe Bowen rockin the annual 2Raw Skate Jam in Nor Cal.

Check out this short list of phenomenal DJs who have mix tapes available to keep you rolling!!

Black Roller Skating Appreciation Post

The recent rash of headlines touting the new “TikTok roller skating trend” reminded me a lot about why I started my website and social media pages back in 2014.

I was struck by how often media coverage on roller skating was centered around white women in some strange, exclusionary form of “girl power.” I had been an avid roller skater for nearly 5 years by then. Although I am white, I didn’t look like that, and neither did the people I skated with. My intention was to use my privilege to amplify those who weren’t being seen.

Many of these articles centered skating around white influencers and erased the African-American communities that have been nurturing and elevating this activity for decades. 

On top of that, some were quick to capitalize; positioning themselves as the gatekeepers of some skating “revival.” Never turning down the spotlight, they could be seen taking credit for, and profiting from, dances and skills they took from the culture, but did not create.

Both types of passive and active whitewashing send the unfortunate message that black skaters and their beloved activity didn’t really matter until white people discovered it. It also prevents black talent from receiving any media recognition or compensation.

Despite black skaters’ apparent erasure from the press, they have had some of the most significant impact on our culture.

Even the film makers of the 2018 HBO documentary “United Skates” embarked on their original journey thinking that roller skating was dying off with the last of the original New York “roller disco” skaters. They soon learned that there was a whole vibrant movement of adult roller skating they’d never heard of. To their credit, they worked tirelessly with those skaters for over 5 years to get their story told on a bigger scale.

Prior to that, Tyrone Dixon released his independent documentary, “8 Wheels and some Soul Brotha Music” in 2004 to critical acclaim. Without these films, the media has virtually ignored black roller skating culture.

In an attempt to course correct, some authors have recently taken up the cause to remind people how the roots of modern skating stem from the civil rights movement. While skating does indeed bears roots in the struggle of racism, we must not overlook the positive and joyful contributions the black community has made to modern skating culture.

When the media continues to portray skaters as majority white, retro, eye candy, or conversely when black skaters are only represented by their racial trauma, they are missing out on the cutting edge of music, dance, fashion, style, etc.

This is a vibrant and important culture still fighting racist policies, continued gentrification, and historical erasure. Black skaters deserve to have their contributions acknowledged, respected and appreciated at the forefront of cultural conversations, not as a footnote.

Quarantunes!

Whether this COVID-19 health crisis has got you skating in your kitchen or you just need some weekend cleaning music, your friendly neighborhood dee-jay “White Chocolate” has got you covered for many moods!

Check out my assortment of skate tunes, or just fun throwback jams to keep you and your family dancing!

Look for WCRollerskate on Spotify, or click the link below:
https://open.spotify.com/user/w4d60ncamp2hifffb65e65hfz?si=BGh1USIITrCcFmeelE4WGw

Motown Skate Night – March 2, 2019

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We had so much fun doing the Janet Jackson Roller Disco tribute a few years ago, the folks at The Church of 8 Wheels have graciously let me take over the booth for another great theme night! MOTOWN.
Just on the tail of #BlackHistoryMonth, we’ll be celebrating the 60 year anniversary of the Motown sound – on wheels!

Detroit is one of the original birthplaces of modern “dance skating” and is also the home of “Soul Skate,” one of the biggest, national adult skate jams.

Early Detroit skaters had to fight segregation during the civil-rights era, but once they were allowed in, they changed the game! Thanks to pioneering skaters like Bill Butler, who brought their jazz records to the rink, we have the modern flavor and styles that we all enjoy today!

Come down and enjoy 4 hours of great Motown hits plus lots of classic R&B, Soul & Funk to skate to!

Click to go to Facebook Event page

Roller Disco Party Playlist #1

Skate music has it’s own unique groove to give you that “roll, bounce” action. There’s a reason that people have been rolling to these great old school tunes for decades!

For those on Spotify, I’ve put together for you 4 hours of roller disco fun! These songs are the real deal! This is a loose recreation of one of my DJ sets at San Francisco’s Church of 8 Wheels.

For best results, let it flow. Do not shuffle!

White Chocolate’s Roller Disco Party #1 – #RollWithSoul

The Wonder Mix

Every year, the Golden Gate Park roller skaters put on a showcase filled with fun dance routines.

I was hesitant to participate this year because I had pulled a muscle, which was taking a long time to heal and I wasn’t skating at the level I wanted to be at for a “performance.”

But at the last minute, I let all that go, and decided to put 2 of my favorite things together; Janet Jackson and Wonder Woman!

Enjoy this funky mash-up!!

CREDITS:
• Song: Janet Jackson – Dammn Baby
• Wonder Woman Theme remix: Brittany Taylor https://youtu.be/h5KvCNsundA
• Addtl. Instrumental arrangement/stabs: https://www.instagram.com/mrklynik/

Special thanks to Kenny Hoff for capturing the moment!

Featured Photo: Justin Link

Janet Jackson Roller Disco Tribute

We don’t have to wait until our legends are gone to celebrate them. Janet is one of my all time favorite artists, a true inspiration. With the support of the Church of 8 Wheels, we’re going to dedicate a theme night solely to Janet!

Janet Jackson is an international mega-star but her accomplishments are actually quite underrated, and often diminished in the media in favor of newer artists for which Janet paved the way. Before Beyoncé and others, there was Janet. Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.

Janet has given us FOUR straight decades of uplifting party music as well as socially conscious music. She’s taken music video and live performances to new heights. She has created and broken numerous records for female artists. Many of them still stand today.

Please join me April 1, at San Francisco’s Church of 8 Wheels, for a celebration of Janet Jackson’s music on wheels! I can assure you, this is no April Fool’s joke!

Get the point? Good…let’s skate!

Janet Jackson Roller Disco Tribute

#JanetsLegacyMatters

Aug. 27 Michael Jackson Roller Disco

August 29th, 2016 would have marked the King of Pop’s 58th birthday.
The Church of 8 Wheels is celebrating with a special roller disco night filled with music from Michael as well as his famous musical family.

Join me, White Chocolate for a fun theme night!
Get out your best MJ moves, costumes and skate!

SATURDAY AUGUST 27, 7-11PM

AGES 18+
$10 ADMISSION | $5 SKATE RENTAL
(CASH ONLY)

Facebook Event Link

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