Roll, Bounce, Rock Skate. Roller skating culture is here to stay

Roller skating has become a popular option in post-pandemic activities.

Skating in Los Angeles was a requirement of my childhood. Many of us were gifted roller skates to glide through the streets with our friends. Whether they were hand-me-downs or the cheap ones where you had to wear shoes and strap them to your feet, rollerskating was unisex and definitely a warm weather staple.

Many people associate Los Angeles skating with Venice beach, but that was for the Hollywood people. We had other local beaches like Docweiler without the tourists, the overly eccentric people and the traffic. More importantly, we used the local parks that dot the city’s residential areas because most Black Angelenos did not go to the beach often, though many of us lived nearby in Watts, Compton, Inglewood and Long Beach.

Yet, having southern migrant parents, they always worried about me and my siblings getting hurt or kidnapped. That was their biggest fear as they navigated the big city. So, most of my skating days were local, like the kids on my block. Nonetheless, there were moments of extreme joy.

What we treasured were the community skating parties. At the parks and community centers, or even during block parties. Back then there were two skating rinks that Black people frequented: World on Wheels off of Pico and Skateland USA in Compton. Since I grew up in the 80s and 90s, at the height of Black gang battles and drug wars, my parents, like most, forbade me to attend skating rinks. For them, it was too dangerous. Of course, I would pout for days when my mother said “no” for the millionth time when I asked her to go to a party there.

The alternative was that I sold enough World’s Finest Chocolate during my school’s fundraiser for the end-of-the-year skate party. The janitor would turn the massive parking lot of St. Francis Cabrini into a roller skating park. He’d even map out a smaller rink for the young children.

The nuns, yes I said it, the nuns would hire a deejay and on one of the last Friday’s of school, they’d shut down studies for the day. After lunch, we would skate and eat treats until the end of school. It was there that we would try our tricks. Of course, there were the older kids who already were initiated in the complex tricks of skating culture if they were not in a corner kissing someone.

Ah yes, those are the fond days of skating for me that dried up as I got older and inline skate became the thing. Once or twice, I got into the rink. At the tourist trap, Venice beach and even Cascade when I lived in Atlanta, but skating was not my thing anymore. I was wobbly and my knees hurt. However, all of us Generation Xers and millennials who put down skates for adulting are now returning to our 8-wheel living.

Speed up to post-pandemic, I rediscovered the world of skating and the hidden history of it. I found out in 2020, as I weighed my options of getting back into shape after months of great wine and movie binges, that during the quarantine, skate-culture was alive and thriving. With the documentary, United Skates, it showed how African American skate culture intersected with Civil Rights. Little did I know that rollerskating rinks played an important part in maintaining a de facto racial segregation today. Yet and still, Black folk are carving out their own spaces and events.

Often called Adult Night, soul night or something that indicates Black-artists’ music will be played at the roller skating rink, these evening skate jaunts spin r&b, hip hop and soul music for the crowd that grooves as they glide. On those nights, you’ll see everything from hand stands to splits to collective two-steps. With the skating come clothes and special skating boots that take me back to my childhood. Plus, I am happy that inlines are being leveled out. I need my four wheels and a really great after skate rubbing oil for my knees.

But I am not the only one who is back in the rink. Who knew that the flamboyant, highly decorated boxing champion, Floyd Mayweather, goes from the boxing ring to the roller derby? So much so, he bought Crystal Palace, the rink he frequents in Las Vegas. Renaming the rink to Skate Rock City, the Detroit native carried his roller skating roots to the west.

Here are some skating options to get moving (when you see the asterisk * that means it is Black owned).

*RollerCade in partnership with Rollout Detroit in the Bricktown District | Monroe Midway , 32 Monroe St, Detroit, MI 48226 | Tel. (313) 736-0832

*Skate Rock City | 4680 Boulder Highway, Los Vegas, NV | Tel. 702-458-7107

*Cascade Skating Rink | 3335 M.L.K.Jr. Dr., Atlanta GA | Tel.  404-996-0078 

*Houston Just Rolling | 7505 S. Sam Houston Parkway East #B, Houston, Texas  | Tel. 713-991-0284

Branch Brook Park | Clifton Avenue, 7th Ave, Newark, NJ | 973-482-8900

Roller Nation | 117 Bruce Grove, London | Tel: 020 7720 9140

Brooklyn Bridge Park Roller Skating | Pier 2 Roller Rink Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY | Tel. 718-300-2401 

Skateland Roller Skating | 3902 N. Glen Arm Rd., Indianapolis, 46254 Indianapolis, Indiana | Tel. 317-291-6795 

Skate Town USA (formerly, The Skate Machine) | 13831 Longview St, Houston, TX | Tel. 713-232-9114

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Roller Skating and Bowling Center | 1219 W 76th St, Chicago, IL 60620, United States 312-747-2602

SpinNations Skating Center | 8345 Congress St. Port Richey, FL | Tel. 727-808-3402

Northland Rink | 22311 West 8 Mile Road, Detroit, MI | Tel. (313) 535-1666

Dreamland Skate Center | 5672 Three Notch Road. Mobile, Al 36619 

Millennium Skate World | 1900 Carman Street Camden, NJ | Tel. 856-757-9460

Skate Zone 71 | 4900 Evanswood Dr Columbus, OH | Tel. 614-846-5627

Laham Skating Center | 9901 Lanham Severn Road Lanham, MD 20706 | Tel. (301) 577-1733

The Arena Roller Skating Rink | Xtreme Action Park in Fort Lauderdale | 300 Powerline Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL  | Tel. (954) 491-6265

Pop Ups + Meetups

African American Skate Museum – New York 

SB Rollers | Santa Barbara, CA

Skaterobics | New York

Screamin’ Wheels and Blades | Charlotte, NC

Kaia Shivers covers news, features and the diaspora.

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