Uncovering Roller Skating’s Black History and Black Women’s Claim on the Nostalgic Pastime
Roller skating is yet another recreational sport with rich cultural ties to Black culture. When compared to the other American sports out there, roller skating has earned its place as one of the most inclusive for both women and men. Historically, the rinks are where Black women and men could go to express themselves through skate, dance, and even peaceful protests.
Black roller skating culture welcomed Black joy, empowerment, and freedom, but this doesn’t come with a complicated history that often goes overlooked—especially since roller skating’s recent resurgence. Though TikTok may paint roller skating as a trendy pastime without explaining its cultural reference or meaning, the sport is so much more than that to the Black community.
Skating rinks were the sites of sit-ins in the 50s and 60s. And hip hop artists like Salt-N-Pepa and N.W.A. even performed their sets at rinks when they were turned away elsewhere. History proves that even when prejudice and racism are imposed upon a sacred space in Black culture, we’re still able to rise and create magic in any space collectively.
For Black women, skating on and off the rink gives us inherent permission to express ourselves and take up space without guilt. And this feeling of freedom can be attributed to roller skating’s roots in Black culture that blossomed during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Despite the discrimination Black women and men faced at the time, they skated on.
Roller skating was and is an outlet that allows Black people to take refuge in leisure, which is something that can feel like a rare luxury. But today, if you search the words roller skating on apps like TikTok or even Google, you’ll see stories and visuals of Black women experiencing joy to full effect on their skates. Women are creating their own roller skate brands and event companies, spreading awareness about the legacy of roller skating in Black culture, and building community spaces for people like them.
The link between Black culture and roller skating will always remain due to its legacy of community and its painful history of segregation and policing of roller skating rinks. And people are glad to tell you about it. If you ask Black skaters now, they’ll likely tell you that the sport was “never dead.” You may just have to look a little harder to find a rink or find meetups, but Black skaters are still creating their communities through skating, and it looks like Black women are at the forefront.
Looking for your roller skating crew?
We’re still out here, and you can experience community, fun, and fitness too with The Rockstar Rollerskating Crew, hosted by myself, DJ Shelly Rockstar! Roller skating isn’t dead, and we'll prove it to you. Be on the lookout for our next meet-up by signing up for our newsletter here.
If you’re planning a unique event soon in South Florida, then I’m happy to assist in that area with hosting and DJ performances! To learn more about my DJ and special event services, visit djshellyrockstar.com.