This Skateboard School Is Keeping Kids Out of Trouble in Brownsville

For this week's Mahal, I checked out the Summer Skateboarding Program at Mt. Ollie Baptists Church in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The program is a result of a collaboration between the Harold Hunter Foundation and Airwalk. Through the program, skateboarders...

Taji Ameen

For this week's Mahal, I checked out the Summer Skateboarding Program at Mt. Ollie Baptists Church in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The program is a a collaborative effort between the Harold Hunter Foundation and Airwalk to keep Brownsville's children away from negative influences. Through the program, skateboarders teach neighborhood kids how to skate, introducing them to a healthy hobby that can keep them away from trouble. I got to sit in on a class and speak to the program's four instructors about why they love the program.

VICE: Where are you from, and when did you begin skateboarding?
Justin Kinard: I'm from Bedstuy, Brooklyn. I started skating when I was about 16 years old.
Timothy Lord: I am from Canarsie, Brooklyn. I got into skateboarding because of my older brother who got a board from my mother.
Wade Yates: I'm from Brownsville, Brooklyn. I began skateboarding because of [skateboarding] video games. What really influenced me was when I lived in Orlando Florida for two years. I was about 13 or 14, and I saw a few Spanish kids in my apartment complex with skateboards. They all bought boards and started skating, and I really wanted to try it. Once I moved back to NYC, I was 16 and was into basketball. At 17, my friend pulled out a board to fool around with, and I was like, That's it I'm getting one, and now we are here.
Dominique Blackman: I'm from Far Rockaway, Queens. My native country is Guyana, and I came to the US when I was seven years old. My cousin had two video games that we would play everyday. I always wanted to skate, but it was never in reach for me, so I played football instead. When I was 12 or so, my brother's friend let us borrow a video game, and it re-sparked that want for skateboarding. 

What would your life would be like without skateboarding?
Justin: I tend to think my life would be a lot more depressing. I have the friends I have now because of skateboarding. I have the jobs I have now because of skateboarding. The only reason you're even interested in interviewing me is directly or indirectly because of skateboarding. My life without skateboarding? As boundless as my imagination is, I can't wrap my head around that.
Timothy: If I wasn't introduced to skateboarding, I probably would've been playing basketball.
Wade: Either being in a gang, working at [a big box store], or in the army.
Dominique: My life would have been pretty different if I never skated. I most likely would have still been playing football or basketball, but I'm sure I would have been in trouble most of the time, because most of my teammates turned out to be gang members. I'm grateful that skateboarding pulled me away from all of that. 

What has it been like to spread your knowledge about skateboarding to the community of Brownsville?
Timothy: Spreading my knowledge about skateboarding to the community of Brownsville has been amazing, because I feel it could help keep kids out of trouble with gangs.
Wade: It means a lot more to me than people think. I was born and raised in Brownsville. Growing up all you know about is rap, basketball, and being in a gang. I feel like I'm opening their minds to more possibilities.
Dominique: It has been great teaching the kids how to skate period, but to be able to teach kids in Brownsville is awesome. 

How have the kids progressed through the program?
Timothy: I have the seen the kids progress a lot from there riding around, learning how to tic-tac, and more!
Wade: I've taught kids how to skate for About two years with my local skate shop. So, I already knew how to teach kids how to skate. What made it different is these kids never thought of skateboarding until we threw one in their face to try it out. Going from not being able to even step on a board to flying down the park and doing tick-tacs around me and dodging each other at full speed. It's a lot for a kid to process when learning, and you always have to be repetitive and exaggerate movements for them to understand some things. If you've never taught anyone how to skate, the number one thing to know is that with kids it's all about patience.

What has been your favorite moment been so far?
Justin: My favorite moments has to have been when one of the kids said I was strict. Simply because the thought of myself as a disciplinarian is amusing.
Timothy: So far my favorite moment has been seeing the kids so excited and eager to skateboard. I hope that the kids who were apart of the HHF Brownsville skate clinics will spread what they've learned with other kids, as well as continue their progression in skateboarding.
Wade: I wouldn't say it's my favorite moment, but some of the kids like skating so much they actually start to cry because they have to stop. It sucks that they cry, but it's also a good thing, because it shows how much interest they have in skateboarding.
Dominique: The kids have just been progressing really fast; most of them can ollie after only skating for 5 weeks. That's pretty good. 


Previously - George Gage's Cult Classic 'Skateboard' Is Comic to BAMcinématek