My mother and Sk8ter Mom are roughly the same age. While my mother complains about walking more than a couple of blocks, Sk8ter Mom has spent the past year and a half learning how to skate, meeting the kids who skate in downtown Silver Spring and, in the process, becoming the community's leading advocate for skating.
The kids who skate in Silver Spring are emblematic of the area's changing demographics. Many of them are minorities. Some come from disadvantaged families. And in an area where a two-bedroom apartment can rent for $2,900 a month, many of them live with their families well outside of Downtown. They come from White Oak, Long Branch, Langley Park and beyond. And, as Sk8ter Mom points out, they feel skateboarding isn't just a way to pass the time:
"I've talked to quite a few who rarely, if ever, attended summer camps or other programs outside of school. I've talked to many kids who feel like skateboarding has saved their lives, and that if it weren't for skating, their lives would have taken a different turn. This is why so many of our kids are so passionate about skating. And this is why we should not only allow kids to skate — but encourage them to."
Despite this, these kids are repeatedly hassled by shopkeepers, security guards and even police officers in Silver Spring, chased out of spaces that weren't designed for skating but wouldn't get used otherwise. It's easy to write them off because of the way they dress or look or act, which makes them one of the least-represented communities in Silver Spring.
That's why someone like Sk8ter Mom has stepped in to advocate for them. She isn't just a well-meaning adult - she skates with them, making her a sort of liaison between them and the powers-that-be who won't listen to someone under 30.
I've written about skating issues a few times in the past year. But I wouldn't have met a single one of the kids who skates in Downtown Silver Spring, nor would I have learned about Skaters for Public Skateparks without talking to Sk8ter Mom or reading her blog, Silver Spring Skateboarding.
The tireless Montgomery County planners who write The Straight Line gave me credit for "connecting the Silver Spring skater kids to the planning process" after last month's blogger panel discussion - but in fact, it was Sk8ter Mom who connected ME to the planning process. (Hopefully, they're already correcting this.)
I hope that if I've done anything, it's been connecting You, The Reader to the skater community in Silver Spring by raising awareness of the issues at hand. I haven't brought these kids to the table. But hopefully, I'm encouraging you to come to the table as well.