Monday, May 10, 2010

rumors of my accomplishments have been greatly exaggerated

Skaters Getting Busted
Yesterday was Mother's Day, and while hopefully y'all paid homage to your mothers, I wanted to say something about somebody else's mother, namely Sk8ter Mom.

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.


Sk8ter Mom said...

Thank you Dan.

jen said...

I agree with you about the positive influence of skateboarding. Hopefully, I'm a little bit younger than Dan's mom, but I'm old enough to be a first-hand witness to what happened when the first wave of skate punks grew up. If they are any indication, the forecast is very good.

At least in my generation, skating was associated with straight-edge culture and progressive political values. I was not a part of this culture but I know many men (unfortunately back then it was largely boys who skated) who were. They may have "lost their edge" but they have retained many of the positive values that they grew up with in the skating/straight-edge community. They are mindful of what they put into their bodies and, as a whole, are less likely than their peers to do drugs or binge drink. They tend to have a strong work ethic and a DIY mentality that motivates them to take the initiative, whether it is to start a multi-million dollar non-profit organization from scratch or remodel an old bungalow instead of buying a McMansion. They also tend to be "green", be intolerant towards intolerance, favor economic justice, etc... in short they are, in my view, the kind of men we should be glad to have in our community.

In fact, they often hold these values in direct contrast to the prevailing social climate in their hometowns -- that is, because of skateboarding they avoided the small town provincialism or rich suburb materialism that they grew up surrounded by. You could argue that I have it backwards - that skateboarding didn't make them different, rather their differences are what made them become skateboarders. But it's a chicken and egg sort of thing, because if not for the outlet and a sense of community that skateboarding (and hardcore music) gave them, I really think their teenage rebellion would have been channeled in a much more negative direction.

I don't know whether today's skating culture is inculcating those positive values in kids, but my personal experience with grown-up skate punks is enough to convince me that skateboarding is at least potentially a powerfully positive influence on today's kids.

Sk8ter Mom said...

I was just contacted by Park & Planning, who acknowledged that their blog is incorrect, but said my name was never mentioned because of "space constraints". And they refused to correct their blog.