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The Overlooked History of Black Skate Culture

Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler have released a full length documentary about skate culture in African American communities across the country. After coming across a small group of skaters in Central park six years ago, their moves so artistic, so swift, so great they deserved to be filmed. But at the time the filmmakers weren’t aware of how deep the skating world went, until the time they got an invite by the community.

The film displays scenes full of vibrant styles, personal expression, beauty, athleticism and a sense of family. The fascinating film celebrates skating culture and seeks to inspire its preservation. One of the films characters, Reverend Koen, says, “That was the idea of roller skating, putting one foot past the other to get somewhere.”

Winkler and Brown talked to vice to explain the experience of making the film, the skating culture and more. The film was executive produced by John Legend and will be airing on HBO next Monday.

Talking about when and how the two filmmakers came to the decision of creating the full length documentary, Brown said, “When we started filming the Central Park skaters in New York maybe six years ago, we thought they were the last of the roller skaters. We met two African American skaters who said skating isn’t dead, it’s just underground. We followed them overnight on a bus to a skate party in Richmond, Virginia and walked into this world. At first we backed away from telling the story because we’re not from the community. But they kept bringing us back to tell it. We feel very privileged and felt a huge responsibility to tell it right.”

Winkler said that one of the things they hoped to accomplish with the film was to raise awareness. Winkler said it is meant to celebrate the skating culture, while highlighting some hard hitting issues such as why the community is still stereotyped and segregated across the country.

And explaining the process of making the film, Winkler said, “It is incredibly important to us that films be made by and for the communities they’re about. When Tina and I first were welcomed into this world, we put our cameras down and said this is not our story to tell. I’m from Hawaii, Tina’s from Australia. We hoped somebody else told this story because it’s very special and unique. The skaters said no, we really want you. The next one’s gonna be in Chicago, we want you to come. If we made the film, it had to be with the skaters every step of the way, by them, for them. Everywhere we went, every city we shot in, a skater picked us up from the airport, housed us, and brought us into their rink. We crafted this story by listening: it was theirs to tell. ”

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