I am SOFA KING tired you guys. Last night I went to bed at my normal hour (which, to be fair, IS EARLY. but also, I AM OLD) and I woke up around….3AM. AY. EM. And did feel like I was gonna be going back to sleep anytime soon, so I turned my TV and scrolled through the guide to see what was on and saw that Roll Bounce was on to be followed by You Got Served, which is a guilty pleasure movie for me. It’s right up there with Showgirls because honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a good ridiculous movie from time to time?

ANYWAY. I decided to watch Roll Bounce and forgot how much I really REALLY liked this movie. It’s also mildly ridiculous. Because it’s a movie about roller skating set in the 70’s. HOW CAN I NOT ENJOY THIS? ALSO. I really love roller skating. Love. Like, I own roller skates [even though it’s been a cool minute since I’ve used them]

BUT. My cousins were here a few months ago and my nephew (hi auntie’s baby!) who goes skating all the damn time invited us all out to skate with him and so off we went!

And so here we are. Is there a BHFOTD hidden in my random roller-skating rink story? Of course!

AHEM

Roller-skating was originally an entertainment for the rich. But by the end of the 1800s roller skates were being mass-produced in the US.

Roller-skating has gone through several phases of mass popularity, but it became popular again in the 1950s and then became a mass craze in the 1970s and 1980s as roller rinks became roller discos.

However, up until the 1960s most roller-skating rinks, amusement parks and swimming pools were either formally segregated or Black and Latino people were simply barred from using them. This was not confined to the Southern states where Jim Crow was in operation. In the Northern states time-honored racist practices meant amusement owners denied Black and Latino people entry into their facilities. There were always police and white racists at hand to enforce these practices. The struggle to desegregate recreation increased after the Second World War.

The campaigns took many different forms: the civil rights organization the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the US Communist Party (CPUSA) used a combination of pickets, boycotts and legal measures to challenge segregation.

In 1938 the CPUSA organized an interracial campaign to desegregate a roller-skating rink in Brooklyn. The following year black and white catering workers’ union members in New York threatened to take the Mecca Roller Skating Palace to court when it wouldn’t sell tickets to their Black members. The management backed down and the victory was celebrated with a mass integrated roller-skate party at the Mecca. [ALL SKATE!!]

In 1942 CORE – the Congress of Racial Equality – was launched. One of its first targets was the aptly named White City roller-skating park in Chicago. When CORE’s legal challenge failed it changed tactics and organized direct action against the rink.

CORE also developed the tactic of the “stand in” – blocking the entrances so nobody could get in. The protests went on for several months and a number of activists were arrested. But they did manage to cut the attendance down by 50% – and the White City management was forced to desegregate the rink.

From the opening shots of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the battles to desegregate roller-skating rinks and amusement parks played an important if unrecognized role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Random fun fact!

The birth of hip hop was influenced by skating rinks. Rinks would allow dancing and skating as they provided a space for artists that found it hard to showcase their new style of Black music. Before the rest of the world knew who they were, the pioneers of rap, including Wu-Tang (see? Wu-Tang really is for the kids!), Queen Latifah, and N.W.A., got their starts performing in rinks.

The environment was so pivotal for black youth and music that gangs would call truces for skate venues [INSIDE. Please leave in an expeditious manner at the end of the night lest you get caught in the crossfire. OR SO I HEARD]

 

:::closes history book:::

I honestly had NO idea where I was going with this when I started this fact. And I had NO IDEA about this. The best part about digging up random things to talk to y’all about is the random things I learn when I’m doin’ it.

Anyways. That’s it. That’s my time to tell you about black stuff and black people. Tomorrow will be March and I’ll still be black which is why you’ll still get BHFOTD whenever I feel like it, or have time, or just wanna brag on black folks. Hope you enjoyed this little stroll into black excellence.

As always, anytime you’re feeling impatient for some black history knowledge stuff, google is free as fuck.

OH: One last thing! IF you are like me and just randomly curious about black culture and roller-skating shit, HBO has a documentary called United Skates. It’s On Demand!

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