The roller skaters made their way to the skating floor, showcasing tricks, splits, footwork and dance moves. They rolled with ease as if pulling off stunts on four wheels was like breathing. It just came naturally.
"See we all skate different," said Kamena Lee, who has traveled as far as London to meet up with roller skaters. "I'm from Michigan so I skate smooth but people from Chicago do more tricks."
Each year roller skaters came from all over the nation to meet up in Charlotte, NC, to hit the rink for an annual conference. In 2012, the event had grown so large that organizers had to secure two roller skating rinks and separate skaters by age groups.
Like Lee, I grew up rolling skating too. As early as elementary school, parents would introduce their children to roller skates in Flint, Mich. It was commonplace for elementary schools to open up gyms over the weekend for roller skating and for families to head to local skating rinks to spend time together. But what I didn't know is that this love for roller skating was embedded in Black culture throughout the nation. The crowd in Charlotte showed a side of skate life that I never knew existed.
There were hundreds of roller skaters packed into the skating rink. They were mostly Black and would skate until early morning, later leaving with their respective crews to head to the closest Waffle House for breakfast before making their way to homes and hotels to crash before the next skating event that Saturday night.
This will be one of many stories in our Black Like Us series, including written content, video storytelling, photography and interactive graphics that help us explore Black culture in America. Despite national news, Black America is diverse. They ski, hunt, collect dolls, have motorcycle clubs, roller skate, and build communities. Black Like Us will take a closer look at those stories as we travel across the country, showing the diversity within the Black community through thought-provoking commentary and news stories from a variety of perspectives.
Throughout the series, I will travel with my two Shih Tzus, Chance and Carter to bring weekly content highlighting those stories, including in-depth pieces taking readers a little deeper into Black culture in America. We will also have fun and engaging behind-the-scenes commentary, interviews and special guests.
Of course, we can't make this journey across the nation alone. It's impossible to know of every Black community or person defying stereotypes, redefining themselves, scaling mountains, breaking barriers, or going against the norm.
So, we want to encourage you to help us decide where we will head next. If you know someone who is Black that is looking at the world through a different lens, tell us about them. Email Jiquanda at email@example.com with your stories to see if your community will be our next stop.
About Jiquanda Johnson
Jiquanda Johnson is an Emmy-winning journalist based in Flint, Mich., with more than 20 years of experience in print, television and digital media.
She has worked for The Detroit News, NBC25, Fox and MLive Media Group/The Flint Journal, where she covered the city of Flint. As a reporter covering Flint for MLive, Jiquanda discovered that the community needed a news publication focused only on Flint, Mich. She launched Flint Beat on March 13, 2017, to fill that need. Her work can be found in National Geographic, The Guardian, Belt Magazine, FRONTLINE and Spotlight on Poverty. She has also served on panels focused on local journalism in underserved and marginalized communities and discussions related to media startups for many events and organizations, including The Aspen Institute, LION Publishers, Solutions Journalism Network, the National Association of Black Journalists, Online News Association, ONA Local, the John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford's journalism series, the Chautauqua Institute, and the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Her efforts in Flint also include launching News Movement, a youth journalism program that teaches Flint-area youth various newsroom skills, including writing, graphic design, photography, and videography.
She serves on boards for LION Publishers, 20 Books Inc., and East Lansing Info, a nonprofit newsroom based in East Lansing, Mich. She also sits on the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network Committee and Community Action Council in Flint.
Jiquanda can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.