If there’s one thing that comes to mind when talking about roller derby, it’s that we’re unapologetic about celebrating ourselves for who we are.
Our community is rife with people who deeply value belonging to a group that likes them for who they are, and for that I am deeply grateful.
Yet as our numbers grow, the representation of people of color (POC) involved in the sport seems to stay the same; it’s a conversation that is not yet obvious but should be happening. After talking to other POC about their derby experience, I knew there was something more to it and I wanted to hear more stories.
My adventures in roller derby have contributed to asserting my identity as a Latina. For years in the wider, non-derby world I’ve been judged for not fitting a stereotype of what I “should” act or look like.
Derby helped discover my voice and confidence in challenging those restrictive stereotypes.
I also realized that the under-representation of POC in roller derby was something that many people didn’t want to talk about, and the ones that did had very relevant stories or opinions but didn’t widely share them. It felt like celebrating yourself as you are and being a POC in derby was uncharted territory, and something that shouldn’t just exist in the minds of the people that were directly affected by it.
My league, the Garden State Rollergirls, practice in Newark, NJ at an urban rink right in the heart of the city that’s the home of super popular dance skate nights. At 9pm the skate sessions end and the league takes their place on the wooden rink.
Like clockwork, people ask who we are and what we’re doing. I’ve overheard a lot of shocked reactions when they see some of my POC teammates, confused that a woman of color (WOC) can be found among the ranks of what’s been described as a bunch of “crazy white girls”.
We’re all familiar with the Vagine Regime, the brilliant network of queer derby folk and their friends and allies. In my mind it was not too far off to think that a network for POC in derby would also be accepted and work to create similar goals.
Inspired, I created Shades of Skate as a way to promote the racial and ethnic diversity of people involved in roller derby. And to support other skaters in their flat/banked track journey.
We’re here to challenge the perception of what a POC should and shouldn’t be and do. To inspire more people from our communities to not be deterred from joining, and to have fun while we do it.
So what’s next? Members! We want you. If you’re a POC in roller derby, come join us.
Also, I imagine Team Color Scheme to be the name of a future pick up team organized under Shades of Skate. But until then we’ll be meeting up, taking pictures and starting the conversation.
Send us your stories and photos over at the Shades of Skate Facebook page, and let us know what kinds of things you think can be done to increase diversity or even everyday awesome moments on the track.
My hope is that Shades of Skate can be a resource for everyone, and I hope you think so too!