Los Angeles, California

THE NEW FACES
OF SURFING

BLACK GIRLS
SURF INC.

Photography by Harrison Hill

In California, Black girls train to reach their professional surfing dreams with a Hawaiian native who has vowed to make a way for them.

Bethune-Cookman University

Gainesville, Florida

DANCE GROUPS
MOVE AS ONE

ALPHA PHI ALPHA
STEP TEAM

INFAMOUS
DIAMONDS DANCE

SMOOTH FLAVA
LINE DANCE

Photography by Willie J. Allen Jr.

In Gainesville, Florida, Greek-letter organizations compete in a step show; young majorettes learn leadership and gain confidence; a line dance chapter practices outdoors, welcoming all comers.

Austin, Texas

A CIRCUS IN
THE TEXAS SKY

WAZZYCIRCUS
SKYDIVING

Photography by Reginald Thomas II

El Paso skydiving instructor Waz Choudhry and his WazzyCircus team dedicate their lives to introducing people to their love of jumping – out of planes and in wind tunnels.

Waterbury, Connecticut

Los Angeles, California

SUMMER OF
SKATE DANCING

ADULT NIGHT AT
ROLLER MAGIC

VENICE SKATE
DANCE PLAZA

Photography by Anthony Geathers, Tara Pixley

Styles are different, depending on the coast, but the goal of roller skate dancing is the same: Express yourself, feel the beat and become one with the music.

Birmingham, Alabama

LEGION FIELD
KICKBALL LEAGUE

Photography by Tamika Moore

Birmingham locals jumped at the chance to spend six weeks competing in an adults-only kickball league at one of Alabama’s most historic stadiums.

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit
Bike Culture

SOUL ROLL
CRUISERS

VELODROME
TRACK RACERS

CYCLING
ADVOCATES

Photography by Justin Milhouse

Whether they prefer customized bikes, indoor track bicycles or road bikes, Detroit cycling clubs ride with purpose.

A PHOTO SERIES ON THE BLACK EXPERIENCE
Black Gaze Logo
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New! Volume 2
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An exclusive photo portfolio that widens the lens and depicts the strength, innovation and magnificence of Black culture.

Volume 2

THE NEW FACES
OF SURFING

Photography by Harrison Hill

In California, Black girls train to reach their professional surfing dreams with a Hawaiian native who has vowed to make a way for them.

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THE NEW FACESOF SURFING
THE NEW FACES<br />OF SURFING
Volume 2

DANCE GROUPS
MOVE AS ONE

Photography by Willie J. Allen Jr.

In Gainesville, Florida, Greek-letter organizations compete in a step show; young majorettes learn leadership and gain confidence; a line dance chapter practices outdoors, welcoming all comers.

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DANCE GROUPSMOVE AS ONE
DANCE GROUPS<br />MOVE AS ONE
Volume 2

A CIRCUS IN
THE TEXAS SKY

Photography by Reginald Thomas II

El Paso skydiving instructor Waz Choudhry and his WazzyCircus team dedicate their lives to introducing people to their love of jumping – out of planes and in wind tunnels.

Scroll
A CIRCUS INTHE TEXAS SKY
A CIRCUS IN<br/>THE TEXAS SKY
Volume 1

SUMMER OF
SKATE DANCING

Photography by Anthony Geathers, Tara Pixley

Styles are different, depending on the coast, but the goal of roller skate dancing is the same: Express yourself, feel the beat and become one with the music.

Scroll
SUMMER OFSKATE DANCING
SUMMER OF<br />SKATE DANCING
Volume 1

LEGION FIELD
KICKBALL LEAGUE

Photography by Tamika Moore

Birmingham locals jumped at the chance to spend six weeks competing in an adults-only kickball league at one of Alabama’s most historic stadiums.

Scroll
LEGION FIELDKICKBALL LEAGUE
LEGION FIELD<br />KICKBALL LEAGUE
Volume 1

Detroit
Bike Culture

Photography by Justin Milhouse

Whether they prefer customized bikes, indoor track bicycles or road bikes, Detroit cycling clubs ride with purpose.

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DetroitBike Culture
Detroit<br />Bike Culture

Story decorationThe PhotographersStory decoration

Harrison Hill

“I hope this photo essay shows a unique perspective of life, one that is centered around love, family and surfing.”

Harrison Hill,

Harrison Hill is a visual journalist based in Los Angeles. Born in Overland Park, Kansas, he studied photojournalism and French at Western Kentucky University. After college, he lived in the south of France before moving back to America and starting his first job as a photo and video journalist at USA Today. He produced projects including the 2022 Games in Beijing and the 94th Academy Awards while with USA Today. He recently joined The New York Times as a digital picture editor. Outside of work, Harrison spends most of his time camping and exploring the western United States.

Willie J. Allen Jr.

“I hope that the fun they had and skill of the dance groups comes through in my work.”

Willie J. Allen Jr.,

Willie J. Allen Jr. is an internationally award-winning photojournalist, videographer, former staff photographer at the Tampa Bay Times and now staff photographer at the Orlando Sentinel. His desire to make a difference is revealed by the stories he tells with his cameras. Allen creates inclusive stories by amplifying diverse voices and capturing humanity with respect, sensitivity and honesty.

Reginald Thomas II

“The not-so-thrilling parts before or after whatever anyone does is where the joy is a lot of times.”

Reginald Thomas II,

Reginald Thomas II is an editorial and commercial photographer based in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves as official team photographer for the San Antonio Spurs. A native of Baltimore, Thomas is inspired by the work of Roy DeCarava, Walter Iooss, Spike Lee and Bradford Young and hopes to one day start a photography and film program for kids in his hometown.

Anthony Geathers

“Seeing lovers and lifelong friends enjoy each other, enjoy the music and skate/break-dance on the floor gave me the inspiration to photograph it all.”

Anthony Geathers,

Brooklyn, New York, resident Anthony Geathers specializes in commercial photography, portraiture and photojournalism. He believes photography is the one art form that can take a person around the world to places and cultures unknown to everyday people.

Tara Pixley

“Black and brown folks have always used movement, dance, and creative expression to survive tragedy or rise above the oppressive forces of our everyday lives. I wanted to visualize that.”

Tara Pixley,

Tara Pixley is a California editorial photographer and photojournalist with experience in dance photography and film. She believes photography is central to the contemporary human experience. Visuals connect us across language, culture, space and time, allowing us to perceive realities beyond their own experience and to return again and again to memories we might otherwise lose.

Tamika Moore

“Something I hope comes through is how much fun the season was in a time of uncertainty and the sense of community on and off the field.”

Tamika Moore,

Tamika Moore is a photojournalist and video producer based in Birmingham, Alabama. She tells inspirational stories about people and places that make up the South. She believes that everyone has a story and loves talking to strangers for People of Alabama, a project she created that shares portraits and stories of people from all walks of life who call Alabama home.

Justin Milhouse

“[I hope this photo essay shows] the beauty of Detroit and especially its people. The diversity within the cycling groups. The joy these riders exude after each outing and the strong sense of community and respect each group has.”

Justin Milhouse,

Justin Milhouse is a Detroit photographer with a diverse body of work, ranging from documentary and portrait photography to sports and travel work. Being present in the moment is what fuels his creativity and passion for capturing the world around him.

Volume 2

THE NEW FACES
OF SURFING

Photography by Harrison Hill

In California, Black girls train to reach their professional surfing dreams with a Hawaiian native who has vowed to make a way for them.

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THE NEW FACESOF SURFING

Story by Ashton Edmunds

Rhonda Harper started a surfing contest in Sierra Leone at Bureh Beach in 2014, before being shut down due to Ebola, motivated by a lack of representation in professional surfing. When she tallied all the entrants, few women had registered.

Harper and her team searched multiple surfing associations and could barely find Black girls participating in the sport. She found two in west Africa, Khadjou Sambe from Senegal and Kadiatu Kamara from Sierra Leone, and realized there was a need to train girls to compete in her contest.

Harper brought the two girls to California to train with her. Soon after Khadjou made it to the United States, surfing debuted as an event for the 2020 Summer Olympics, and Harper knew that was something she wanted them to strive for. Her desire to train women and girls to compete birthed Black Girls Surf, Inc., a Los Angeles-based organization with camps scattered worldwide.

THE NEW FACES
OF SURFING

Harrison Hill
Harrison Hill,

“The girls have a connection to the ocean and a vibrant energy that they carry with them every time they go out to surf. I could feel that connection when I was shooting.”

Black Girls Surf, Inc. advocates for Black female surfers, helping train them to go pro, providing therapy, fitness routines, nutritional and educational assistance.

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As a self-proclaimed “water baby,” Harper challenges the perspective that surfing is solely a white sport by grabbing the spotlight and focusing it directly on all the other Black aquaphiles. She fosters the talent of young Black girls, increasing representation and building a sense of community for a whole population of surfers otherwise overlooked.

“My girls are African, so they have a bird’s eye view of some person or a Black woman in adversity and triumph right in their face,” she said. “I had to make a way.”

Harper’s mentality stems from growing up in Hawaii and knowing she wanted to be a pro surfer when she was 15.

“I knew I had to become what I needed when I was young for these girls that are up and coming.”

Rhonda Harper

“Whether you’re a professional surfer or just learning for the first time, they don’t want to get out of the water” Harper said of the girls at her camps. “That’s the beauty of Black Girls Surf is making little Black girls smile.”

Throughout each of the camps and training sessions Black Girls Surf, Inc. holds across California and globally, there is a mixture between beginner and professional surfers from the ages of 7-30 years old.

Maizy Gordon’s parents were impressed when they found Black Girls Surf online and watched documentaries. They reached out to connect, but a family trip to Hawaii brought things full circle. Kimo Gordon took his daughter back to where he was from and photographed her surfing spots they found on the north shore. They were the same shores Harper learned to surf when she was 15. Harper’s mentorship has been instrumental to Maizy’s career thus far.

“She motivates me because she’s really funny. If she tells me some joke, I just always have it in my head when I’m going out there [on the water].”

Maizy Gordon describing Rhonda Harper’s mentorship
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Prior to Black Girls Surf, Inc., there were very few professional Black women in the water. Harper said that surfing is about image, and if the corporations don’t see your image as profitable or buyable, you’re not going to get sponsored.

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That’s where Black Girl Surf, Inc. came in, showcasing that these girls are talented. Since the organization started, Harper has seen it blossom. She said it’s exactly what she envisioned it to be.

Maizy’s older sister, Veronica Gordon, started surfing at age 7 and has since set big goals for herself. She would one day like to compete in the Olympics and at Super Girl Surf Pro in Oceanside, California, which bills itself as the world’s largest women’s surf event. She started competing with the Western Surfing Association and surfed with the first surf team at Oceanside Middle School this spring. The advice from Harper that has stuck with Veronica: Not thinking at all when she’s surfing.

“If it’s like a pretty big day, and we’re surfing and things do not seem well, then she’s like, ‘Don’t think. Just don’t think at all. Just go down, have fun.’”

Veronica Gordon on Rhonda Harper’s best advice

“Let’s use this as the foundation, but this doesn’t mean that this has to be your life goal.” Harper said she tells her students. “Understand that you have your own power, you have the power to change your life.”

Volume 2

DANCE GROUPS
MOVE AS ONE

Photography by Willie J. Allen Jr.

In Gainesville, Florida, Greek-letter organizations compete in a step show; young majorettes learn leadership and gain confidence; a line dance chapter practices outdoors, welcoming all comers.

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DANCE GROUPSMOVE AS ONE

Story by Samantha Chery

Step shows, particularly performances at historically Black schools, ignite an electric energy like no other.

At Bethune-Cookman University’s Ready, Step, Stroll Greek Step Show, Divine Nine Greek-letter organizations competed, vying to be the sorority or fraternity with the best step routine. But the night was also a display of coexistence, their unique Greek-letter group identities uniting in collective Black pride.

The show marked the last gathering of the fraternities and sororities for the school year, and the stakes were especially high for the university’s Delta Beta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. The Alphas performed a show on campus earlier in the day to celebrate Charter Day, their chapter’s anniversary.

Bethune-Cookman University

DANCE GROUPS
MOVE AS ONE

Willie J. Allen Jr.
Willie J. Allen Jr.,

“Dance is a naturally occurring activity of joy and connection in Black culture that has been with us since the beginning of time.”

The Alphas already had won three competitions, including the Florida Invitational Step Show (FISS), the Southeast’s largest step competition, before Ready, Step, Stroll. They rehearsed their routine for about a month before the season finale.

Fraternities wear boots that create percussive sounds, while props and poses represent significant symbols. Along with sphinx poses and snake hisses, the Alphas’ racing-themed routine featured inflatable tires and traffic cones.

Mike Abudu, president of Bethune-Cookman’s Delta Beta chapter, said it was the fraternity’s first time being invited back to the FISS competition in a while after “winning too much” in past years. Even Bethune-Cookman students were skeptical of their winning streak, Abudu said, not understanding what consistently made the routines a cut above the competition.

Although the Alphas don’t necessarily have a recipe to follow, Abudu has found that a key ingredient to their success is the bond they share. As performance dates get closer, the intense rehearsals draw them closer to each other. They know they can talk through any issues and lean on each other during difficult situations. Each year brings a new set of step team members, yet it feels like they’ve all been longtime friends.

“Without brotherhood, there’s nothing else.”

Mike Abudu

As the fraternity’s step master, Emmanuel Mantey continues the Alpha legacy by combining tried-and-true sequences with a modern flair. Before he became an Alpha, Mantey had no stepping or dancing experience. What he did offer was years of being in marching bands. He’s played trumpet since the fourth grade and used his understanding of rhythm and musicality to choreograph routines.

In the dressing room before their performance, the Alphas rehearsed one last time. Before they stepped onto the stage, they huddled to pray for their best performance yet.

It seemed their prayers were answered when they once again took first place.

“When we’re all in unison, we’re powerful.”

Emmanuel Mantey
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Gainesville, Florida

INFAMOUS
DIAMONDS DANCE

In the parking lot of the Charles L. Blount Center, the Infamous Diamonds majorette dancers practice in the hour before they perform at Gainesville’s Fifth Avenue Arts Festival. “ID4L” is emblazoned on their uniforms: Infamous Diamonds 4 Life. Over and over, the dancers run through their routine to correct timing issues.

Gainesville native Justin Doby, a former cheerleader at Florida A&M University better known as “Coach Doby” or just “Doby,” leads the group of 5- to 19-year-olds. He started the team to bring majorette dance to the community, inspired by the Lifetime reality series Bring It!, which chronicles the rehearsals and competitions of a similar team.

The Diamonds’ goal isn’t just to dance. They want to outshine the competition — and their former selves.

Willie J. Allen Jr.
Willie J. Allen Jr.,

“I often could not help but sway to the music as I photographed them dancing and entertaining the crowds of people watching.”

When they hit the pavement at the local fest, they pumped, kicked, tumbled and death dropped — falling back into a straddle — to the beat.“With [Doby] pushing us, we learn every day,” said 16-year-old dancer Kameal Stonerock.

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Confidence is paramount in majorette dancing, which often combines West African and hip-hop choreography with HBCU marching band music, but it takes time to build. Twelve-year-old Ashanti Nesmith (left) and her 15-year-old sister, Aniyah (right) tried out for the team as a way to make friends. Ashanti struggled to learn the moves at first, but much to her relief, her new teammates quickly rallied to help her.

“You have to have the right energy. You have to be confident.”

Ashanti Nesmith

The mostly middle- and high school-age members of Infamous Diamonds learn stage presence and the value of working hard. The group works concessions at University of Florida athletic events to raise money for travel and entry fees to elimination battles with other majorette dance teams.

Ja’kayla Lucas, 15, started dancing when she was 8, but she said she has never felt the sense of family she has now as dance captain with the Diamonds. For Lucas, being in a welcoming environment with other kids of all sizes shaped her sense of belonging and confidence in what she can do as a dancer.

“A team is a group of very different individuals. [Being dance captain] helped me learn … working with different people and their attitudes.”

Ja’kayla Lucas

Gainesville, Florida

SMOOTH FLAVA
LINE DANCE

“Left foot, now right foot,” Smooth Flava Dance’s Wanda Lloyd called out during a recent outdoor line dance class. “Now cha-cha-cha!”

First-time participants at Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville started cautiously, sometimes missing a step or stumbling slightly as they tried to get the footwork right. But no one seemed to judge.

“If you can count 1-2-3, you can do a cha-cha step,” Lloyd said.

Classes didn’t always look this way. Until the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Smooth Flava dancers rehearsed mostly indoors for performances at festivals, parades and other events in their community and throughout the South. With help from frequent Smooth Flava dancer Anne Gilroy, the group reserved access to the outdoor concert venue last summer. Now each Tuesday and Thursday evening, about 100 people spread out in the grass and dance to party remix music, led by an instructor who calls out step instructions on a microphone. Anyone can join, and because the classes are outdoors, passers-by are reeled into the fun.

Willie J. Allen Jr.
Willie J. Allen Jr.,

“All I had to do was be patient, let the people connect, then document how the beat of the music made their heads bob and sway to the soulful music.”

Smooth Flava invites people of all ages and abilities to line dance because it’s relatively easy to learn. The more experienced dancers learn from Lloyd, (pictured) intricate, partnering dance styles such as the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) swing, Chicago steppin’ and urban ballroom.

“Wanda [Lloyd] is so creative,” longtime Smooth Flava dancer Albina Stewart said. “When we finally got out, we were line dancing in the parking lot because we couldn’t partner dance. She came up with the idea of having a line dance party.”

Besides helping people stay active, the group gives back to the community. Last summer, the group raised $10,000 in donations at outdoor classes to help kids attend local summer camps, and the dancers are fundraising again this year.

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Lloyd has passed down the footwork to Smooth Flava devotees like Derrick Terrell, who came to a beginner line dancing class still in his work polo shirt, slacks and dress shoes. When he wasn’t cueing up the songs for the class or inviting onlookers to join, he was dropping it low on the grass with his wife, Kim, and the other dancers.

After being invited to a class and picnic in Gainesville’s Depot Park, he joined Smooth Flava Dance about three or four years ago.

“Dance is for yourself. It’s an opportunity to unwind and just enjoy yourself.”

Derrick Terrell

Terrell said the social events outside of class are what keep the group close. They’ve met up for conventions, holiday parties and nights out. People from out of town plan trips to Gainesville just so they can catch a Smooth Flava class.

Volume 2

A CIRCUS IN
THE TEXAS SKY

Photography by Reginald Thomas II

El Paso skydiving instructor Waz Choudhry and his WazzyCircus team dedicate their lives to introducing people to their love of jumping – out of planes and in wind tunnels.

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A CIRCUS INTHE TEXAS SKY

Story by Dorothy J. Gentry

Skydiving is not for the faint of heart.

But if you ask those who participate, skydiving will change your life. Jump once, and you’ll never be the same.

Instructor Waz Choudhry, 45, started skydiving more than a decade ago, and it has become a way of life. Adrian Lewis, 22, started jumping to overcome a fear of heights. Parachuting or jumping out of a plane is a sport that takes courage, bravery, strength, knowledge, patience and sheer will.

Ask any first-time tandem skydiver; you actually feel like you’re flying when you jump out of the plane. The entire experience takes you through a range of emotions in seconds. The moment is all at once freeing and frightening, scary and satisfying.

Whether jumping out of a hot-air balloon, a plane or a helicopter, skydiving leaves your adrenaline pumping and makes your senses come alive. Skydivers enjoy the fun, a sense of community with other skydivers and feeling, at that moment, they don’t have a care in the world.

Austin, Texas

WAZZYCIRCUS SKYDIVING

Reginald Thomas II
Reginald Thomas II,

“For those moments in the air, they’re able to release whatever they’re dealing with and just fly and be at peace.”

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Choudhry, right, owns WazzyCircus.com in El Paso, Texas. He has taken more than 2,200 people on their first tandem skydives. The preparation begins in an open-air box on the ground meant to simulate the size and space available in the airplane.

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Choudhry took his first jump in his early 20s. He said that after thousands of trips all over the world, it’s still impossible for him to put into words what stepping out of a plane flying 5,000 feet in the air feels like.

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After being caught with marijuana in college, Choudhry thought his life was over. While sitting in a jail cell, he prayed to God for help. “A couple of months before skydiving, before I went jumping, I was at my rock bottom,” said Choudhry, who is currently writing a book he’s titled, He Used the Sky to Save Me. “I was like, ‘Dude, I tried it my way. … You said you got better, let’s go.’

“And that’s where it went. That’s the message. I [prayed], ‘I’ll write your word on my heart and read it [the Bible] every day.’ I haven’t missed a day yet for 19 years.”

“Skydiving is the way God saved my life. I never thought I could do this – everything I am doing now. I am in love with everything I am doing.”

Waz Choudhry

Choudhry’s advice for anyone who gets the skydiving bug and wants to improve is to try a wind tunnel indoor skydiving simulator like the ones at iFly in Austin, where Choudhry formerly taught, and El Paso, where he recently relocated.

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Choudhry and his wife, Jackie, are part of a community at iFLY that puts on “Flight Knights,” where wind tunnel enthusiasts get together to share skills and compete in friendly matches for the “Flight Knight” trophy, an ornate metal sword.

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Lewis first tried iFly Austin on a recommendation from a skydiving instructor who knew Lewis wanted to become a better jumper. “I go to the tunnel and see this guy doing all these crazy tricks and it’s Waz,” Lewis said.

Choudhry took Lewis under his wing and the two became close. Lewis has completed almost 85 outdoor jumps over the past two years. “He’s my mentor,” Lewis said of Choudhry. “I can talk to him about anything. It’s a really good thing to find other people like us in this sport.”

“He’s Black, too, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s perfect. Oh, there are more of us in this sport.’”

Adrian Lewis describing the first time he met Waz Choudhry
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Jackie Choudhry did not fall in love with skydiving immediately. She said she had to be kicked out of the plane on her first jump in 2005 because she was so scared. But the sport itself and the surrounding community drew her in right away. She wound up working for five years at the Oklahoma Skydiving Center in Cushing, Oklahoma, where she and her husband first jumped.

The Choudhrys now have two children, and they love to hang out at the drop zone and watch the divers come down.

“It’s our family time together. … We pack up our lawn chairs, go out there, watch daddy jump.”

Jackie Choudhry
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Jackie flies in the wind tunnels and regularly participates at Flight Knight, one of the longest-running indoor skydiving competitions in the country. Choudhry said his wife has a talent for teaching complicated manuevers to beginners.

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Four years ago, Choudhry started the WazzyCircus Radio podcast, where he interviews other divers. “After some years of skydiving, I met some great people and experienced so much,” he said. “Everyone has a story.”

Volume 1

SUMMER OF
SKATE DANCING

Photography by Anthony Geathers, Tara Pixley

Styles are different, depending on the coast, but the goal of roller skate dancing is the same: Express yourself, feel the beat and become one with the music.

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SUMMER OFSKATE DANCING

Story by Dorothy J. Gentry

A move to a new city for a new job, a chance meeting at a roller rink with a group of fellow skaters, the title of a Kanye West album and the 808s & Skates club was formed.

The five-person crew began attending 18-and-older “adult nights” at one of the few rinks left in Connecticut, Roller Magic in Waterbury. Members of a group called CT Rollers also are regulars on Monday nights. The 808s & Skates guys say they skate for joy, health, fun and to keep the Black skating culture alive.

Waterbury, Connecticut

ADULT NIGHT AT ROLLER MAGIC

Anthony Geathers
Anthony Geathers,

“Anytime you mix roller skating and ’70s-’90s R&B, those two things always bring happiness and confidence …”

Every month, 808s & Skates hosts special “First Mondays” events, in which they invite out-of-town DJs to the rink to spin beats and create a whole new vibe, all geared toward “pushing the culture forward.”

The 808s & Skates club — from left to right (standing): Corey Charles, Derwin Graham, Trey Moore, Jonathan Small and Irving Mora (kneeling) — gained traction two years ago when a video of them vibing, gliding and rocking out on skates to the Erykah Badu-Common song “Love of My Life (Ode to Hip Hop)” went viral, eventually hitting a million-plus views across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, according to Graham.

“We did it to give us that ‘Black Boy Joy,’ but it ended up being an inspiration to others.”

Derwin Graham

Adult nights bring out skaters of all skill levels — from first-time skaters to regular attenders to advanced jam skaters like the 808s crew, who are known for their smooth footwork.

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Jahz Branch started skating only six months ago after graduating from UConn in May. A graduation trip to Atlanta unveiled a skating culture she didn’t know existed. When she got home, she ordered a pair of skates and started attending Adult Night.

“It brings me joy because I was able to meet a whole new group of people and experience a whole different culture. Skating is a culture in itself and I didn’t know that until I got in it.”

Jahz Branch
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You can catch Joel Sims and Vandle Dildy, members of the CT Rollers community, jamming at Roller Magic most Monday nights.

ZaQuan Ward is another member of the CT Rollers crew that often hosts events at Roller Magic alongside the 808s & Skates crew.

“It’s a family reunion vibe at adult nights at skating rinks. No drama; everyone is just happy and skating.”

Corey Charles ( 808s & Skates crew )
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Irving Mora was looking to do “something random” when he bought a pair of skates three years ago. He loved to go to dance clubs when he was younger, but now sees skating as his way to keep dancing.

“Have you ever seen when people put on headphones and the world means nothing? That’s exactly how it is with skating.”

Irving Mora
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“We were just a bunch of guys who found ourselves linking up to skate and it started to feel like a group. We just started to mesh. It was all organic and just came together. It’s a great group of guys.”

Derwin Graham

The 808s & Skates club name comes from a combination of the iconic TR-808 drum machine that revolutionized hip-hop music in the 1980s and the title of an early Kanye West album, 808s & Heartbreak.

Los Angeles, California

VENICE SKATE
DANCE PLAZA

One didn’t start skating until the pandemic hit; one grew up wanting to be a figure skater. Another blends dancing and skating and choreography, another has been skating since he was 4-years-old and another skated every day for a year.

These are just a few members of the popular Venice Beach Roller Skaters in California, which combines the art of roller-skating with dance moves old and new, bringing joy and excitement to themselves and to others at the Venice Beach Dance Skate Plaza.

Tara Pixley
Tara Pixley,

“Just witnessing the freedom and joy this art form elicits was so inspiring and elating, the images practically took themselves.”

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Dee Upshaw has been skating in Venice Beach since the 1980s. He booked his first national commercial months after arriving in California from his native Atlanta. Since then he has been featured in many more commercials, television shows and movies.

“It’s an amazing feeling. When I put the skates on, I’m in a different world. I’m more joyful. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Victoria Estrada (right)

Mariah Harvey (left) and Kardale Holland (right) are part of the crew of advanced roller dancers who come out weekly to skate alongside and teach with Dee Upshaw, who is known for his choreography on skates.

“Just a joy to learn and grow not just through skating, but through other things.”

Dee Upshaw
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Seeby Chi (orange shorts) is a pro skater, and Bryon K. Williams (green shirt) skated every day for a year and documented it on social media. Both got into skating during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. “[Skating] is the coolest thing you can do,” Williams said. “It allows me to express myself however I want to express myself. It’s me doing my thing to music. My artistic expression. That freedom.”

Skaters like Jason Acosta (pictured) show up most Saturdays and Sundays to jam while Dee Upshaw pumps disco tracks and good vibes down the beach.

“It’s Los Angeles, so there are tons of tourists from all over the world who come and most of them haven’t seen anything like this, not at the level we do it, and so we all get together and we are doing things, and the crowd is giving us energy and it’s just a wonderful environment.”

Dee Upshaw
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“Once you put the wheels on, it’s almost like you turn into a superhero,” said Upshaw, who regularly passes along his skate knowledge to skaters at Venice Beach. “You can roll, glide, spin, you can do things that you can’t do on feet and it gives you this type of energy and feeling that is so powerful.”

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“My complete joy comes more from a dance/skate perspective. I have been dancing and skating my whole life, but wasn’t until I went to Venice Beach in 2018 when I discovered you can blend the two together.”

Alicia Reason
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“When you go out there [Venice Beach], you see the energy and people and excitement and the looks on people’s faces and can’t wait to get together,” Upshaw said.

Volume 1

LEGION FIELD
KICKBALL LEAGUE

Photography by Tamika Moore

Birmingham locals jumped at the chance to spend six weeks competing in an adults-only kickball league at one of Alabama’s most historic stadiums.

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LEGION FIELDKICKBALL LEAGUE

Story by Ashton Edmunds

After facing a year like no other being forced to stay inside due to the coronavirus pandemic, Birmingham, Alabama, residents were looking to find normality, get back outside and enjoy safe activities. The city responded by creating the Legion Field Kickball Classic, where 22 adult coed teams competed for six weeks and brought out a few of Birmingham’s favorite vendors. Joel Simmons, director of Fountain Heights Recreation Center, spearheaded the league helping to bring friends, neighbors and community leaders together for a time filled with laughter, trash talk, fun and lifelong memories.

Birmingham, Alabama

Legion Field
Kickball League

Tamika Moore
Tamika Moore,

“Scenes of jubilation were everywhere, so setting out to capture joy was as easy as stepping foot inside the stadium.”

Teams got to play on the same field where the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn was played from 1948 to 1988 and where the Magic City Classic between Alabama A&M and Alabama State has been contested since 1946.

“Once we put the word out that we were going to be at the Legion Field Stadium, that really increased our numbers. The history behind the stadium, the different icons that have played on field, people wanted to be a part of it.”

Joel Simmons

Ladies Who Hike, a Birmingham based social club with a mission to get women out enjoying nature together, saw the league as an opportunity to do something different and spend time together between their scheduled hikes.

Brittney Davis, the founder of Ladies Who Hike, says the group is more than hiking, it’s about creating lasting, positive friendships. Davis has already expanded the group to North Carolina and has plans for more chapters. “It’s a real sisterhood and I think more people need to experience it,” she said.

“Well, I just wanted women to have a safe space where they could get together and be around other positive women and enjoy nature and it just blossomed into a full-blown group.”

Brittney Davis

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (center) and fire chief Cory Moon (right) dropped in to show support for the league. LaQuan Jackson of Team No Brakes said Woodfin, Birmingham’s youngest mayor in more than 100 years, is visible in the community and cares about community development.

“Community outreach is such a strong part of Birmingham’s cultural fabric. … There are so many boots on the ground doing tremendous work that they all deserve our sincere appreciation.”

Randall Woodfin

Arlillian Bushelon (right), a member of team Gang Gang, said she realized there were no good food options around the funeral home she owns in Birmingham’s West End and wanted to change it. She now hosts local food trucks every Thursday.

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Mia Thomas, owner of What’s Your Flav food truck, is a regular on Thursday nights at the funeral home and kickball nights at Legion Field. She says being a vendor inside Legion Field felt like “history,” because it was the fulfillment of a longtime goal.

“Just seeing the kids coming up with a smile on their face once they receive their shaved ice … it’s very gratuitous for me, so that kind of sums it up for me.”

Mia Thomas

“I was like, ‘You know what, we have room on either side of our funeral home, huge parking lots, why don’t we start doing something here so we can bring food to our neighborhood …’ ”

Arlillian Bushelon

DeJuan Hall, a member of team RGL Razors, and Christina ‘Auntie Christie’ Hall, a member of Gang Gang, made a bet on their matchup. If Gang Gang won, DeJuan, a licensed barber, had to shave off his eyebrows. If the RGL Razors won, DeJuan would shave Christina’s head. The RGL Razors won.

One of the barbers from local shop Randall’s Grooming Lounge and Salon Suites saw a social media post about the league and decided to sign up under the name RGL Razors. The trash talk in the barbershop started right away. DeJuan Hall and his co-workers came up with the slogan: “We cut deep because we too sharp,” and made sure their opponents knew it.

“When you’re out there just playing kickball, you feel like a child again, so everybody is in a child state of mind. It’s all about fun.”

DeJuan Hall

Two teams were left standing at the end of five weeks of play – Born Ballerz and Thick Chicks and Balls. Thick Chicks and Balls won the first match between the two teams, but Born Ballerz came out hot in the championship game. Eventually Thick Chicks and Balls pulled out the win in a competitive meeting.

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“So we were like, ‘We’re not going to take it too light, we’re going to take it serious, we’re going to go out there and do what we got to do.’”

Kornesha Milton (left)

There are plans for a second Legion Field Kickball Classic in either April or May 2022, before Birmingham hosts The World Games in July. The field will be home to the first men’s and women’s flag football competition at The World Games.

Volume 1

Detroit
Bike Culture

Photography by Justin Milhouse

Whether they prefer customized bikes, indoor track bicycles or road bikes, Detroit cycling clubs ride with purpose.

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DetroitBike Culture

Story by Dorothy J. Gentry

A health crisis and a warning from his doctor collided for Mike Neely a decade and a half ago. Myriad health challenges, including high blood pressure and diabetes, served as the impetus for a lifestyle change that landed him on a bike. Cycling would help him ward off more serious diseases, lose weight and live longer, his doctor said.

His quest for a healthier lifestyle turned into a community of cyclists, including his daughter, who ride for fun, a purpose and for opportunities to give back by doing something they love.

His brother, Dywayne “King Wayne” Neeley, developed his own love of cycling around the same time. While on a leisurely ride with his son one Sunday, he saw cyclists with colored lights on their rides and it sparked his creativity. He began decking out bicycles with custom parts, electronics, lights and spray paint. His bikes have been featured on national TV and in magazines and museum exhibits in Detroit and overseas.

Both brothers now head up their own separate clubs to prove that cycling is not only fun and easy to fit into a daily routine, but it can be a lifesaving, purpose-filled journey that gives meaning to all who take part.

Detroit, Michigan

SOUL ROLL CRUISERS

Justin Milhouse
Justin Milhouse,

“Detroit has a diverse cycling culture. Soul Roll riders felt like a family reunion every meetup and ride.”

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King Wayne Neeley founded Detroit East Side Riders bike club in 2008. He is known internationally for his custom-built bicycles, including one with a grill mounted on the back. He said he’s willing to try and create any kind of bike with spray paint and some building materials. If someone comes up with an idea, he said, “we try to match it.”

Mike Neely said he began riding in 2005 to combat multiple weight-related health issues. After one summer of riding, he’d lost 100 pounds. Neely’s D-Town Riders club leads neighborhood “soul roll” rides every Saturday and Monday night to promote healthy living and camaraderie.

King Wayne said bikes break barriers that few others can. “I’m from the East Side. I probably wouldn’t hang with anybody on the West Side unless they are family or somebody close,” he said. “But you put the bikes together and we are all family. The bikes bring everyone together.”

Detroit riders often place the patches of their club and other local bike clubs on the vests they wear to rides. “We turned this bike thing into a nation of people that are on one accord,” Mike said.

Lei Young is a regular at soul rolls, which bring together bike groups from all over the city. Besides putting on rides, D-Town Riders’ and East Side Riders’ founders both said their organizations actively serve in their community.

CEO of D-Town Riders Ashia Phillips started cycling with her father, Mike Neely, while he was riding for weight loss. In the process, she fell in love with bikes, too. She said the club is working to change the perception of Detroit.

“The purpose of our bike club is to make Detroit a better place overall. … Detroit is a really good place, and anytime you need help, you can look out your door and get help.”

Ashia Phillips

Soul Roll rides are strictly “no person left behind,” meaning if one rider needs to stop because of a mechanical issue, the whole group must stop and assist with repairs, if needed.

“Every day you go through stuff in your life,” Mike Neely said. “You gotta worry about your kids, bills, your job. All this stuff. But when we get on those bikes, the only thing we have to worry about is the ride …”

Detroit, Michigan

VELODROME
TRACK RACERS

Four years ago, an anonymous donor with a desire to give kids opportunities in track racing approached legendary indoor track designer Dale Hughes about bringing a velodrome, an arena for track cycling, to Detroit.

With the donation, Hughes, who designed his first velodrome at age 25 and is now 72, created the nonprofit Detroit Fitness Foundation, which built and now operates the Lexus Velodrome, located on the east side of the city.

“[The velodrome is] our commitment to pushing the sport of cycling and the culture of cycling in Detroit,” Hughes said.

Among other things, the facility provides free and low-cost programs and develops races and riders. Every year, it sends its junior development team to the USA Cycling Junior National Championships, covering all of their expenses. On Nov. 12, the Lexus Velodrome hosted the Madison Track National Championships and featured two of its own in the junior men’s division: Dejon Parks, 17, and Donell Anderson, 15. Both credit the existence of the Lexus Velodrome with developing their interest in the sport.

Justin Milhouse
Justin Milhouse,

“Some people ride for exercise, others ride for camaraderie. One thing is for certain that it’s a moment for people to come together for a common interest. Long-lasting friendships are built through these rides.”

Anderson (left) and Parks (right) train together in the Madison style, a relay race in which two riders split time on the track and tag — or “hand-sling” — one another in when they get fatigued. The race is named after Madison Square Garden, which held the first world championship for the two-person format.

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Anderson, who lives in the neighborhood where the velodrome is located, works at the track and trains there. The indoor bicycles he services are specially designed to navigate the 50-degree embankments of the velodrome.

“It was pretty hard at first, then I got my bearings and now it’s pretty fun. I like how fast we can go on the track, and the friends and family atmosphere.”

Donell Anderson

Neither Anderson nor Parks had competed in track cycling before the 166-meter velodrome track was built in 2018, but their mutual goal now is to ride in the Olympics.

Parks was introduced to track cycling by his sixth grade gym teacher, whose son rode. He rode for the fun of it for two years before the velodrome was built and he started riding seriously.

“I see myself doing this as long as possible until I can’t pedal a bike anymore.”

Dejon Parks

Parks (right) said riding is his happy place. He and his partner placed second at the Madison nationals. Anderson and his partner took fourth.

Detroit, Michigan

CYCLING
ADVOCATES

If you don’t know that Black girls do bike or about Black Girls Do Bike, Sheryl Johnson-Roulhac and others across the country are looking to change that.

Johnson-Roulhac is the “Shero,” or leader, of the Detroit chapter of Black Girls Do Bike, a national organization founded by Monica Garrison of Pennsylvania. “The organization empowers women and girls of color to see bicycle riding as an option for fitness, health and fun,” Johnson-Roulhac said.

“I see it as an advocacy group. We advocate cycling, but we’re not exclusive in that our members only ride with us. We ride with everyone,” she said. “In Detroit, biking has become the new clubbing. People are outside on their bicycles Saturday nights, Friday nights. There’s a ride generally organized every day. We post on our Facebook page: ‘Who wants to ride?’ ”

Black Girls Do Bike recently organized two weekend rides to visit historic landmarks along the 20th Century African American Civil Rights bike tour and the Air Line Trail in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The rides brought together several local bike clubs with a common goal.

“It’s about support. It’s about family,” Johnson-Roulhac said. “We try to be there for each other. It’s a great thing.”

Justin Milhouse
Justin Milhouse,

“Each riding group was like a family. The willingness to help others — whether it was fixing a bike before a ride or stopping altogether if a cycler had bike issues. No rider left behind was the motto throughout.”

Johnson-Roulhac said becoming a Shero has given her an opportunity to advocate for cycling and give back to her community. “We ride for a purpose, volunteering, riding with each other, doing fundraisers, that’s what we do,” she said.

Stephanie White, a 61-year-old member of the Biking Belle Isle club, has no memory of the June 29, 2016, accident that left her in a coma for 12 days. A reckless driver crashed into a group of bike riders stopped at an intersection. White and another rider took a direct hit. The accident left her with balance issues and leg pain, but she stayed determined to get back on her bike.

“I thank God I’m still here. Every day is a blessing. And I’m still riding.”

Stephanie White

Recent group rides to the Motown Museum and Banks-Dolbeer-Bradley-Foster farmhouse, which was once a stop along the Underground Railroad, brought together members of Black Girls Do Bike, Biking Belle Isle, Metro 313 Cyclones and other local clubs. “There are so many people I’ve met since biking that I never would have come into contact with,” White said. “… We all ride and get together and do volunteer work and have fun, after and during the ride.”

“I love cycling. I love what it does for me. The relationships and friendships I’ve established. The sense of family and purpose.”

Sheryl Johnson-Roulhac

“It’s like freedom [when I’m on the bike],” White said. “I even named one of my [three] bikes ‘Freedom.’ You get out there, you’re in the fresh air and sunshine, you’re laughing and talking with other riders, you’re not paying attention to how long you’ve ridden. … We have a ball.”

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