FroSkate–a collective of Chicago skaters centering Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people–is creating spaces where skaters who once felt alone can skate empowered alongside others who look like them.
The Black-woman-led collective started as a group chat among friends in 2019 who were interested in skating but didn’t see many people who looked like them. The chat eventually grew and now hosts free meetups at local skateparks and free community events.
“You’re able to show up as your best self and be more comfortable to try new things, fall in front of people and mess up when you’re around people who share the same experiences and story as you,” FroSkate president and founder Karlie Thornton told Block Club Chicago.
When Thorton started skating, she went to local Wilson Skate Park by herself, looked around, felt intimidated, then left.
“’This is so cool, but these dudes are all pro-level, white and maybe one or two Black dudes,’” she recalled thinking at the time. “I was just so intimidated because I didn’t see myself in that space.”
So, she created FroSkate.
Over 50 of the collective’s members gathered at the same park where she once felt intimidated on Oct. 19 for the group’s last meetup of the year.
The youngest on a board, 8-year-old Sedona Cohen, showed off her moves at the event, Block Club Chicago reported.
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“My favorite tricks are my ollies, dropping in and going fast, especially going fast,” Sedona said.
The skater’s father, Matthew Cohen, said he noticed a difference in Sedona’s confidence while at FroSkate versus other places where she’s the only kid or surrounded by older men.
“I see a spark in her [at FroSkate],” Cohen said about his daughter, who wants to be an Olympic skateboarder one day.
The gathering also had a live DJ, skateboarding giveaways, and dinner catered by a local plant-based eatery, Uncooked.
Before the skaters hopped on their boards, Yaz Wilkerson, a friend of Thorton’s who traveled in from New York, guided the riders in a stretch circle for skaters.
She asked the group to repeat after her.
“At FroSkate, our favorite saying is, ‘All love, no hate,’” Wilkerson said. “That’s the type of energy we’re trying to put out. We want to make sure we’re connecting with one another, having fun with one another.”
FroSkate has held 14 meetups this year and over 70 in-person and virtual events since it launched.