Being a black kid that was into punk rock and skateboarding during some of the earliest development, did you ever get heat for that involvement from your own community?
As a youth, skateboarding was completely submerged in the surf culture…The Beach Boys where the overall sound along with all the surf rock. I started on my skateboard quest regardless of my skin color at age 11. Being a skateboarder takes drive and also a PMA (positive mental attitude) outlook on life. The lifestyle of skateboarding is created out of a lot of personal growth. I have always experienced racism growing up in America. Skateboarding has nothing to do with being the judge of someone’s skin color. Only oppression fits the title and anthem. You can oppress anyone and try to make somebody feel less than. Skateboarding had to prove itself through so much pain and suffering. Still blessed to be skateboarding today.
Do you remember how it felt getting the cover of Thrasher?
Getting a chance to be on the cover of Thrasher Magazine was the best. The Mag was and still is the pure essence of skateboard culture. To be on the early side of rebuilding the scene in Philadelphia and many other spots is an honor. The Thrasher cover was the cherry on top of the transition wall aka coping. Excitement is great and then you have to adjust to bringing the noise down in life to enjoy the trek.
Did you feel you were perceived differently after that was published?
After the magazine was published I was also featured in the University Of Pennsylvania 1984 yearbook in the same month which is also the month of my birthday! 1984 was such a fun year. It’s the year I wrote “Weakness and Mcshred” in West Philly and San Francisco. People started to notice and other folks started with whatever they could offer with overall vibes. I was happy Tom Groholski’s backyard ramp was getting exposure. I would have to travel 2 hours on a train just to go there and skate. Having the Nike shoe released 30 years later was a trip for me. I found out I was the first African American on the front cover of any major magazine 20 plus years after 1984. How we roll (a six-month exhibition on African-America’s contribution to surfing, skateboarding and rollerskating culture) was created in L.A. and I was featured in a museum and that’s when I was informed about my goal achieved. To rep skateboarding to the fullest!
At the time of that Thrasher cover, did you know you were making skate history?
I knew i was making history by staying on my skateboard while a lot of my friends started to leave it alone. That’s the history and the reason for my song “Weakness”. I wanted to create a song that would rep skateboarding forever and still create room for other Anthems. Skateboarding takes time. Just look at how much Rodney Mullen changed the game. Rodney could skate everything but decided to develop his style of skateboarding that would eventually influence street skating.
Do you have any specific memories of experiencing racism within skateboarding?
I thought that because I came from a black neighborhood that I had to eat and act like the folks arounds me. That can make anyone have bad decisions. It’s all about diet at the end of the day. If you truly enjoy taking care of your temple aka body you only have time for that lifestyle. I spent so much of my youth not eating right, I can’t imagine eating like that now. I felt disconnected from my body. I found that I needed food to have a good positive mindset. Through my diet I was able to completely change my overall mindset and stick to it. We all have thoughts of being less or more. It’s the titles and negative lifestyle that makes racism stay alive. It will always be around and it’s up to the individuals to make the change.
Skateboarders believe that skateboarding was fundamentally founded by white Southern California surfers in their downtime.. What’re your thoughts on that, do you think the east coast has their own version of skateboarding history or do these timelines align?
Surf Culture is skateboarding. The original wood scooter was the first start and every kid had one and could make one with ease once they took apart a pair of roller skates. Roller skating has an influence on skateboarding. It’s all about the flow. If you were raised in any environment that supported the Surf Culture you were hip to the skateboard culture. H.R. and Earl from Bad Brains skated when they moved to Hawaii with their parents. Earl told me they went to the beach and checked the vibes and saw everything happening. This was way before the Bad Brains where even a group. Ask Jeff Hartsel… he knows the runnings. Earl told me story when we all where in Hawaii for a Bad Brains Tour which I was stage tech for. Earl tells me his story and then proceeds to tic tac and kick turn on my board outside of the front lobby. I have known Earl for years and that was the first time he had ever said anything about skateboarding and surfing. So many amazing stories to why we all skateboard. Ian Mackay knows the runnings also.
Do you think skateboarders and musicians can help in the fight for ending systematic racial injustice?
Skateboarding is the key to life for being creative. We all need to concentrate on where skateboarding will take us all through all the major adjustments of the world. I want people to like each other until they have had enuff. To say that one thing will stop racism is a bit out of order. We gotta move past the vibes and look out for each other the best way we can.
The dreaded question, how do you feel about politics? We feel typically as skateboarders we stray away and turn our heads, but recently we’ve awakened to a realization of our lack to understand how politics work can be used against us. Do you have any advice for skaters that don’t care for politics?
No GateKeepers, bless all who move forward and stay PMA… Politics are for Politicians.
How can skateboarders support progressive change?
Get out there and skateboard! We should lobby for our own union. 25 years of public skateboarding in Philadelphia has made me realize that we all made change, just by keeping our skatepark alive and focused. Each skatepark built changes the mindset of most folks. Social pressure is also a bit much. We have to keep skateboarding, moving forward and staying the best at being creative.
You also have kids that skate and play music, in an ideal scenario what do you want their future to look like?
Yes, I have 4 kids. My daughters are powerful people and goal driven along with my two sons. Music is in all of their lives whenever they need it. I am happy they are all doing what they love to do. I want smiles on their faces regardless of how the world turns out..
Thank you for taking the time, any closing words for the Rolling For Rights host? ( Tyrone Olson, Brandon Turner, Shuriken Shannon, Tommy Sandoval )
All of you, thank you for the chance to get some words out. Thank you Skateboarding, Music, my Family and some of the best trips ever. Travelling makes the world seem small while we are dealing with big problems. I wish for all of you, and your families, to stay strong and vibrant.