Meet Daniel Oliver. Daniel is 17 years old, he grew up in Baltimore City attending public schools, and he is presently a junior at Baltimore City College. Danny is a skateboarder and this is what skateboarding means to him:
“Ever since I started skateboarding around the age of 7, I’ve seen the world in an entirely different light. Stairs and even little benches or ledges on the street are no longer overlooked. Ten years later, my creativity has grown to a level that without skateboarding, even with schooling, it would never be. Skateboarding has also given me the most diverse group of friends among people that I know. Varying ages, ethnicity and genders; these friends and I have traveled all across the country doing the one thing we all enjoy: skateboarding. Skating is a universal tool of teaching and uniting.”
Danny has worked with me as an intern for the past year through my Skateboarding for Success program. Skateboarding for Success is after-school, weekend and summer program for at-risk middle and high school students in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden that I began in 2010 under the Baltimore Community Fellowship. Under the fellowship I have served over 300 youth by engaging them in skateboarding and skatepark development activities through mentoring, skate lessons, park clean-up efforts and contests for groups of young people.
When I ask kids what skateboarding means to them, I get one overwhelming response “freedom.” But freedom isn’t free. Danny and the other 30,000 youth skateboarders of Baltimore are presently being underserved by a lack of adequate public facilities for skateboarding. If your city doesn’t have a skatepark it IS a skatepark, Baltimore’s youth have little choice but to skate in the streets where they potentially face animosity from pedestrians and business owners and altercations with police. Skaters can be ticketed and even face trespassing and destruction of property charges, which can potentially pull them into the juvenile justice system just for pursuing an activity they love to do and view as harmless.
The Skatepark of Baltimore Inc. is a nonprofit organization I started in 2005 dedicated to building a state of the art concrete destination skatepark in Baltimore. Over the past seven years we have made significant progress towards our goal. We have secured our site, completed our designs, garnered the necessary community support and now we are raising funds towards the cost of construction. Once constructed, the park will serve as many as 100 youth a day and up to 36,500 a year. The facility will have a lasting impact, it will be virtually free to maintain and serve as a safe, sanctioned environment for young people to skate and play around positive adult peers.
If you’d like to learn more about what we’re doing and how you can get involved, visit our website at www.skateparkofbaltimore.com.