If you were a teenager in New Orleans East in 2006 or ’07, there wasn’t much to do. That part of the city had been a white flight destination in the 60s, the home of a black middle class by the late 70s, and since then had slowly been falling into disrepair thanks to the oil bust in the 80s and rising rates of poverty and crime.
Katrina decimated the East along with most of the rest of the city. With the mall closed, the one movie theater closed, and the Six Flags amusement park closed, kids had little to do. To fight boredom and create a community of support, they took up skateboarding, a relatively novel hobby for black teens in New Orleans. I’ve spent three years speaking with the young members of the skating community with a camera in one hand and my skateboard in the other. Many of them talked about the way skating gave them an alternative to the culture of violence that consumes their peers.