“Free” is a word often used by the students and teachers of Skateistan; Kabul’s co-educational skateboard school. The interviews we read of skateboarders often comes back to “why we all skate” and describing a sense of freedom achieved from the action. I know that is how I have felt since the day I began to skate. It went beyond any artistic expression or physical activity it terms of personal achievement or feelings of self-worth.
In tandem with skateboarding my involvement in Social Justice movements started to culminate around the age of 14. This was around the time Johnny Gammage was brutally murdered by five police officers in the city limits of Pittsburgh. When John Vojtas, one of the officers who killed Gammage, received a promotion after his acquittal, we marched in protest to the Allegheny County Court House. This was my first participation in a mass protest and it galvanized my political trajectory. When police showed up to kick us out of a spot, my skater angst was certainly amplified. My love of skateboarding was intertwined with distrust of authority and fueled by political punk-rock music.
As I’ve grown older, skateboarding has obviously been a constant. Animal Rights and various other Social Justice movements have become part of my life. I can hardly detach one from the others. So when I tell some people how my soul feels liberated by skateboarding, I tell others that I reject treating animals or humans in a way that I would not want to be treated myself I am speaking in the same spirit of freedom and justice. Maybe my desire to have and eat the proverbial cake leads me to think that skateboarding can make the world a more just place. The barrier that Jackie Robinson crossed in 1947 is the barrier Skateistan is crossing with the youth of Afghanistan, especially the women and girls.
I write this because today is a day of remembrance. Today is a day when I remember that struggle and persistence are eventually felt. The moral, the principle, and the ethics of freedom must be part of a continuum that we live each day. This is why I am Vegan, this is why I skate, this is why I will fight for justice until all are free.
Take Yak Daqa (a minute) for some skating and inspiration.