Waterbury, Connecticut

Los Angeles, California

SUMMER OF
SKATE DANCING

ADULT NIGHT AT
ROLLER MAGIC

VENICE SKATE
DANCE PLAZA

Photography by Anthony Geathers, Tara Pixley

Styles are different, depending on the coast, but the goal of roller skate dancing is the same: Express yourself, feel the beat and become one with the music.

Birmingham, Alabama

LEGION FIELD
KICKBALL LEAGUE

Photography by Tamika Moore

Birmingham locals jumped at the chance to spend six weeks competing in an adults-only kickball league at one of Alabama’s most historic stadiums.

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit
Bike Culture

SOUL ROLL
CRUISERS

VELODROME
TRACK RACERS

CYCLING
ADVOCATES

Photography by Justin Milhouse

Whether they prefer customized bikes, indoor track bicycles or road bikes, Detroit cycling clubs ride with purpose.

A PHOTO SERIES ON THE BLACK EXPERIENCE
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the Black gaze Logo

An exclusive photo portfolio that widens the lens and depicts the strength, innovation and magnificence of Black culture.

SUMMER OF
SKATE DANCING

Photography by Anthony Geathers, Tara Pixley

Styles are different, depending on the coast, but the goal of roller skate dancing is the same: Express yourself, feel the beat and become one with the music.

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SUMMER OFSKATE DANCING
SUMMER OF<br />SKATE DANCING

LEGION FIELD
KICKBALL LEAGUE

Photography by Tamika Moore

Birmingham locals jumped at the chance to spend six weeks competing in an adults-only kickball league at one of Alabama’s most historic stadiums.

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LEGION FIELDKICKBALL LEAGUE
LEGION FIELD<br />KICKBALL LEAGUE

Detroit
Bike Culture

Photography by Justin Milhouse

Whether they prefer customized bikes, indoor track bicycles or road bikes, Detroit cycling clubs ride with purpose.

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DetroitBike Culture
Detroit<br />Bike Culture

Story decorationThe PhotographersStory decoration

Anthony Geathers

“Seeing lovers and lifelong friends enjoy each other, enjoy the music and skate/break-dance on the floor gave me the inspiration to photograph it all.”

Anthony Geathers,

Brooklyn, New York, resident Anthony Geathers specializes in commercial photography, portraiture and photojournalism. He believes photography is the one art form that can take a person around the world to places and cultures unknown to everyday people.

Tara Pixley

“Black and brown folks have always used movement, dance, and creative expression to survive tragedy or rise above the oppressive forces of our everyday lives. I wanted to visualize that.”

Tara Pixley,

Tara Pixley is a California editorial photographer and photojournalist with experience in dance photography and film. She believes photography is central to the contemporary human experience. Visuals connect us across language, culture, space and time, allowing us to perceive realities beyond their own experience and to return again and again to memories we might otherwise lose.

Tamika Moore

“Something I hope comes through is how much fun the season was in a time of uncertainty and the sense of community on and off the field.”

Tamika Moore,

Tamika Moore is a photojournalist and video producer based in Birmingham, Alabama. She tells inspirational stories about people and places that make up the South. She believes that everyone has a story and loves talking to strangers for People of Alabama, a project she created that shares portraits and stories of people from all walks of life who call Alabama home.

Justin Milhouse

“[I hope this photo essay shows] the beauty of Detroit and especially its people. The diversity within the cycling groups. The joy these riders exude after each outing and the strong sense of community and respect each group has.”

Justin Milhouse,

Justin Milhouse is a Detroit photographer with a diverse body of work, ranging from documentary and portrait photography to sports and travel work. Being present in the moment is what fuels his creativity and passion for capturing the world around him.

SUMMER OF
SKATE DANCING

Photography by Anthony Geathers, Tara Pixley

Styles are different, depending on the coast, but the goal of roller skate dancing is the same: Express yourself, feel the beat and become one with the music.

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SUMMER OFSKATE DANCING

A move to a new city for a new job, a chance meeting at a roller rink with a group of fellow skaters, the title of a Kanye West album and the 808s & Skates club was formed.

The five-person crew began attending 18-and-older “adult nights” at one of the few rinks left in Connecticut, Roller Magic in Waterbury. Members of a group called CT Rollers also are regulars on Monday nights. The 808s & Skates guys say they skate for joy, health, fun and to keep the Black skating culture alive.

Waterbury, Connecticut

ADULT NIGHT AT ROLLER MAGIC

Anthony Geathers
Anthony Geathers,

“Anytime you mix roller skating and ’70s-’90s R&B, those two things always bring happiness and confidence …”

Every month, 808s & Skates hosts special “First Mondays” events, in which they invite out-of-town DJs to the rink to spin beats and create a whole new vibe, all geared toward “pushing the culture forward.”

The 808s & Skates club — from left to right (standing): Corey Charles, Derwin Graham, Trey Moore, Jonathan Small and Irving Mora (kneeling) — gained traction two years ago when a video of them vibing, gliding and rocking out on skates to the Erykah Badu-Common song “Love of My Life (Ode to Hip Hop)” went viral, eventually hitting a million-plus views across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, according to Graham.

“We did it to give us that ‘Black Boy Joy,’ but it ended up being an inspiration to others.”

Derwin Graham

Adult nights bring out skaters of all skill levels — from first-time skaters to regular attenders to advanced jam skaters like the 808s crew, who are known for their smooth footwork.

Jahz Branch started skating only six months ago after graduating from UConn in May. A graduation trip to Atlanta unveiled a skating culture she didn’t know existed. When she got home, she ordered a pair of skates and started attending Adult Night.

“It brings me joy because I was able to meet a whole new group of people and experience a whole different culture. Skating is a culture in itself and I didn’t know that until I got in it.”

Jahz Branch

You can catch Joel Sims and Vandle Dildy, members of the CT Rollers community, jamming at Roller Magic most Monday nights.

ZaQuan Ward is another member of the CT Rollers crew that often hosts events at Roller Magic alongside the 808s & Skates crew.

“It’s a family reunion vibe at adult nights at skating rinks. No drama; everyone is just happy and skating.”

Corey Charles ( 808s & Skates crew )

Irving Mora was looking to do “something random” when he bought a pair of skates three years ago. He loved to go to dance clubs when he was younger, but now sees skating as his way to keep dancing.

“Have you ever seen when people put on headphones and the world means nothing? That’s exactly how it is with skating.”

Irving Mora

“We were just a bunch of guys who found ourselves linking up to skate and it started to feel like a group. We just started to mesh. It was all organic and just came together. It’s a great group of guys.”

Derwin Graham

The 808s & Skates club name comes from a combination of the iconic TR-808 drum machine that revolutionized hip-hop music in the 1980s and the title of an early Kanye West album, 808s & Heartbreak.

Los Angeles, California

VENICE SKATE
DANCE PLAZA

One didn’t start skating until the pandemic hit; one grew up wanting to be a figure skater. Another blends dancing and skating and choreography, another has been skating since he was 4-years-old and another skated every day for a year.

These are just a few members of the popular Venice Beach Roller Skaters in California, which combines the art of roller-skating with dance moves old and new, bringing joy and excitement to themselves and to others at the Venice Beach Dance Skate Plaza.

Tara Pixley
Tara Pixley,

“Just witnessing the freedom and joy this art form elicits was so inspiring and elating, the images practically took themselves.”

Dee Upshaw has been skating in Venice Beach since the 1980s. He booked his first national commercial months after arriving in California from his native Atlanta. Since then he has been featured in many more commercials, television shows and movies.

“It’s an amazing feeling. When I put the skates on, I’m in a different world. I’m more joyful. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Victoria Estrada (right)

Mariah Harvey (left) and Kardale Holland (right) are part of the crew of advanced roller dancers who come out weekly to skate alongside and teach with Dee Upshaw, who is known for his choreography on skates.

“Just a joy to learn and grow not just through skating, but through other things.”

Dee Upshaw

Seeby Chi (orange shorts) is a pro skater, and Bryon K. Williams (green shirt) skated every day for a year and documented it on social media. Both got into skating during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. “[Skating] is the coolest thing you can do,” Williams said. “It allows me to express myself however I want to express myself. It’s me doing my thing to music. My artistic expression. That freedom.”

Skaters like Jason Acosta (pictured) show up most Saturdays and Sundays to jam while Dee Upshaw pumps disco tracks and good vibes down the beach.

“It’s Los Angeles, so there are tons of tourists from all over the world who come and most of them haven’t seen anything like this, not at the level we do it, and so we all get together and we are doing things, and the crowd is giving us energy and it’s just a wonderful environment.”

Dee Upshaw

“Once you put the wheels on, it’s almost like you turn into a superhero,” said Upshaw, who regularly passes along his skate knowledge to skaters at Venice Beach. “You can roll, glide, spin, you can do things that you can’t do on feet and it gives you this type of energy and feeling that is so powerful.”

“My complete joy comes more from a dance/skate perspective. I have been dancing and skating my whole life, but wasn’t until I went to Venice Beach in 2018 when I discovered you can blend the two together.”

Alicia Reason

“When you go out there [Venice Beach], you see the energy and people and excitement and the looks on people’s faces and can’t wait to get together,” Upshaw said.

LEGION FIELD
KICKBALL LEAGUE

Photography by Tamika Moore

Birmingham locals jumped at the chance to spend six weeks competing in an adults-only kickball league at one of Alabama’s most historic stadiums.

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LEGION FIELDKICKBALL LEAGUE

After facing a year like no other being forced to stay inside due to the coronavirus pandemic, Birmingham, Alabama, residents were looking to find normality, get back outside and enjoy safe activities. The city responded by creating the Legion Field Kickball Classic, where 22 adult coed teams competed for six weeks and brought out a few of Birmingham’s favorite vendors. Joel Simmons, director of Fountain Heights Recreation Center, spearheaded the league helping to bring friends, neighbors and community leaders together for a time filled with laughter, trash talk, fun and lifelong memories.

Birmingham, Alabama

Legion Field
Kickball League

Tamika Moore
Tamika Moore,

“Scenes of jubilation were everywhere, so setting out to capture joy was as easy as stepping foot inside the stadium.”

Teams got to play on the same field where the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn was played from 1948 to 1988 and where the Magic City Classic between Alabama A&M and Alabama State has been contested since 1946.

“Once we put the word out that we were going to be at the Legion Field Stadium, that really increased our numbers. The history behind the stadium, the different icons that have played on field, people wanted to be a part of it.”

Joel Simmons

Ladies Who Hike, a Birmingham based social club with a mission to get women out enjoying nature together, saw the league as an opportunity to do something different and spend time together between their scheduled hikes.

Brittney Davis, the founder of Ladies Who Hike, says the group is more than hiking, it’s about creating lasting, positive friendships. Davis has already expanded the group to North Carolina and has plans for more chapters. “It’s a real sisterhood and I think more people need to experience it,” she said.

“Well, I just wanted women to have a safe space where they could get together and be around other positive women and enjoy nature and it just blossomed into a full-blown group.”

Brittney Davis

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (center) and fire chief Cory Moon (right) dropped in to show support for the league. LaQuan Jackson of Team No Brakes said Woodfin, Birmingham’s youngest mayor in more than 100 years, is visible in the community and cares about community development.

“Community outreach is such a strong part of Birmingham’s cultural fabric. … There are so many boots on the ground doing tremendous work that they all deserve our sincere appreciation.”

Randall Woodfin

Arlillian Bushelon (right), a member of team Gang Gang, said she realized there were no good food options around the funeral home she owns in Birmingham’s West End and wanted to change it. She now hosts local food trucks every Thursday.

Mia Thomas, owner of What’s Your Flav food truck, is a regular on Thursday nights at the funeral home and kickball nights at Legion Field. She says being a vendor inside Legion Field felt like “history,” because it was the fulfillment of a longtime goal.

“Just seeing the kids coming up with a smile on their face once they receive their shaved ice … it’s very gratuitous for me, so that kind of sums it up for me.”

Mia Thomas

“I was like, ‘You know what, we have room on either side of our funeral home, huge parking lots, why don’t we start doing something here so we can bring food to our neighborhood …’ ”

Arlillian Bushelon

DeJuan Hall, a member of team RGL Razors, and Christina ‘Auntie Christie’ Hall, a member of Gang Gang, made a bet on their matchup. If Gang Gang won, DeJuan, a licensed barber, had to shave off his eyebrows. If the RGL Razors won, DeJuan would shave Christina’s head. The RGL Razors won.

One of the barbers from local shop Randall’s Grooming Lounge and Salon Suites saw a social media post about the league and decided to sign up under the name RGL Razors. The trash talk in the barbershop started right away. DeJuan Hall and his co-workers came up with the slogan: “We cut deep because we too sharp,” and made sure their opponents knew it.

“When you’re out there just playing kickball, you feel like a child again, so everybody is in a child state of mind. It’s all about fun.”

DeJuan Hall

Two teams were left standing at the end of five weeks of play – Born Ballerz and Thick Chicks and Balls. Thick Chicks and Balls won the first match between the two teams, but Born Ballerz came out hot in the championship game. Eventually Thick Chicks and Balls pulled out the win in a competitive meeting.

“So we were like, ‘We’re not going to take it too light, we’re going to take it serious, we’re going to go out there and do what we got to do.’”

Kornesha Milton (left)

There are plans for a second Legion Field Kickball Classic in either April or May 2022, before Birmingham hosts The World Games in July. The field will be home to the first men’s and women’s flag football competition at The World Games.

Detroit
Bike Culture

Photography by Justin Milhouse

Whether they prefer customized bikes, indoor track bicycles or road bikes, Detroit cycling clubs ride with purpose.

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DetroitBike Culture

A health crisis and a warning from his doctor collided for Mike Neely a decade and a half ago. Myriad health challenges, including high blood pressure and diabetes, served as the impetus for a lifestyle change that landed him on a bike. Cycling would help him ward off more serious diseases, lose weight and live longer, his doctor said.

His quest for a healthier lifestyle turned into a community of cyclists, including his daughter, who ride for fun, a purpose and for opportunities to give back by doing something they love.

His brother, Dywayne “King Wayne” Neeley, developed his own love of cycling around the same time. While on a leisurely ride with his son one Sunday, he saw cyclists with colored lights on their rides and it sparked his creativity. He began decking out bicycles with custom parts, electronics, lights and spray paint. His bikes have been featured on national TV and in magazines and museum exhibits in Detroit and overseas.

Both brothers now head up their own separate clubs to prove that cycling is not only fun and easy to fit into a daily routine, but it can be a lifesaving, purpose-filled journey that gives meaning to all who take part.

Detroit, Michigan

SOUL ROLL CRUISERS

Justin Milhouse
Justin Milhouse,

“Detroit has a diverse cycling culture. Soul Roll riders felt like a family reunion every meetup and ride.”

King Wayne Neeley founded Detroit East Side Riders bike club in 2008. He is known internationally for his custom-built bicycles, including one with a grill mounted on the back. He said he’s willing to try and create any kind of bike with spray paint and some building materials. If someone comes up with an idea, he said, “we try to match it.”

Mike Neely said he began riding in 2005 to combat multiple weight-related health issues. After one summer of riding, he’d lost 100 pounds. Neely’s D-Town Riders club leads neighborhood “soul roll” rides every Saturday and Monday night to promote healthy living and camaraderie.

King Wayne said bikes break barriers that few others can. “I’m from the East Side. I probably wouldn’t hang with anybody on the West Side unless they are family or somebody close,” he said. “But you put the bikes together and we are all family. The bikes bring everyone together.”

Detroit riders often place the patches of their club and other local bike clubs on the vests they wear to rides. “We turned this bike thing into a nation of people that are on one accord,” Mike said.

Lei Young is a regular at soul rolls, which bring together bike groups from all over the city. Besides putting on rides, D-Town Riders’ and East Side Riders’ founders both said their organizations actively serve in their community.

CEO of D-Town Riders Ashia Phillips started cycling with her father, Mike Neely, while he was riding for weight loss. In the process, she fell in love with bikes, too. She said the club is working to change the perception of Detroit.

“The purpose of our bike club is to make Detroit a better place overall. … Detroit is a really good place, and anytime you need help, you can look out your door and get help.”

Ashia Phillips

Soul Roll rides are strictly “no person left behind,” meaning if one rider needs to stop because of a mechanical issue, the whole group must stop and assist with repairs, if needed.

“Every day you go through stuff in your life,” Mike Neely said. “You gotta worry about your kids, bills, your job. All this stuff. But when we get on those bikes, the only thing we have to worry about is the ride …”

Detroit, Michigan

VELODROME
TRACK RACERS

Four years ago, an anonymous donor with a desire to give kids opportunities in track racing approached legendary indoor track designer Dale Hughes about bringing a velodrome, an arena for track cycling, to Detroit.

With the donation, Hughes, who designed his first velodrome at age 25 and is now 72, created the nonprofit Detroit Fitness Foundation, which built and now operates the Lexus Velodrome, located on the east side of the city.

“[The velodrome is] our commitment to pushing the sport of cycling and the culture of cycling in Detroit,” Hughes said.

Among other things, the facility provides free and low-cost programs and develops races and riders. Every year, it sends its junior development team to the USA Cycling Junior National Championships, covering all of their expenses. On Nov. 12, the Lexus Velodrome hosted the Madison Track National Championships and featured two of its own in the junior men’s division: Dejon Parks, 17, and Donell Anderson, 15. Both credit the existence of the Lexus Velodrome with developing their interest in the sport.

Justin Milhouse
Justin Milhouse,

“Some people ride for exercise, others ride for camaraderie. One thing is for certain that it’s a moment for people to come together for a common interest. Long-lasting friendships are built through these rides.”

Anderson (left) and Parks (right) train together in the Madison style, a relay race in which two riders split time on the track and tag — or “hand-sling” — one another in when they get fatigued. The race is named after Madison Square Garden, which held the first world championship for the two-person format.

Anderson, who lives in the neighborhood where the velodrome is located, works at the track and trains there. The indoor bicycles he services are specially designed to navigate the 50-degree embankments of the velodrome.

“It was pretty hard at first, then I got my bearings and now it’s pretty fun. I like how fast we can go on the track, and the friends and family atmosphere.”

Donell Anderson

Neither Anderson nor Parks had competed in track cycling before the 166-meter velodrome track was built in 2018, but their mutual goal now is to ride in the Olympics.

Parks was introduced to track cycling by his sixth grade gym teacher, whose son rode. He rode for the fun of it for two years before the velodrome was built and he started riding seriously.

“I see myself doing this as long as possible until I can’t pedal a bike anymore.”

Dejon Parks

Parks (right) said riding is his happy place. He and his partner placed second at the Madison nationals. Anderson and his partner took fourth.

Detroit, Michigan

CYCLING
ADVOCATES

If you don’t know that Black girls do bike or about Black Girls Do Bike, Sheryl Johnson-Roulhac and others across the country are looking to change that.

Johnson-Roulhac is the “Shero,” or leader, of the Detroit chapter of Black Girls Do Bike, a national organization founded by Monica Garrison of Pennsylvania. “The organization empowers women and girls of color to see bicycle riding as an option for fitness, health and fun,” Johnson-Roulhac said.

“I see it as an advocacy group. We advocate cycling, but we’re not exclusive in that our members only ride with us. We ride with everyone,” she said. “In Detroit, biking has become the new clubbing. People are outside on their bicycles Saturday nights, Friday nights. There’s a ride generally organized every day. We post on our Facebook page: ‘Who wants to ride?’ ”

Black Girls Do Bike recently organized two weekend rides to visit historic landmarks along the 20th Century African American Civil Rights bike tour and the Air Line Trail in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The rides brought together several local bike clubs with a common goal.

“It’s about support. It’s about family,” Johnson-Roulhac said. “We try to be there for each other. It’s a great thing.”

Justin Milhouse
Justin Milhouse,

“Each riding group was like a family. The willingness to help others — whether it was fixing a bike before a ride or stopping altogether if a cycler had bike issues. No rider left behind was the motto throughout.”

Johnson-Roulhac said becoming a Shero has given her an opportunity to advocate for cycling and give back to her community. “We ride for a purpose, volunteering, riding with each other, doing fundraisers, that’s what we do,” she said.

Stephanie White, a 61-year-old member of the Biking Belle Isle club, has no memory of the June 29, 2016, accident that left her in a coma for 12 days. A reckless driver crashed into a group of bike riders stopped at an intersection. White and another rider took a direct hit. The accident left her with balance issues and leg pain, but she stayed determined to get back on her bike.

“I thank God I’m still here. Every day is a blessing. And I’m still riding.”

Stephanie White

Recent group rides to the Motown Museum and Banks-Dolbeer-Bradley-Foster farmhouse, which was once a stop along the Underground Railroad, brought together members of Black Girls Do Bike, Biking Belle Isle, Metro 313 Cyclones and other local clubs. “There are so many people I’ve met since biking that I never would have come into contact with,” White said. “… We all ride and get together and do volunteer work and have fun, after and during the ride.”

“I love cycling. I love what it does for me. The relationships and friendships I’ve established. The sense of family and purpose.”

Sheryl Johnson-Roulhac

“It’s like freedom [when I’m on the bike],” White said. “I even named one of my [three] bikes ‘Freedom.’ You get out there, you’re in the fresh air and sunshine, you’re laughing and talking with other riders, you’re not paying attention to how long you’ve ridden. … We have a ball.”

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