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Capturing Black skate culture in Indianapolis, preserving the art

A centuries-old activity is gaining renewed momentum.

Roller skating, once considered something for the posh and wealthy, has undergone a transformation with Black skating culture leading the trend. There’s evidence that the Indianapolis Black skate culture goes back roughly 70 years or more.

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — History shows us that sometimes moments can get lost in time.

One Indianapolis man is using his camera to capture them. To really understand the feeling, you do need to be there, but a picture can transport you.

“I’m passionate about expressing Black culture,” said photographer and roller skater Wildstyle Paschall. “Black people, we know what we’re doing is creative and fun and that people are actually enjoying life and loving each other.”

“Wildstyle” is a name earned for being a bit wild and reckless on wheels. Roller-skating life isn’t new to him; it’s tradition. “Some of my earliest memories are at a roller skating rink.”

He’s a historian of sorts as the man behind the camera. Many of his images were captured with him in motion. “When I started skating again that was the first thing I thought about, was like, ‘I’ve never, never captured that.’ You know, the technology has changed where it’s a lot easier.”

Black culture is what he captures, and his skill is also worth capturing.

“I know in the Black community, they say it hasn’t changed much, but definitely, on social media and mainstream culture, skating is now the in thing,” Paschall said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the wood, although familiar territory, became his muse, and there’s a respect there all across generations. It’s a chance to honor those longtime “Ms. Nina,” 80, and other culture keepers.

Paschall said of Ms. Nina, as she asked to be referred to by News 8, “She’s an unbroken link from the era in the ’50s all the way to today, and she talks to the young people still,” while also recognizing those to come.

“Skating is so much a safe space. There’s not a lot of places for Black youth, too,” Paschall said.

Black skate culture grew out of necessity and lack of access: no access to public rinks and often little money.

“And yet we combine all of this out on the roller skating floor, along with our music and that type of culture, and it’s is taken on a whole life of its own,” Paschall said.

Although the culture is ingrained deep into the wood, it’s free ground.

“It’s definitely a Black culture out there, but everybody’s invited and everybody is welcomed.,” he said.

For those who aren’t quite comfortable on wheels, several groups can help. Check with the nearest skating rinks to find out what skating days will work best.