HUMBOLDT PARK — A roller skating meetup that began in 2020 to beat the pandemic blues has grown into a community staple that draws Chicagoans of all ages and skill levels.
HP Skate Meetup’s second skate jam is 5-8 p.m. Friday in Humboldt Park’s namesake park by Little Cubs Field. The event was originally set for the end of July, but had to be rescheduled due to weather.
At Friday’s event, Lover Girl Skate Club, another local group, will give “rolleraerobics” lessons from 6-7 p.m. There will also be skate merch from Lucid Laces for sale, raffles and tunes from DJ Cobra B and DJ Sidetown.
“It’s really exciting to see how the events have grown from being more intimate and no collaborations to now having all of these collaborations with organizations we can showcase,” said Justine Ingram, founder of the Humboldt Park skating group.
HP Skate Meetup started as a pandemic outlet.
During the stay-at-home order in 2020, Ingram was feeling cooped up working from home for a commercial real estate company.
Ingram, a Chicago native, had roller skated at South Side rinks as a kid and suddenly felt compelled to reconnect with her roots — and sharpen her skating skills.
When she posted on Humboldt Park’s community Facebook page to find out if there were any skate groups in the area, neighbors encouraged her to launch a group of her own.
Two days later, HP Skate Meetup was born, Ingram said.
At first, the meetups were small, with just a handful of people, including a couple of Ingram’s friends, gathering to roller skate near some basketball courts. Ingram was the sole organizer.
But over time, as Ingram made connections with other people in the city’s rollerskating community, the group became a fully-fledged organization, hosting regular events in partnership with other local groups and skate companies. The success allowed Ingram to bring on a fellow skater, Jessica Maldonado, as a co-organizer.
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Since its founding three years ago, the group has hosted more than 30 events on the Northwest and West sides, a mix of outdoor and indoor skate meetups.
The meetups are for people of all ages who want to learn how to skate, get some exercise or show off their skating skills.
It’s an “opportunity to come out, regardless of how well you can skate, to connect with people, connect with organizations, learn and socialize and be in a safe space,” Ingram said.
From January-May, the group partnered with West Side community organizations, including the Garfield Park Advisory Council and the West Side Cultural Arts Council, on a series of weekly indoor skate meetups at the Garfield Park field house at 100 N. Central Park Ave.
The events were “very well-received by the community,” Ingram said.
“People expressed gratitude in seeing the Gold Dome transformed and illuminated in the way that it was for the skate series,” she said in an email. “Lack of recreation is one of the many ways disinvestment … show up in our Black and Latine communities on the South and West Sides. Programming like this is needed!”
Even though she skated some as a kid, Ingram said she considers herself a pandemic skater, and that’s true for many people who come out to group events. She chose the soccer cages in Humboldt Park because they’re enclosed and people can skate along the gates until they feel comfortable standing on their own, she said.
“Something I was really insecure about is that I don’t skate that well. It kinda became this internal battle with myself: What makes me think I can organize a skate group and I can’t skate that well?” Ingram said.
But, she added, “This is more than just about skating. This is about community building, and you don’t need to skate well to do that.”
The group’s first-ever skate jam, held last summer, was a huge success. The event drew more than 100 people, from derby skaters to kids who had never laced up skates before, Ingram said. Local skate instructor Myesha McCaskill, who goes by SmoothGoddess, gave lessons.
Ingram is hoping for a similar turnout at this year’s skate jam. Mainly, she hopes it’s a “safe space where people can show up as their authentic selves,” she said.
“I know that’s really hard to do as a Black queer woman. There’s so many times in so many ways that I don’t feel like I belong, and that led me to launch HP Skate Meetup. This is a place where you can really show up as yourself,” Ingram said.
Also this month, the group is partnering on a back-to-school event 1-4 p.m. Aug. 19 with Lolita Productions and Somos Arte, called Books & Backpacks. HP Skate Meetup is hosting an open skate at the event. Chicago Knockouts Roller Derby will provide limited free skate rentals.
Like the skate jam, the event will be held at Humboldt Park’s soccer cages next to Little Cubs Field.
As HP Skate Meetup grows, Ingram said they’re looking for more local organizations to collaborate with on community events.
“I don’t want to be a skate group in the community. I want to be a community-oriented skate group,” she said.
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