LITTLE VILLAGE — A neighborhood nonprofit is offering a summer skateboarding class for girls and LGBTQ+ youth to gain confidence expressing themselves in the traditionally cis male-dominated sport.
The Third Wave Skate Collective is organized by Little Village-based nonprofit Enlace Chicago, inviting youths of all skating levels ages 14-19. It meets at least once weekly at one of the neighborhood’s skate parks: Piotrowski Park, 4247 W. 31st St., or La Villita Park, 2800 S. Sacramento Ave.
The class is led by Little Village natives Janet Lopez and Yuridia Gutierrez, who said it is important to offer a community space for girls of color and transgender or gender non-conforming youth in skateboarding.
Lopez got interested in skateboarding as a kid because her brothers were into it, but she eventually stopped because it wasn’t an inviting environment, she said. She took up the sport again around two years ago.
“It’s still very much centered around a sport that men of color practice,” Lopez said. “I had to stop for a really long time, because I didn’t feel safe going [to the skate park].”
Gutierrez said they just started skateboarding this year and still don’t totally feel comfortable coming to skate parks alone, so it’s nice to be building a community of skaters through the class.
“There’s a lot of toxic masculinity and, more than anything, [a] lack of accountability,” Gutierrez said. “In a lot of these spaces, men see other men do very intimidating, unsafe things to femmes or trans people and won’t say anything and just completely disregard it.”
Beyond practical skateboarding skills, students are assigned reading materials that deal with themes of gender and self-expression.
Lopez said she hopes the class is “healing” for students as much as it is educational.
“I’m so honored to have such a flexible curriculum that we have, where we’re teaching [students] about the importance of feeling safe in a space like this and talking about toxic masculinity and about our own gender,” Lopez said. “I keep stressing that to our students about how this is our park; we live here. We shouldn’t be unapologetic about coming to the space and skating in this space because it was built for us.”
Lopez and Gutierrez said the class has a handful of students coming consistently. The summer session will run until the end of July, and they hope to launch a session during the fall, they said.
To get updates about Third Wave Skate Collective or other Enlace student programs, follow its social media.
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