Crowbar Skates; More than a Skate Club
First of all I would really like to thank you both for taking the time to do this interview with us. I have personally been a long-time admirer of your passion for your relationship with your partners and your dedication to creating a safe and inclusive space for folks to skate, roller skate, roller blade, scoot or bike. So, thank you for being here and thank you for what you do.
First question is; What is Crowbar Skates?
C: Crowbar Skates is a skating group created by Megan McKay (she/her) and myself (Chance, he/him). We are both diasporic, transgender/two-spirited skaters that wanted to creating space for BIPOC, 2SLGBTQ+, and femme/female identified skaters of all skill levels in Treaty #1 (Winnipeg, MB).
M: Crowbar Skates is an idea very close to my heart. Growing up in the early 90s skateboarding culture, I found so much homophobia, transphobia, toxic masculine culture and sexism. Knowing I was transgender and pansexual my whole life and being afraid to come out, the skate community made it very hard. While skateboarding was always my escape from life, the community wasn’t very accepting.
Choosing an impactful name and logo is no easy feat, and you have done just that. The Crowbar Skates name and logo has a powerful meaning behind it, can you please explain that meaning and why you chose the name and logo?
C: Megan and myself wanted a logo that not only encompassed what our vision was for Crowbar but something that was extremely personal to our relationship. As Megan and I are both storytellers, we chose the traditional Ojibwe story of “Andek the Crow”. The Crow Story holds great importance due to its teaching that even if we don’t understand our own purpose, you become your purpose by doing what feels good with good intention. We chose the crowbar as our tool for dismantling racism, misogyny, and homophobia/transphobia that is often present in skate culture. The medicine wheel is our culture’s compass in how we navigate through life: our medicines, seasons, people, and life cycles are all contained within the red, yellow, white, and black colours presented behind Andek. We use this compass as a reminder to walk through life with wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth (the “7 sacred teachings”). Megan and I both grew up outside of our cultures and this logo holds such significance in our first steps in reclaiming the lessons we missed out on growing up.
Who is the artist behind your logo?
C: Our logo was created by the extremely talented local Metis artist Kisa MacIsaac (IG: @powerofpainting204).
You have facilitated events in the past such as Skate Against Hate and Anti-Canada Day skate, can you please elaborate on these events such as The Turn-out and response you had to each event and the reason why these type of events are needed?
C: Ah, life before COVID. The “Anti-Canada Day Skate” was our first public event that amassed over 100 BIPOC, 2SLGBTQ+, and femme/female identified skaters. It was held in partnership with the Board Broads, The Other Skaters, and Queer Skate YWG July 1, 2020. It was a hugely successful event that had local skater and Two-Spirit land and water protector Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie speak about their experience resisting colonialism and protecting the land and water of Turtle Island (this speech can be found on our Instagram highlight under Anti-Canada Day Skate).
M: Anti-Canada Day Skate was a massive success. So many people came to celebrate decolonization, hear our speaker and celebrate 2SLGBTQ+ community. Our participants were super respectful and really heard Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie speaking from the heart.
C: The second event before the pandemic hit us was the “Sk8 Against H8” which was held in partnership with Board Broads, The Other Skaters, Queer Sk8 YWG, and accompanied local vendors. Board Broads, Queer Sk8, and myself spoke about the barriers that marginalized skaters face in skate park access, sexual harassment, misogyny, and barriers to accessing gear. We were thrilled to have an even larger turn out at this event than our previous one with the event going all afternoon. Donations from the local skate groups allowed us to provide snacks, water, hand sanitizers, masks, and free skateboards/skate parts.
M: Sk8 Against H8 was amazing. We had some really great convos with people during and after the event. One particular convo was from a cis-male attendee who works a local indoor spot. They couldn’t believe the turnout and had no idea that there were so many female identified, queer, trans, no binary and BIPOC people (among other marginalized groups) into skating that don’t access their space. They were dumbfounded that people don’t feel safe in their space.
C: Although these events seem to have separate themes, the underlying message is that marginalized skaters deserve their spots in skateparks, professional teams, and sponsorships. The dominant voice in not only skateparks, but all sports is to center only cisgender and heterosexual men. A local indoor skatepark sent volunteers to our events to see why we were having such success with our events that they could not seem to replicate, the answer was and is simple: when you work to give marginalized people space, they will show up. There is so much unnecessary bullying, misogyny, and racism at skateparks that marginalized skaters are either showing up very early in the morning/late at night or not at all. These spaces allow marginalized skaters of all levels and any background to come learn, teach, and practice their skills with fellow skaters who understand the struggle of accessing these spaces.
What events do you hope to organize in the future and what goals do you have for Crowbar Skates?
C: Megan and I are wickedly creative. Unfortunately, due to the extremely high COVID cases in Manitoba, we will not be planning skate events until COVID is managed in a way where we can gather safely (please get vaccinated if you can!)
M: We are so excited to get back into planning but can’t until events are safe to host again. Our community is so important to us and safety around COVID is absolutely first.
C: We would love to host another Anti-Canada Day Skate, Sk8 Against H8, and IndigiSk8 for Indigenous peoples day. Megan and I tend to come up with our ideas out of thin air so I’m sure there is many other events we will come up with and share in the future!
From your perspective, how can others such as shops or individuals work to make skateparks a safer and more inclusive space for marginalized folks?
C: Coming from a business perspective, look at your team and management: who is at the table? Who makes the decisions? Do you feel your staff and management reflect the skate community? Hire marginalized skaters, support them in their endeavours and professional development, and listen to them when they have ideas, you never know, they could create the next great skate idea.
M: In the shops, callout and correct toxic behaviour and language. Call out and correct homophobia and transphobia. Bring in goods from sponsored Queer/Trans skaters for representation. Put up a Safer Spaces Policy.
C: Skate parks are always tricky because they are largely outdoor, public spaces. I found when starting my skating journey that kindness is the greatest predictor someone will return to the park. When you see a marginalized skater, cheer them on! Tell them their board is sick! Show them they’re welcome. If you notice people heckling them, say something. If it's not safe to address the hecklers, go up and support the skaters. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen boys heckle/sexually harass girls at the skate park and I watch the girls leave totally defeated. We need to get over our shyness or bystander freeze and support one another. We were all beginners once, a simple “that was really cool” goes a long way.
M: Bring the stoke to the park. This goes out specifically to the cis-male crowd.. be stoked for young skaters. Be stoked for queer/trans skaters. Cheer us on, show that love at the park. But especially use your dude privilege to call out other skaters who are being uninclusive. The power of calling out your privileged peers for toxicity is incredible.
We would love to know more about you personally, how did you find skateboarding and how has is it impacted you? Have you always felt welcomed within the skate community?
C: I am not a skateboarder (as much as Megan tries to change that haha), but I can certainly tell you about my rollerskating adventures. I have had a charmed entry into the skatepark with little negative experiences. I used to skate Vans custom roller skates so it was a conversation piece when I would go to the park. People seemed more interested in how I made them than anything else. I used that to my advantage when I went to the park and most people know me as the “Vans skater”. I cannot say that I always felt welcome within the skate community. I struggled a lot in roller derby and starting out at the skate park. I would go very early in the morning or very late at night and skate by the glow of a few flashlights. I was very fortunate to meet Megan when I was an already proficient skater and we consistently challenge one another. Meeting Megan and the Board Broads and Other Skaters groups really helped me connect more to the skate culture in Winnipeg and I have felt very fortunate and accepted ever since.
M: *deep breath*
I started skateboarding in 1991 at the age of 11 (don’t do the math, I’m old lol) in my parents basement on a chipped up Alien Workshop deck with Independent trucks, it was handed down from my older cousin. This board was BEAT, the tail was half the length of the nose, the trucks were ground into the axle, the bearings barely rolled and, if your familiar with skate culture in the early 90s, the wheels were barely bigger than the bearings. But in a small space it didn’t really matter. I would throw on a Bad Religion ‘Suffer’ or Pennywise (self titled album) tapes I dubbed (from the same cousin who gave me the board) and learn how to Ollie and pop shuv all winter. In skate season, I would escape my home life and profound identity crisis by running out with my friends and terrorizing local business owners and security guards while avoiding the various gangs in Winnipeg who would constantly raid skaters and steal all their stuff and beat us up. Fast forward to adulthood, skateboarding still served me as an escape from my troubles. Bad day? Skate sesh. Crippling dysphoria? Skate sesh. Dark depressive spells? Skate sesh. Skateboarding has literally distracted me enough to save my life on many occasions. Even at my most at risk lows, I could throw my board down and just roll.
Growing up male presenting and white coded, it was easy to get along with the skate community, but most of the time I enjoyed skating alone until people (most) matured past queer/Trans and race jokes. I thought coming out as trans was going to make skateboarding impossible but I found so much community with my old punk rock buddies, who welcomed me with hugs and so much love. But even still I won’t go to a skatepark alone unless I’m meeting a group of people there.
Chance, how did you get into roller-skating? What do you believe to be the biggest barrier to entry for skateboarding and roller-skating in your community?
C: I actually started out in Roller Derby! I learned the basics of skating but didn’t feel welcome in the league and wanted to try my hand at something more difficult: park skating. I wasn’t sure if park skating was a thing so I searched online and found Community In Bowls (CIB), the Moxie Skate Team, Anti-Clique Zine, and CIB Vancouver. I was in shock and awe at what these skaters could do and I set out on my journey to become a skatepark skater. 3 years later I’m flying down stairs, grinding the coping, and shooting off ramps just like the skateboarders in my neighbourhood.
The biggest barrier to rollerskating in my opinion is cost and adequate representation. Roller skating comes from the civil rights movement and was made popular by the Black roller dance community. The 1960s-1970s was a contentious time for roller skaters as many roller discos forbade Black skaters from performing, the same is reflected now with the roller dance boom on Tik Tok. There is an endless sea of white, thin, able-bodied, cisgender women represented in rollerskating and there is little room for diversity. There are many skate groups and companies that are trying to include more diversity, but the majority remains the sunkissed California skate girls you see on Instagram reels. Another case of history repeating itself.
I don’t think this is totally by accident, roller skating is expensive! A quality pair of skates will set you back $200+ along with wheels, sliders, and safety gear. It isn’t the most accessible activity to get into if you are planning on hitting the skate park because of the investment of what is going between you and the unforgiving concrete. Skateboarding is certainly more accessible than roller skating at the skatepark but pre-loved gear is a great way to cut costs and join in the fun.
If others are in your area, are they able to attend your skate nights? Where can they find more information and who can they reach out to?
C: Right now I am recovering from a grade III sprain (unrelated to skating) and we are in a province wide lock down. When we are able to return to the skate park, you can keep up with us at @crowbarskates on Instagram!
M: As soon as it is safe to, we will be hosting events! Until then connect with us online!
We look forward to working with you with all of you over at Crowbar Skates, if others would like to support how can they do so?
C: We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Rude Girls family and love what you folks are doing!
You can follow, like, share our stuff on Instagram (@Crowbarskates) or donate to our upcoming events fund by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org where we are collecting donations for food, supplies, and skate parts. We will also be coming out with merch in the upcoming months in which 100% of all proceeds will go to our events so stay tuned!
M: We are so excited to be working with RudeGirls!! And yeah, support in all the ways Chance just mentioned! Every share of our fundraisers and posts supporting community helps us. We want to reach every single marginalized person who ever even thought of going to the skatepark on whatever Rolley-thing they want. Help us reach them and bring them to the park!
Any last words or thoughts you would like to share with us?
C: We want to thank you for your kindness and generosity as we spread our message about inclusive skating, decolonization, and uplifting marginalized skaters!
M: Thank you for helping us reach the world and fund events! To every marginalized skater and every ally who supports us and protects us, we love you all