“Oh, there’s only one car here tonight, we should be good.” My friends and I make the effort to go out skating at the Eastland DIY skatepark a couple times a week. Even though we all have varying degrees of experience and talent, we’re an incredibly supportive group. We teach each other tricks or just cheer each other on when we need the confidence boost.
We usually leave if we see that there are too many people at the skatepark. We do this for a multitude of reasons like there’s less of a chance to crash into people. Or it’s better to eat it without a bunch of eyes watching. Or just the simple fact that getting into a fight with a dudebro at the park isn’t far-fetched. When the park is packed, the experience is pretty hit-or-miss. So, we usually go at night when the crowd is gone.
Last night there were just two guys there, practicing their own tricks. We were hoping they wouldn’t be too bad. One of the guys pulled up and asked if we wanted to play a skating game with him and immediately after that, we knew that it would be a nice night sharing the park with them.
The sweet moments make up for any sour ones I’ve had at Eastland DIY. Everyone in the skate community has been trying to get a couple more of the sweet ones in before March 3, when the park is set to close. Despite having a petition with almost 10,000 signatures and members of the skate community speaking up at multiple city council meetings, developers have decided to go forward with demolishing the skatepark, with no plans to replace it in their new development.
The park will be replaced by yet another “mixed-use hub” in the city, which includes homes, restaurants and offices. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “Like we don’t have enough of those here!” in response to hearing what will replace Eastland.
The frustration is easy to understand when you realize that Eastland DIY, the only park of its kind in or around the Charlotte area, will be replaced with something that has been done time and time again. Are there other skateparks? Sure. But there’s no others that were built by the community for the community.
Eastland DIY is the only skatepark that is totally accessible to any skater in Charlotte. It’s free to get in, easy to get to, and open 24 hours a day. It’s also easier to feel like yourself in the space because you’re not being constantly surveillanced. I know ‘surveillanced’ is a heavy word but as a Black trans lesbian, I can tell you that thats an everyday thing in Charlotte.
That’s part of what makes Eastland DIY so cool. It doesn’t just talk the talk – you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten it in front of the Black Trans Lives Matter ramp – it walks the walk too (usually). Skaters who are Black, Brown, gay and trans make up a good portion of the crowd that frequents the park.
I’ve gone to many parks and there are no others where I’ve seen as many people like me. Other parks usually consist solely of dudebros. Not to say that Eastland doesn’t have its fair share of those, which is why I’ve heard mixed reactions to news of the park closing from skaters who look like me.
There have been events that have been slightly tarnished if a dudebro decided to show up to the park that day – sometimes even a fight or two. There’s a broader, ongoing argument about how this type of skater makes the skating community less inclusive as a whole.
The Girls, Gays and Theys skate jam, hosted by Bitches of Chaos and Bruce+AC on Nov. 6th, 2021, was created in part to make space for skaters like me who are typically pushed out by the dudebros of the park. It was a great event up until we were all but pushed out by more experienced skaters. Space is the thing often argued about at the park, which seems silly now as none of us will have it come March 3.
There are people who haven’t been to Charlotte in years and when they come back, the first thing they note is the gentrification. With each year, there are more and more people trickling into parts of the city where in years not far gone they would’ve been scared to walk through, much less plant themselves in. Yet the city keeps making way for them.
This city values its money and presence more than it values different communities having their own space. And it’s not just with the park that this is happening. The city has already closed the Central Market, an open-air flea market that has operated on the same property as Eastland DIY for seven years. Central Market consisted mostly of Latinx vendors who used the space to sell their wares every weekend.
With each space that’s taken away, it feels more and more like the city is trying to suck every part of actual culture out. To remove any actual happiness that we can experience without having to first buy into a major chain or corporation. It’s not shocking and it’s not new but it doesn’t stop hurting.
The argument could be made that, through this pain, new things will bloom. That is an argument made from a place of privilege, however. Charlotte is ranked last in the list of major cities in the U.S. for upward mobility. If this was a time for changes and new things, I’d like to know where the opportunities for that will come from in this new “mixed-use hub.”
Besides scribbling BLM somewhere or saying this or that business is owned by [insert underserved group here], there’s no community benefit to demolishing this park or getting rid of Central Market. The people that know this don’t have to be told, but it’s already been said that redevelopments like these create growth in the city.
Specific to the skate community, I think that speaking up to and making ourselves heard to our elected representatives is needed if we are to have a space like Eastland again. I do think that we have to get through some hurdles before being able to be properly listened to. I’ve heard time and time again, “I wish people made more noise about this,” from people that have used the park over the years. There is so much power, talent and resources in the community but it has to be utilized.
No more arguing about who deserves to be in what space. No more making people feel like they aren’t welcomed to a park that is rightfully theirs. When we can stand stronger together, then we can come better equipped when people outside of our community try to tear us down.
Once we fully appreciate all members of our skate community we become impenetrable. I believe we will have another space like Eastland DIY in time. And if (when) the city tries to come for that patch of land, we will have learned to come together to use all our strengths to protect what’s ours. Long Live Eastland DIY.
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