Washington Skate Park. Kankakee, Illinois.
I’m old enough to remember the release of Beat Street (1984) and Breakin’ (1984) and the how those films brought pop locking and breakdancing to every square inch of America. Even the small town kids could join “the counter culture revolution,” which I willingly joined. I’m also old enough to remember the release of Rad (1986), which caused every 13 year old I knew (including myself) to scavenge plywood and jump our bikes over sidewalk ramps. I also remember Thrashin’ (1986) which caused us to suppliment our pedaling with skateboarding (I broke my wrist within a month). Trends have a way of traveling around the great cultural roulette wheel; some things are fated to return. Hence the contemporary crop of youth that has revived and respun their own ”counter cultural revolution” via BMX bikes and skateboards.
It’s awesome that the Kankakee Park District built such a great place for the area youth. It’s a place for kids who have their own sets of talents, but their talents are not often given a chance to appear during the normal school day. I mean, during a regular school day, how many chances does a student have to shine if ”shining” to them means launching themselves off a ramp to become vertically airborn? Or if “shining” means completing a complex set of manuevers to get you and your skateboard onto, across and over a big obstacle? The same kid who might not care at all about learning to solve a difficult algebra problem will go to the skate park and spend an hour practicing and problem-solving the moves of a single trick until the trick can be performed. And then the trick will be repeated and repeated until perfected. It’s not that the skate-culture youth are poor learners – it’s that they’re different learners, motivated by physical, not paper, problems.
My last observation of the day involved my seeing such a mixed crowd of kids come together in peace. That rocks. And my guess is that since there are so many operating skate parks around the country that persist and are respected by their users, Kankakee’s skate park will persist and be respected by its users. In a world where the headlines speak of constant doom, this is an example of something that kicks ass.