SOCIAL STUDIES: An interview with, Darren Harper the "Official" Skateboarder of Washington, DC

John Richards @jrichards202 | 5/4/2012, 3:30 p.m.

Charles Barkley once infamously said: "I am not a role model". The question has been asked for years - are athletes role models? Sorry Chuck, yes you are and I don't really think that it's your decision to make. For better or for worse, people in the spotlight have a platform, they're on national television, and some of them are making amounts of money that the majority of us will never see in twenty lifetimes. They're put up on a pedestal, judged and built up just to be torn down - could you imagine if every time you wanted to go out you had an army of people documenting your every move? But you can't have your cake and cash the check too. You can't tell me that "I'm not paid to be a role model. I'm paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court" while at the same time trying to sell me an overpriced pair of sneakers. We don't want you to raise our kids; we don't want you to be perfect, because no one is. The majority of us would be happy if you made the effort to do the right thing, stay off of TMZ and sign an autograph or two when you're out in public. Darren Harper embraces his role model status. As a kid, Harper found his first skateboard amongst the cast off belongings of an evicted family. Harper's story is one that is all too familiar in the DC area; poverty, drugs and violence. Known for his athletic, aggressive skating style, Darren lived through the ups and downs of street life and wants to share his story with kids so they can avoid the pitfalls that almost cost him his life. "Darren is a positive role model for the youth of DC," says Chris Hall, a DC skateboarding legend who would be a collaborator and mentor for Harper. "I believe Darren has motivated a lot of black kids to come out and skate all over the DC area, which is a good alternative to negative activities."

Recently, The Washington Informer caught up with the "Obama of skateboarding"

to discuss his struggles growing up, the DC skateboarding scene and how skateboarding saved his life.

Washington Informer: How did a kid from Southeast DC end up on a skateboard before skateboarding was "cool"?

Darren Harper: I found my first skateboard in the late 80's, early 90's. You know, in every neighborhood, you have an eviction and basically I found my skateboard in a bunch of furniture that was outside. We just messed around with it, you know. I was just running up and down the hill, just having a little thrill. We just wanted to have fun, you know, little ghetto kids back then. And I think what happened was a little further down the line there was these two shows that came on cable, one on Nickelodeon, which was called SK8-TV and the other one was called Gleaming The Cube and when those two shows came out, it was a wrap. We was all skateboard out, we just wanted to mimic what we saw on TV, you know. Tony Hawk was one of the names that I called myself back then; we were just mesmerized, mesmerized man. We got excited and we just followed what we saw.