SOCIAL STUDIES: An interview with, Darren Harper the "Official" Skateboarder of Washington, DC
John Richards @jrichards202 | 5/4/2012, 3:30 p.m.
Washington Informer: What was it like for you growing up in DC?
Darren Harper: It was rough man. You know, I come from a low income family, welfare most of the time and my father was in and out of jail so you know, (it) kind of forced me to be a man early. I had a step father actually and he was basically in the same situation, in and out of jail and things like that. I had to kind of grow up early, be aggressive early, coming up in that environment you know with drugs and things like that was going on. It was just rough and (it was) hard to stay focused if you had any type of goal or anything because there was so much negativity going on during that time. Basically, I was one of them cats where a lot of people kind of when they seen me running in the wrong direction, they (would) straighten me up like you know, 'you don't have to go that route'. But it was very hard to stay afloat with all my peers and every male in my family selling drugs. I was the only one at that time that wasn't in the game, but I was still young, so I was just watching. It was rough.
Washington Informer: Who were some of your early influences in skateboarding?
Darren Harper: To be honest, like when I first started it was more so Tony Hawk because what we saw from TV, that's all we knew. There were no African-American skaters that we knew of back then, it was just cool, and we just wanted to jump, make that skateboard jump. Like how can you make it jump? We spent most of our time just knee-boarding down the hills and sitting on the board riding like that because we didn't know any tricks. It was a mixture; it was Tony Hawk [Laughs] and the drug dealers. You know, when you're living that, in that environment, we looked up to the neighborhood hustlers. We wanted that that money in the fast way.
Washington Informer: How important is Freedom Plaza to the local skateboarding scene?
Darren Harper: It's very important. Freedom Plaza is important because it's just one of those monumental places where skating began for the DC area. Since the past, way back when my fellow peers were skating, who I kinda came up under, that was just the spot, that was the meet up spot. All different races would come there and meet and over the years we made that place such an iconic place. We call it "The Fort, Freedom Plaza, "Pulaski"; you know it's got numerous names. That's just "The Kingdom", that's just the spot. Granted, you know, before Freedom, the guys before me skated, near their driveways and things like that. But that was the first place, the skateboarding Mecca in DC, where you would go and everybody would show up.
Washington Informer: I've heard it used to get rough down there sometimes.