The Church of 8 Wheels is a roller skating rink located in San Francisco's Lower Haight district. The rink is aptly named - it formerly housed Sacred Heart Church for over one hundred years. I decided on the name for this series after a visit to the "Church" in November 2016.
In the Christian tradition, the church is used as a gathering space for religious activities and worship services. In a more secular sense, the church serves as a place to find and build community. For much of African-Americans' history in the United States, the church has been a place to find not only salvation, but refuge from terror.
I've roller skated on-and-off since I was about fifteen years old. My mother was a roller skater in New York City during the disco era and she introduced me to the art form at the tender age of five. I picked it back up in my teens and was then employed as a skate guard at my local rink for a few summers.
In the past five years, I've rediscovered my love of roller skating and have been attending skate parties around the country. These are mostly photos from my travels. Skate culture is still mostly underground, but like most subcultures the community exists as its own world complete with different regional skating styles, custom skates, music, clothing, etc. It's its own little living and breathing ecosystem.
If you don't roller skate then it's probably hard for you to understand why adults would pay hundreds of dollars and use their precious PTO just to roller skate. And that’s (one of) the biggest misconceptions. It’s not just skating - it’s community, therapy, healing, tradition, and creativity. It’s freedom.
During a really good session, the DJ will play a track that just takes me. The song, my skating, and the people around me will move me into another realm.
In those moments, this is Church.
Welcome to the Church of 8 Wheels.
*This series is ongoing. I'm still skating, still traveling...