Interview with Skateboard Legend Alphonzo Rawls

In the late 80’s and early 90’s skateboarding emerged as one of the fastest growing sports to date. With over 18 million skaters worldwide, skateboarding has continued to grow since its conception in the late 1960’s. One skater who laid the foundation for early African-American professional skateboarders is Alphonzo Rawls. Rawls,who is an independent shoe designer in San Diego, spoke with us about skating and his career.

Interview by Brandon Q. Jackson

So you’re a shoe designer now? How did you segue into doing that after skateboarding?
Kastel Shoe Company approached me around 1995 about doing a pro model shoe. I was already into art and designing things so I knew it was something I wanted to do. I presented 10 designs to the company and they liked it. 17 years and over 102 designs I’m still at it!

Can you talk about skateboarding when you first started vs. today? How much has changed in the past 20 years?
I think skateboarding is in a good place today. Skateboarding is more recognized today. It’s more accepted than it was in the past. A lot of adults are backing it today. Skateboarding is more diverse today that it was 25 or so years ago.

e409a93482494971490cd3883dd3acafWhen you came out on the scene, you joined the ranks of skaters like Ron Allen, Ray Barbee, and Ron Chatman as being one of the most visible African-American pro skaters. Did that do anything for you knowing that you influenced black skaters that did not grow up in a diverse setting?
Yes and no. I was kind of doing my own thing and I didn’t really think about it at first. It wasn’t until after the Hokus Pokus video that I started to think about it. There were few scenes in my part that addressed the issue of race so I guess I felt there was an influence.

What was it like skating for H-Street and what do you think Hokus Pokus did for street skateboarding when it was released?
It was the most amazing time in my life. I was 14 years old when I first got sponsored by H-Street. It was all new and a lot of it was being done for the first time. H-street is such a “doing it yourself” brand. The graphics were tighter and it really put skateboarding on the map.

I know that you skated both vert and street. Did you ever lean to one more than the other?
It was a golden era and we just skated. We were just skateboarders. When I think of skateboarding as a whole I think we should get back to that. I respect pros more when they are diverse. It was cool to see Jason Lee (Actor), Lance Mountin, and Eric Kosten do both when they skated.

Any advice for kids who are currently learning how to skateboard?
Just skate and have fun. If a kid wants to get sponsored they have to realize it takes more than just skill set and doing lots of tricks. A lot of pros these days are more in charge of their career today.


 Ryan White: A Gift That Touched The World


On December 6, 1971 a gift would be given to the world. That gift was Ryan Wayne White, who at the age of 13 would go on to be a poster child for HIV/AIDS across the nation and world. Ryan White did not just live to be a voice for HIV & AIDS. His life was about teaching the world that no matter what race, social economic status, or what disease you had, all people are created equal. Ryan White would spend the next 5 years of his life educating people across the nation and world about the AIDS virus after being diagnosed with the virus in December of 1984. Jeanne White-Ginder, who is Ryan White’s mother, stated that “people were amazed by Ryan’s spirit and his determination to educate and help people to understand what AIDS was all about.”
jEA3This April marks 28 years after the passing of Ryan White. I remember meeting Ryan’s mom a few years back when she was on hand at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum to speak about his life and legacy. There is an exhibit at the Children’s museum called “The Power of Children: Making a Difference” with a display of Ryan’s room the way it was while he was living. His mom wanted to make sure that people knew who he was by donating his items to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.
“I had left Ryan’s room the way it was after he died. We were in the process of moving to Florida from Cicero, Indiana, and I didn’t want to leave all of Ryan’s things in a box. Officials from the Children’s Museum came to Cicero to see the room and loved it. They wanted to make sure that children got a chance to see who Ryan White was as a person while he was living,” stated White-Gardner.
jEsPEven though Ryan has been gone for almost 30 years, his mother has continued to keep his legacy alive by speaking about his life across the world. In 2013 President Obama reauthorized the Ryan White Care Act, which is geared toward helping people who are living with AIDS that don’t have health insurance. People across the world have learned about HIV/AIDS through Ryan’s story. Students are learning about his life through book reports that they’ve done for class, the exhibit at the Children’s Museum, and concerned parents who want to educate their children about issues that matter in the world. Kiesha Clark of Indianapolis brought her daughter who is 8 to the exhibit to hear Ryan’s mother speak. Clark, who wants to raise her daughter to be aware that all children are equal, was glad she came to the event that lasted for 45 minutes.
“I want to teach my daughter that everyone is the same, and that everybody deserves to be treated with respect because they are a human being just like her,” stated Clark.
Ryan White’s life has been an encouragement to others who have had to live with the disease. In a recent ESPN special Magic Johnson shared how Ryan’s story touched his life when he discovered he had contracted HIV. Ryan’s life has continued to touch people who are just now learning about HIV/AIDS. His life will continue to be a gift to those who knew him and to those who are just discovering who he is. To learn more about Ryan White please visit





She Is Our Future


There comes a time in a young girls life,
When she begins to start growing  up.
It’s a time when you need to let her go,
And trust that she’ll take  the right path.
Now is when she needs you most.
She needs your  trust,
And she needs your love.
The closer you try to pull her in,
The  further away she’ll go.
She’s growing up..
So let her go.

Beautiful woman this poem is for you
Full of beauty and grace
Rare black Queen sitting high on your throne
No one can take your place
Your heart is full of pure gold
Never to be played with
Bought or sold
Your Love is Patient Your Love is kind
Always trying to bring joy to others even when you can’t do it for yourself
And keeping them close in mind
A good woman is what you are
A woman to whom is proud of who she is and what shestands for
Never seeking definition from whom she is with
A strong woman is what I see when I look at you
One who can pick up the small pieces of her broken heart
And carry on as if she was never hurt in the first place.
When talking about this woman I can’t help but smile. (Poem by Cwoods2119)

You Can Make It!!!
Brandon empowering a group of students

Jasmine Guy Visits Indy


 Every so often you will have a television show that will change the way people think, live, and how they view life. One show in particular was A Different World, which made its debut 27 years ago. A Different World would address issues that raised awareness about racism, HIV, and life at a historically Black College. One character that made her mark on the show with her signature southern accent was Whitley Gilbert who was played by Jasmine Guy. Ms. Guy was on hand as the keynote speaker at the 2014 IUPUI dinner celebrating the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Indianapolis on January 19th at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. The annual dinner has been held for the last 45 years and has featured speakers such as Bobby Seale, Maya Angelou, and Ben Carson. Ms. Guy was introduced by Gerri Black, who was one of the coordinators for the event. Black, who is a first-generation college student, was very moved by Ms. Guy’s speech. “I was inspired by Jasmine Guy growing up. She is a person that has always had the ability to touch people. Her life has been a true blessing to me,” stated BlackJasmine2.And touching the audience with her speech that night is exactly what Jasmine Guy did. IUPUI students, faculty, and the community had the chance to hear Ms. Guy’s experience growing up across the street from the King family. Her father, who is also a preacher, attended and taught at Morehouse College, which is the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King. Ms. Guy spoke a message of how Dr. Martin Luther King was just a human being like all of us. “We all have the ability to make a difference like Dr. King. He was human just like us. We don’t have to do something that will change the world. We can do something will change our homes and community,” said Ms. Guy. The very next day on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, over 500 IUPUI students volunteered at 20 different agencies around the city. The vision of Dr. Martin Luther King and the message of Jasmine Guy inspired those very students to keep his dream alive by serving. To learn more about Jasmine Guy, please visit