National African American Roller Skating Archive

by SARAH MARLOFF


“Roller skating is the American pastime that no one talks about,” says Tasha Klusmann, president of Our Family Skate Association and historian behind the National African American Roller Skating Archive. For nearly 20 years, Klusmann, who grew up skating and competing in D.C., has been collecting archival objects—photos, skates, jerseys, jackets, medals, etc.—to document the history of America’s Black communities on skates. (According to Klusmann, there was a rink in Tulsa’s Black Wall Street that was bombed during the massacre.) The archive, which currently takes up a small, temporary footprint in a Northeast office building, began with the goal of making a documentary. Despite Klusmann’s efforts, she couldn’t find anything on roller skating in the Black community—not at MLK Library, local Black newspapers, or Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. So Klusmann and the center conducted outreach efforts across the country, collecting memorabilia, stories, photos, and oral histories that now make up a repository at Howard. But that’s not a museum. Instead, Klusmann is showcasing the NAARSA archive in a well-curated and in-depth display organized by time. The space is hidden away among warehouses, but worth the visit. The archive’s next stop, Klusmann hopes, will be a museum-level exhibit, but the current display is already museum quality. By appointment through December at 1726 17th St. NE. Free.