Americans help Cuba’s skateboarding scene by raising funds and awareness
- Submitted by: manso
- 07 / 26 / 2011
By Killeen Gonzalez, Yahoo! Contributor. If there is one truth that can be said about the skate scene as a whole, it's that skateboarders have a penchant for becoming involved in humanitarian causes. Those causes vary from issues that affect us domestically to interests abroad. There are skateboarders raising money for cancer and autism, feeding the hungry and using skating as a catalyst for world peace and for breaking down borders.
Proof of the good work skateboarders do is easy to find. There is Pierre-Andre Senizergues' extensive environmental work, Ryan Sheckler's annual fundraisers, Bob Burnquist's Chipotle Garden Research, Sakteistan's work in Afghanistan and Cuba Skate. Cuba Skate is just one grassroots organization that is seeking to make skateboarding more accessible to the Cuban people. Here is a brief look at Cuba Skate and the two other groups that share their mission.
Cuba Skate was founded by two University of Michigan students after studying abroad in Havana, Cuba. Much like the Aussie skateboarders who were touched by their trip to Afghanistan, students Miles Jackson and Lauren Bradley were moved by what they saw in Cuba and created Cuba Skate. What the pair witnessed while in Cuba was plenty of raw, skateboarding talent coupled with creativity and a serious lack of resources for the native skaters. Skate fans may be surprised to learn that although the communist country does have a few skate parks, there isn't a single skate shop. That leaves the Cuban skaters doing what Cubans do well, improvising with what they have. Skateboards in Cuba are often fashioned and repaired out of the materials available, which in most cases is repurposed plywood and nails.
Based on their observations, the two went back home and founded Cuba Skate, an organization that seeks to increase the resources available to Cuba's skate community through donations of hard and soft skateboarding related goods. All the items donated are then transported to Cuba and distributed to the Cuban skate community. Since that first humanitarian visit they have made several such trips and all have been met by the Cuban skateboard scene with heartfelt appreciation. They are currently in the process of soliciting additional donations for a future trip. Skateboarders interested in lending Cuba Skate a hand should log onto the group's website for further information on what help is needed.
The Abril brothers from Florida's Coconut Grove, 27 year old Daniel and 30 year old Joshua, have launched their own concerted efforts to bring skateboarding gear as well as a skate ramp to Havana. The brothers had initially gone to Cuba as part of a film making venture. They shared experiences similar to Jackson and Bradley, which motivated them in much the same way. Upon their initial return to the states, the brothers solicited and received donations from Destructo Trucks and several South Florida skate shops. Those donations were then distributed to Cuban skaters like Che Alejandro Pando Napoles last December. The group, like Cuba Skate's founders, have been back to the country since and are currently busy raising funds and looking for additional donations.
Rene Lecour is a 43 year old first generation Cuban-American and South Florida skate shop owner that shares the same goals as the others. Ironically, Lecour and his family also visited Cuban last year just like the Abril brothers, Jackson and Bradley. At the time neither group knew of the other. Lecour and his family also brought skateboarding gear with them and managed to connect with Che Alejandro Pando Napoles, who goes by the name of Pando for short. Since that initial visit, Lecour and the Abril brothers were made aware of each other's efforts. Like the Abril Brothers and Cuba Skate, Lecour and his family are also planning a return trip laden with additional skateboarding supplies for the Cuban skate community.
My children are skateboarders and I have a history of following the sport. My family also has Cuban roots and as such I have a deep respect for the Cuban people.