Goodbye gangs, hello longboarding
search
Photo essay

Goodbye gangs, hello longboarding

Longboarding for Peace, a coexistence initiative started in Jaffa, spreads to cities like Houston, where gang members are putting down their guns and picking up skating

  • Taking a ride on a longboard at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
    Taking a ride on a longboard at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
  • Yoni Ettinger demonstrates some tricks at the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
    Yoni Ettinger demonstrates some tricks at the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
  • A boy from Sderot feels the wind in his face as he glides on a longboard (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
    A boy from Sderot feels the wind in his face as he glides on a longboard (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
  • Some four-wheel fun at the Longboarding for Peace event in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
    Some four-wheel fun at the Longboarding for Peace event in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
  • Israeli pro-longboarder Yoni Ettinger (photo credit: Courtesy)
    Israeli pro-longboarder Yoni Ettinger (photo credit: Courtesy)
  • Skating 101 in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
    Skating 101 in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
  • A Palestinian girl smiles at the Longboarding for Peace event at the Shuafat refugee camp last summer (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
    A Palestinian girl smiles at the Longboarding for Peace event at the Shuafat refugee camp last summer (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
  • Arab and Jewish kids participate in a Longboarding for Peace event in Jaffa (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
    Arab and Jewish kids participate in a Longboarding for Peace event in Jaffa (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)

People who love longboarding say there’s nothing quite as liberating as cruising on a board. It’s a state of physical and mental zen that’s not just a sport but a way of life — a concrete jungle art form.

And riding a longboard — a skateboard that’s longer, more stable, and has more traction than its traditional counterpart — isn’t so different from the balance and harmony needed to achieve peace, Michael Brooke, the founder of Longboarding for Peace (LB4P), told The Times of Israel recently.

Brooke, a Canadian in his 40s who runs the skateboarding magazine Concrete Wave, started his peace initiative in Jaffa last July with the help of the Peres Center for Peace. He brought Jewish and Arab kids together to try their hand at longboarding and learn new things about themselves and their peers in the process.

To get LB4P up and running, Brooke got people from the professional skateboarding world involved, such as local skateboarding companies Slick and Da Silva Boards, and Arthur Rashkovan of the Surfing4Peace project, and even Israeli pro longboarder Yoni Ettinger. Last summer, they held coexistence events in Jericho, Sderot, and the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. More such events are being planned for this summer.

Sivan Hendel from the Peres Center said they’re also developing long-term programs where teens who have been to LB4P events will mentor novice kids, ages 7 through 12. Brooke also hopes to bring his startup to Beit Shemesh in order to integrate secular and ultra-Orthodox kids.

Michael Brooke, the founder of Longboarding for Peace, with a young enthusiast at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa (photo credi: Yohav Trudler)
Michael Brooke, the founder of Longboarding for Peace, with a young enthusiast at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa (photo credi: Yohav Trudler)

Yet no one, not even Brooke, expected the peace project to “ignite” and spread around the world.

LB4P now extends to Canada, Peru, and several American cities including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Houston, where the focus is to help young gang members and underprivileged kids find cool alternatives to violence and drugs — and stay out of prison.

Mikey Seibert, a ranking ex-gang member of the Gangster Disciples who grew up in Houston’s crime-ridden Fifth Ward, brought LB4P to his hometown. Seibert told The Times of Israel that six of the 20 kids involved in the previous project were rival gang members “who put down their guns and joined together through longboarding.”

The next LB4P session includes two kids from the Bloods, four from the Crips, and one who’s a Latin King. To help the kids through the pressure of leaving a gang, Seibert also started a mentoring process, by which the older kids who are more familiar with the sport (and who’ve already left gangs) encourage the newer kids to do the same.

“I got them all to agree not to bring guns or drugs to any of our classes,” Seibert said after one of the kids brought his weapon to an LB4P session.

Last February, the Peres Center in Jaffa hosted 35 kids for some four-wheel fun. Alongside a shiny promenade for skating, next to the silver-crested ocean waves, the group laughed, played, and explored unchartered territories.

“It was an amazing moment. We had the Mediterranean Sea on one side, and a building of peace behind us, and a huge slab of concrete in the middle that’s smooth and ideal for skateboarding,” Brooke said. “It was the perfect moment — a synergy of body, mind, and soul.”

Here is a collection of photos that tells the story of Longboarding for Peace.

Longboards and helmets, courtesy of local skate shops, laid out for a Longboarding for Peace event last February (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
Longboards and helmets, courtesy of local skate shops, laid out for a Longboarding for Peace event last February (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
The Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa (pictured in the background) was the "spark” that made Longboarding for Peace possible, says Michael Brooke, the movement’s founder. (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
The Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa (pictured in the background) was the “spark” that made Longboarding for Peace possible, says Michael Brooke, the movement’s founder. (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
Arab and Jewish kids come together for Longboarding for Peace at the Peres Center in Jaffa (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
Arab and Jewish kids come together for Longboarding for Peace at the Peres Center in Jaffa (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
Michael Brooke, the founder of Longboarding for Peace (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
Michael Brooke, the founder of Longboarding for Peace, goes for a whirl (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
Yoni Ettinger in action (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yoni Ettinger in action (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Houston kids at a spring Longboarding for Peace event. Six of the 20 kids involved in the previous LB4P project were rival gang members who came together and put down their guns. (photo credit: Andrea Wallace)
Houston kids at a spring Longboarding for Peace event. Six of the 20 kids involved in the previous LB4P project were rival gang members who came together and put down their guns. (photo credit: Andrea Wallace)
A Palestinian gets a little help from Israeli pro longboarder Yoni Ettinger (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
A Palestinian gets a little help from Israeli pro longboarder Yoni Ettinger (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Teenage girls practice gliding on longboards at the Shuafat refugee camp last July (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Teenage girls practice gliding on longboards at the Shuafat refugee camp last July (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Yoni Ettinger dazzles a mixed Israeli and Palestinian group with his longboarding tricks (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Yoni Ettinger dazzles a mixed Israeli and Palestinian group with his longboarding tricks (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
A street scene near the recreation center in the city of Jericho in the West Bank, where Longboarding for Peace held a skating event for Palestinian kids (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
A street scene near the sports recreation center in the city of Jericho in the West Bank (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Ready to longboard in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Ready to longboard in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Watching the pros demonstrate in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Watching the pros demonstrate in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Some four-wheel fun at the Longboarding for Peace in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Some four-wheel fun at the Longboarding for Peace in Jericho (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Kids in Sderot get a lesson from Yoni Ettinger, an Israeli pro longboarder (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Kids in Sderot get a lesson from Yoni Ettinger, an Israeli pro longboarder (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Taking a break from longboarding in Sderot (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
Taking a break from longboarding in Sderot (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
An impromptu private lesson at the Sderot Longboarding for Peace event (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
An impromptu private lesson at the Sderot Longboarding for Peace event (photo credit: Yair Hasidof)
A moment of zen at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
A moment of zen at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa (photo credit: Yohav Trudler)
read more:
comments