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'Melanin Skate Gals & Pals' Founder Marie Mayassi: The Energy of Equality

Sassy Sisters Podcast with Bethany Burgoyne and Special Guest Marie Mayassi

Skateboarding enthusiast and leader of change, Marie Mayassi, is creating opportunities for People of Colour of marginalised genders to join the skateboarding scene. Fueled by frustration of seeing the dominance of cis white males within the sport, Marie founded 'Skate Gals & Pals'; a collective aiming to create social action and community building through skating. It is Marie's uniquely infectious energy that carries this special and essential initiative. Alongside prioritising and ensuring the safety of each new member through trust and sisterly awareness.

Hear Marie Mayassi discuss her ever-growing passion for skating and the journey of interconnecting the Melanin Skate Gals & Pals community in this week's Sassy Sisters Podcast with host Bethany Burgoyne.

Images by Hannah Bailey

When asking Marie about her introduction to skating, she tells us how in 2017, in a moment of boredom, she picked up her housemates skateboard. With an instant love for the sport, she managed to find a handful of friends to link up with and skate, but on days when no one was free, she explains how "it was daunting this idea of going to the skate park on your own. Thinking they'd only be white males there." In this realisation, Marie and her friend decided to build a community that would enable, or create, a network of nonmale individuals to link up and skate.

This led to the founding of Leeds Skate Gals & Pals. A network encouraging women and marginalised genders to skate together. Since Marie and her friend started the initiative a few years ago, the community has grown to include hundreds of women across the UK. In a bid to diversify the sport, more groups started to pop up and an awareness grew about the lack of representation within the skateboarding industry. Marie explains how, "This really put the discussion of gender equality at the forefront of the skateboarding community, and that was really good...There are now more than 800 people in the Leeds group so you can see it was something that was definitely needed".

It put the discussion of gender equality at the forefront of the skateboarding community, and that was really good

Over the course of lockdown, Marie moved back to Paris before deciding it was time to move to London so she could study to start her PhD. She was once again left looking for a community to skate with and knew she wanted to set something up that went beyond what had been achieved in Leeds. Marie wanted to focus on marginalised genders whilst also prioritising the safety and representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.

As a crucial leader in bringing minority gender representation into the skateboarding community, Marie was still finding herself to be excluded. "At some point, I realised [the skateboarding community] wasn't as inclusive as I wanted it to be, inclusive of me as a Black Woman."

With the rise of awareness around racism, Marie reflects on the amount of mental and emotional energy it takes to be in white centred space. This sense of exhaustion was added to by the performative allyship shown by brands and companies claiming to be inclusive."I was fed up of seeing the same faces at the forefront of this movement.... blonde, white, cisgender women... totally fitting within your beauty standards." With such little representation of the diversity that exists in the skateparks, Marie decided it was time to act. by launching Melanin Skate Gals & Pals. A space for the BIPOC community to safely skate together and have fun!

Skateboarding's opened so many doors and opportunities for me, I've never been so grateful for an object that's just a wooden plank with some wheels!

With her mission in mind, Marie reached out to people via a friend's Facebook group called 'London Link Up for People of Colour'. The traction was incredible; within a few months, over 150 people joined the private group chat, and hundreds of people came through to the meet-ups. This moment of transition is something that allowed Marie to open her imagination up to every possibility. "From [there}, my brain was able to unleash all the ideas I had. I started an online video series highlighting skaters of colour around the world. And with the collective right now, we're starting a skate brand where we'll be able to sponsor the people from our crew, who are really good skaters but who aren't getting the time of day".

In such a short time, Melanin Skate Gals & Pals has truly blossomed into a community of caring people driving forward societal change for their fellow womxn and nonbinary people. This is a testimony to the quality of care and trust Marie Mayassi exudes, and the limitless creative ideas the collective are about to bring to life. Watch the video below to learn more about Melanin Skate Gals & Pals and be sure to get in touch via the links below for further details.

Watch Skate Gals & Pals Meet: video series HERE and catch Marie via IG @maysback

Keep up-to-date with all meet-ups and events via IG @melaningalsnpals and @skategalsnpals

And be sure to visit the Skate Gals & Pals website

Donate to the collective, to support the funding of mobile skate parks and the development of individual skaters careers.


Marie Mayassi's Tracklist

Big Joanie - Tell A Lie

Marie shares 3 tracks from 1ZI (member of Melanin Skate Gals & Pals)

Track 2 - Vibe with me

Track 5 - Wave August

Summer Pearl - War

Byulah and Anja Ngozi - B BRAVE

@anja.ngozi - You can watch our Sassy mini-doc about Producer Anja Ngozi here

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