Kamry James On The Freedom Found In Rollerskating
The model goes skating in NYC while wearing the Jordan WMNS Court To Runway collection and sharing the new WMNS Air Jordan 8.
Words and Art Direction: Alexis Barnett
Photography: Christian Cody
There’s a rich history of skating in the Black community. From the Civil Rights movement to the evolution of hip-hop music, roller rinks have a deep, decades-long influence that goes well beyond recreation. During a year of continued unrest and turmoil, women like Kamry James have been using roller skating to reclaim space, find community and spread joy on social media. For Kamry, community exists through her group, Sista Skate, as well as her TikTok and Instagram pages, where she posts stylish skating videos from scenic parts of Los Angeles.
With a degree in fashion design and a childhood spent traveling the world with her mom and sisters, Kamry’s introduction to the skating world happened almost accidentally and became a form of therapy. “The first time I went roller skating was after being in a dark place and feeling very lonely,” says Kamry. “When I went to this skating rink in Seattle for the first time, I felt free, like when I was a child.”
Soon after, Kamry packed her bags for Los Angeles, in hopes of not only pursuing a career in fashion, but finding a calling and working to empower others. With a background in modeling and styling, Kamry spent her first few months working until she saved up enough to buy a coveted pair of skates. From there, she found her niche of “jam skating” — one of three common categories that skaters typically fall into, depending on the techniques used.
“Jam skating is definitely derived from Black culture,” explains Kamry. “Jam skaters dance to ’90s hip-hop and R&B music. I’m not always jam skating, but I like to combine the spins from artistic skating with jam skating, some hip-hop and a few technical jumps. I usually call myself a ‘disco skater.’”
Kamry is the first to acknowledge that there are inequalities and microaggressions throughout the skating world. Knowing the positive impact skating has had on her life, she’s working hard to keep the legacy of Black skating alive, all while creating inclusive spaces like Sista Skate.
We caught up with Kamry to talk about the evolution of roller skating and the fashionable yet functional appeal of the Jordan WMNS Court to Runway collection.
Tell me about what you were like growing up. When did you realize that you were into fashion?
I was always an entrepreneur as a child. Even in elementary school, I sold Pokémon cards and candy from my locker; I was pretty creative. My mom was also in the military, and that allowed us to travel the world. I lived in England and got to travel to Spain, Italy and Germany with my mom. I would sit down on a bench and people-watch at the malls and different markets. That really fueled my passion for fashion.
How has being a sister informed the person you’ve become?
I grew up with just my two sisters and my mom. We were always moving around and had to make new friends. As a kid, I also grew up taking care of my twin sister, who has Down syndrome. That made me strong. She doesn’t speak very well, so I would speak for her. I always knew what she needed.
I was always a caretaker, and that’s what I am now. I’m always the person to bring extra band-aids when I go skating. I always make sure that everybody feels included and like family.
You’ve only been skating for a couple of years now. What attracted you to it as an activity?
I’ve gotten confidence from roller skating. When you fall, it’s about getting back up and going. When going down hills, I feel like there’s nothing that can stop me. I love it. Being a Black woman in America, I don’t always feel seen, but roller skating allows me to feel seen.
Venice Beach has an especially really rich history of Black skaters dating back to the ‘70s. What are some of the challenges that persist today for Black skaters?
There’s discrimination everywhere. The spotlight isn’t always put on Black skaters. I’ve definitely witnessed discrimination when it comes to certain roller rinks. They have rules like, you can’t wear small wheels, which is what jam skaters, who happen to mostly Black, wear. There are rules that you can’t wear baggy pants. Wearing baggy pants was a style in the ‘90s, and that’s when these rules started popping up at these rings, all to discriminate against the Black skaters.
How have you personally navigated those types of situations?
I created this group called Sista Skate, which is a group of Black and brown feminized-identifying skaters. Our mission is to empower women to get involved in the skate community and give back through the art of roller skating. We teach courses, we’ve donated some of our proceeds to Black Lives Matter and we’ve put on a protest. I believe that we need to give back to our community in any way that we can.
Skating culture is so big in our community, but Black women are often left out of it. I’ve created this group to find other Black skaters who can contribute ideas, so that we can all give back. We want to encourage other people to be more aware of the discrimination that goes on around them, and show them how they can change it.
How does skating help empower others?
It’s definitely empowered me. It’s a way to disconnect from everything that’s going on in the outside world. I started teaching right after George Floyd’s death. It was hard for everybody, obviously, but I was really going through it. I wanted to go to the protests, but I went a couple of times, and I got anxiety. I felt helpless, and I felt like I needed to help my people, but I didn’t know how.
I had time, and I had my skills, so I decided to raise money to donate to Black Lives Matter by teaching classes through Zoom. I got an overwhelming amount of feedback from Black female skaters who wanted to learn more. They’d tell me that I made their day. I met this one girl who didn’t have the best home life, but she said she would take my Zoom classes, and it was a great way to escape. It helped her get through everything that she was going through.
In your skating videos, you always have a fresh look that shows your personal style. What is it about this Jordan WMNS Court To Runway collection that speaks to you?
I love the leather jumpsuit. I’m a big fan of jumpsuits, because they’re easy to wear. As a stylist, I’ve had a closet full of jumpsuits, because you can easily keep anything you need in your pockets. You can run around in them, and you don’t have to think too much about it. It’s effortlessly sexy and cool. You just throw it on, and you have a full outfit on.
I also loved the cheetah print coat. It’s cool that it’s adjustable. I’ve been really into cheetah print since moving to L.A.
What are some ways that you see overlap in both sneaker culture and skate culture?
I love shoes, but I only allow myself to buy a couple of pairs of Nikes or Jordans a year, because I’ll get them dirty or mess them up! Though I love the WMNS Air Jordan 8 that I got to wear for this shoot. Honestly, I’m like that with skates, too. I just have my two pairs! But there are a lot of people out there who collect skates. They have like 50 or 100 pairs, just like with sneakers. It’s all about showing off your style.
How do you hope to push skating culture forward?
That’s a hard one. I think that skate culture is already evolving, because it’s always been a thing. Being inclusive, friendly and supportive of new skaters is going to encourage more people to be in this culture and help it grow.
My group, Sista Skate, is a great avenue for that, but there are also other groups being created. Finding your own family, and finding a place where you feel like you fit in, will help us evolve this scene and make it bigger and bigger.
The Jordan WMNS Court To Runway collection is available starting November 26 on Jordan.com and from select retailers. The WMNS Air Jordan 8 is available starting December 4 from SNKRS and select retailers.