Photoshoot with D4SM Client Professional Skateboarder Darren Harper Aims to Change the Game for Urban Youth
Visit most urban areas today, and there’s a good chance you’ll see at least one kid zoom by on a skateboard. A few years ago, though, this was a rare sight in neighborhoods like professional skateboarder, Darren Harper’s, native Southeast Washington, D.C. When Harper hopped onto his first skateboard at age eight after finding it on the side of the road, it wasn’t a popular pastime among his peers, let alone a potential career option.
Nevertheless, Darren eventually began spending his weekends practicing at Freedom Plaza in downtown DC. It was a brief reprieve from his rough neighborhood and the fights he had with schoolmates who misunderstood. To them, skating was “a white boy sport.” Consequently, Harper learned to disassemble his skateboard and hide it in a bag until he was out of sight. Since he also sold drugs to make ends meet, he was no newcomer to concealing things- or bags. Still, he was inspired by skaters he saw on television, like Tony Hawk and others on Skate TV and felt an identity conflict of sorts, so he got a job at Tower Records and continued to hone his skill on a skateboard.
Darren, nicknamed DStreets by his neighborhood cohorts, realized that skateboarding could be his ticket to a better life and began marketing himself and attending trade shows. He had a friend who believed in him enough to buy a camera and begin filming him so that he’d have a reel to send executives at companies related to the industry. That reel ended up in the hands of Blink 182 drummer, Travis Barker. In 2006, at the age of 24, Harper actually met Barker at a tradeshow in San Diego- a meeting which resulted in a professional sponsorship with Barker’s brand Famous Stars & Straps. Able to quit his retail job and focus fully on skating, Darren traveled the world participating in skate competitions and making skateboarding videos. He even appeared on an episode of Travis’ reality show, Meet the Barkers.Southeast DC and the kids that live there have never been far from DStreets’ mind or heart no matter where his wheels took him, though. He’s made it his personal mission to not only make the sport more “cool” to inner city kids, but to also show them alternatives to dead-end activities, like selling drugs. Though their surroundings may look bleak, Darren’s goal is to help them see what he’s seen- that “dreams do come true.” To that end, he often distributes free skateboards to and mentors disenfranchised youth. When he’s not working, you can often find him teaching kids to skate, whether he’s at home in the Metropolitan DC area or on a break at Back to the Banks in New York. Though his vehicle is a skateboard, the goal of Harper’s movement is to help children realize there are no color lines or class barriers that can keep them from their dreams- whether they involve a deck and four wheels or not.
Harper actually still has more dreams of his own to fulfill. In addition to opening the minds of inner city kids, he hopes to launch his own clothing and skateboard brand. Plus, he plays in a band that plays Go-Go and Hip-Hop music; he plays the conga drums. Skateboarding, mentoring, performing and starting a new business all at once may make some men’s heads spin, but Darren loves it all. Though his street corner days are far behind him, he says “all I did was switch my hustle… I’ll never stop hustling.”
For more information on Darren, visit YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/dzstreet), or get real time updates from him at http://twitter.com/dstreets
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