by Jason Lewis, Los Angeles Sentinel
Planet Maple co-owner William Lee Lamar has been skateboarding and surfing for the past 22 years, and he wanted to bring his passion to his people. He sees the extreme sports as a way to keep kids out of trouble.
“When I was coming up out of Fairfax High School in the ‘80s, in this area everybody was kind of doing drugs and gangbanging,” Lamar said. “I personally went to hanging out in Venice. Since I’ve been out there, I got comfortable and met a couple of brothers out there. There were a lot of hardcore skaters.”
Lamar followed his passion, even though it was considered a white sport, and now he is passing it on to younger blacks that have picked up the sport.
“I always wanted to bring that to my community, to my people,” Lamar said. “When I was a little kid coming up, if you were skating or surfing, brothers were calling you white. They’d ask ‘why you trying to act white?’ I’d ask ‘Why you trying to act like a slave? You can do whatever you want.’”
Lamar has made it a point to let people know that our people have been skating and participating in water sports for generations.
“What always bothered me was that they always portrayed it as some white sport,” Lamar said. “Black people were the first people on this planet. We do everything. Anytime there were indigenous people of color to that area, they were doing some sort of surfing. They were in some way connected to the ocean. So me personally, I never believed all that crap that we don’t swim. They told us that as we were slaves to keep us from escaping. So my drive when I was out there surfing was always to represent for the brothers.”
Skateboarding and surfing changed Lamar’s life, and through Planet Maple he is seeing that it is changing the lives of many black kids.
“The biggest thing that I’ve seen and the biggest benefit is that kids have lost a lot of weight,” Lamar said. “A lot of kids come in here overweight, eating that fast food stuff. Skating helps with childhood obesity. The second biggest thing is a lot of these kids changed their lives. They’re not gangbanging anymore. They’re not thinking about getting in gangs anymore.”
Planet Maple offers skateboarding and surfing lessons by certified instructors, and they have their own sponsored skate team.
“Part of being on our team is that you have to be a skater,” Lamar said. “We have to see you out there skating. At all the hot parks, at the contests, putting in work. To be a pro skater your reputation comes from the street. It doesn’t come from TV. Those guys are already pro.”
There are big plans for the future with Planet Maple. A second store will be opened soon, they plan to open an indoor skate park in the black community, and through their Urban Skateboarding Association, which is partnering with pro skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, will open a skate park at Rancho La Cienega park on September 16.