By Grahame Anderson

A group of roller skaters based in the North East are using their skills to travel 685 miles and raise money for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The close friends drew inspiration from 27-year-old Ledger Smith who in August 1963 skated 685 miles from Chicago to Washington D.C. in only 10 days to attend Martin Luther King Jr.’s March.

More than 70 members including people who have recently just taken up roller skating and experienced roller derby players will make up the team. Ages range from as young as 12 to individuals in their 50’s, all determined to do their bit.

In fact, across the past month everyone has skated a minimum of 15 miles each, raising thousands for both the Angelou Centre and Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Brainchild

The scheme was the brainchild of Samantha Diston who said: “After seeing all of the social media and news posts following the tragic death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement sweeping across the globe we felt helpless and hopeless.

“Not long after this, we saw an old news article describing what Ledger Smith achieved and as an avid roller skating enthusiast, it was like a light bulb moment I had one night.

“I wanted to help charities fighting racism and discrimination, and after reaching out to some other skating friends the idea of the challenge just snowballed from there.

“Institutional and systemic racism has got to end, there’s a long road ahead but we want to be allies for black people and the movement has made sure we all hold ourselves and people around us accountable.

“It’s not enough to be non-racist, we have to be anti-racist. Even if we previously regarded ourselves as non-racist it’s not enough, all of us need to help to fix the problem of systemic racism, to learn and educate ourselves on these issues.”

Money Coming In

So far, ‘Skate Against hate’, has raised more than £2,500 for the Angelou Centre, set up to support back and ethnic minority women in Newcastle – and the well known Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Samantha added: “We wanted to support a local charity as well as a charity on a national level, hence the choice of recipients.

At a time when Islamophobia is a concern in the North-East, the efforts of this vibrant group of roller skating friends is more than welcome.