It was something positive for kids to do instead of sitting around the house, while schools are closed for the holidays. The Lake County Chapter of Black Lives Matter wanted to fill the void in the area’s underserved communities by stepping up with a free roller-skating party Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 2.
A rental bus was chartered, although many parents elected to drive to the Star Roller Rink in Racine. The entertainment facility was closed for the day, but opened its doors to accommodate more than 50 kids from places such as Kenosha, Zion, Waukegan, and North Chicago. It even included pizza and pop, a staple for any party.
“We’re always trying to find ways to stop the violence, not being lonely by depending on social media but going out, having fun, getting families together and talking to each other,” said Clyde McLemore, the chapter’s executive director and founder. “At Christmas, we gave away about 5,000 toys to kids in Zion.
“It’s important to find creative outlets for young kids to be involved with, like here … we’re playing games on roller skates like ‘red light, green light,’ let kids enjoy being kids,” he said.
Ron Rogers, the owner of Star Roller Rink, also knows the restless feeling youngsters get in sitting around the houses and sees a connection to the community with such events.
“I used to skate here in the early 1990s, when they had these all-night skates, locking you in for the night and it was safe … you can’t do that with kids nowadays,” he said. “I lived in Waukegan and a friend would give us a ride. Came here without permission one night, I got kicked out of the house. Fast-forward about 40 years, and I own the place.
“That’s a true story. These events are a benefit because this place acts like a community center, we’re tied to the neighborhood. A lot of the local kids that live nearby, and from the schools, they work here. We have birthday parties, field trips, private events with churches, the YMCA, and this, kids are smiling.”
The building at 1825 Sycamore Ave. in Racine is 60 years old and converted from a former factory. The hardwood skating area is approximately 13,000 square feet, filled with colored lights and a large-mirrored ball suspended from the ceiling. The otherworldly effect is what McLemore sought.
“It’s different and takes them out of their normal places,” he said. “It’s a gateway to our other programs like at-risk intervention and teen mentorship classes. We have to stop the violence by presenting alternatives to what’s happening.”
The Lake County BLM chapter sponsored a free field trip to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry in October and a free school supplies giveaway with book bags.
The kids were too busy having a good time to talk, with some experiencing their first efforts on a pair of roller skates.
Former Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham came by, and even put on a pair of skates to join the youngsters. “This is great,” he said.
McLemore did the same, cautiously walking toward the hardwood floor. “I won’t go skating backwards,” he said.