Darren Harper Overcomes Turbulent Past to Become World-Class Skateboarder

Darren Harper grew up in an area of Washington, D.C., where crime and poverty were introduced to him at an early age. Before the age of 18, Harper witnessed several shootings, sold drugs and was arrested on a drug charge.

However, Harper’s decision to move beyond his troubles and his love for skateboarding allowed him to change his life.  He eventually worked his way to becoming one of the top skateboarders in the world.

During a recent conversation with rolling out sports, Harper spoke about his rise in the skatingboarding world and how it is becoming prominent in hip-hop. –amir shaw

Take us back to the first day of picking up a skateboard. How old were you and what was it like?
I recall in the late 1980s finding a skinny yellow skateboard in a furniture set outside from a neighborhood eviction. I was 8 or 9 years old then. I spent most of the time afterwards knee-boarding down the hills in the ‘hood.

What are your thoughts on the skateboarding culture becoming big in hip-hop?
I’m all for skateboarding being showcased in today’s hip-hop, because rappers are helping to make African American skaters more relevant. Skateboarding has always been around, but it has always been viewed as a “white sport.” If you look at a commercial that has skaters in it, nine times out of 10 the skaters are white. Hip-hop has been showing that we have African American skaters, too. On the other hand, hip-hop is making things better for me because I will have an even bigger audience. I’m still the under dog, but when it’s my time its going to be a wrap. I’m guaranteed to end up becoming a household name.

Do you think some rappers are using it as a gimmick?
I do think some rappers are also using it as a gimmick. Skateboarding has a huge audience so they may be looking to tap in on some of that paper as well.

Why do you refer to yourself as the “Obama of Skateboarding?”
I refer to myself as “The Obama of Skateboarding” because I’m the first to do this. When you[‘re] talking about showing the youth that they have other options, hope and love worldwide, that’s me. I’ve talked to kids at schools, churches and more. I’ve taught them how to think outside of the box. I do it all from the heart and not because someone says, “hey, I think it would be a good look and you could possibly get some good coverage from it.” I understand the kids who come from similar situations like I did. I know that they need motivation.

A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.

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