Skateboarding continues to circulate and reform the transitions of concrete, wood, and metal across the globe, hopping curbs and fences, flying and twirling across the air, and, like stoked acrobats, transcending the walls and borders of nations and identities.
A new short film by Jonathon Mehring, Walls Cannot Keep Us From Flying, posted at Thrasher Magazine, tells the story of "Two Palestinian youth [who] seek freedom through skateboarding while growing up under occupation in the West Bank."
Focusing on the lives and dreams of Omar Hattab and Yasmeen Foqha, with revealing scenes of everyday life under occupation and war, Walls Cannot Keep Us From Flying demonstrates, yet again, the power of community resilience, learning, and creativity that skateboarding offers.
"The ollie is an essential trick in skating, ok? It's a door; if you can open it, you can open others.
I dedicated my life to skateboarding. I hope that every child feels the way I feel. We can improve our lives for the better," Omar explains to a group of young people in a plaza area who are learning to skate. "My wish in life is to spread skateboarding in Palestine regardless of the occupation. Why are we constrained in one place? Why can't we get out and live like other humans? This isn't a life. We're alive to breathe only. This is our story, " he remarks, placing his hand on the wall dividing Palestine and Israel.
Yasmeen explains, "When I skateboard, I get a beautiful feeling. You feel as if you are flying, as if you are in the sky." In a society that centers on boys playing sports, "I believe a girl has character, an ambition, a goal. She has a dream to go after and achieve."
As Yasmeen organizes more skate lessons and meetups, talking with parents and encouraging girls of all ages to participate, "I found there was a lot of encouragement. [This society] is slowly accepting this sport for girls. All of this happened from a small idea. It's beautiful to see that every girl has become capable of deciding to do what she wants, when she wants."
The meanings Omar and Yasmeen share about the value and transformative possibilities of skateboarding are both inspiring and forward-looking.
"What do I feel when I skate," Omar asks himself, 'what do I imagine?' I imagine there's no occupation, there's no wall. I feel freedom." While Tasmeen explains skating cultivates the imagination to transition the world, "With every new trick, it's like you become aware of a new life, new ideas…. It's like when something has been missing. And you're looking for it. And slowly, you find it."
SkateQuilya supports the documentary project and skating in Palestine. "SkateQilya is a youth empowerment program using skateboarding and art to teach community building and leadership skills to Palestinian girls and boys in the West Bank. Our mission is to create visionary leaders for Palestine's future and a better world. Launched in the summer of 2016 as a free summer camp, SkateQilya has grown into a year-round educational program and the first co-ed athletic program in the northern part of the West Bank."
For more on skateboarding in Palestine, check out SkatePal, this video, and an article by Sci-Fi Fantasy pro skateboarder Ryan Lay.