I’m a firm believer that the right opportunities happen at the right time and over the years I’ve learned to expect less and appreciate more. With that said, I never thought we (Those Folks) would have our very own advertisement in a skateboard magazine, but in January, the opportunity to make that a reality came around. Juice Magazine reached out to us offering ad space in their upcoming 20th anniversary issue – I couldn’t believe it. As a young skateboarder, all I ever wanted was to see myself in a magazine, and when that happened, it was a dream come true. Now as an adult and running my own company, it’s an even bigger accomplishment to see a Those Folks ad in a magazine. I feel like a (grown ass) kid all over again.
So here I was with this huge opportunity in front of me but I didn’t know what I wanted to do... This would be one of our biggest achievements and I wanted it to be remembered by everyone, not just us. I grabbed a piece of paper and started writing a list of ideas down and all of them were good – but I wanted great. I started thinking about what skateboarding meant to myself, because if it wasn’t for skateboarding, I never would’ve started Those Folks – and if I never started the brand, we wouldn’t be having our ad in a magazine, and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now either.
I know the purpose of advertising is to sell a product or service, but I wanted to use this opportunity to increase the awareness of an unfortunate reality. When I told people about my idea for the ad they said I was crazy. Hearing everyone say, “It’s too controversial,” and, “I don’t think you should do it,” only made me want to make it happen even more. The concept is very personal to myself – this was something I had to deal with growing up – I was the child of a drug-addicted parent.
My mother was actually incarcerated when she gave birth to me. I was born at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Riverside County. My Grandmother took me when I was 2 days old and I’ve been in Venice ever since. I spent most of my childhood visiting my mother, aunts, and uncles in prison. By the time I was 10 years old, I had seen a handful of people overdose on Heroin and I already knew what to do in that situation. I remember as a kid walking past the bathroom and peeking through the door to catch my mother with a needle in her arm. Even at such a young age, it didn’t necessarily sadden me. It might have been shocking the first couple of times, but after awhile it was just something that was happening. My cousins and I would find needles around the house, but we already knew what it was and not to touch them. Thinking back, it’s crazy to believe us kids kept that so quiet from our friends. I was embarrassed of it and having parents that are hooked on drugs isn’t something to brag about. At school, kids would share what they did over the weekend but I wasn’t gonna stand up and share to the class that I ran to the freezer to grab ice and help my uncle stop his friend from overdosing.
I was lucky to be part of the small percentage of kids with drug-addicted parents that didn’t get caught in the family environmental factors. Skateboarding was my outlet from that. When I started skateboarding, that was the only thing that mattered to me. Whenever I was riding my skateboard I wasn’t thinking about how my mom was a drug addict, how I’ve never met my father, or how I was almost killed by the police and placed in a foster home at one time in my life. Skateboarding was the biggest blessing in my life. It paved a new path for me to follow and freed my mind from all the negative things I went through as a kid.
When I showed a very close friend of mine our ad in Juice Magazine, she said, “That’s you. You’re that little boy.” And although I did go through those things as a kid, that’s not me. The truth is, that’s a lot of people around the world and it’s sad.
The beautiful part is that the fact is true: SKATEBOARDING SAVES LIVES.