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Two brothers are using their roller skates to spread joy

Roller-skating has long been a part of Black culture as a means of joy.

The Griffin Brothers are spreading joy through their roller-skating videos.

I can't roller-skate to save my life. It looks like so much fun—I've never seen people not look happy while roller-skating. There's the freedom to glide across the floor, even if it's only temporary, and it's such a good way to get out on the floor and move your body. What's not to love?

Brothers Marcus and Michael Griffin, also known as The Griffin Brothers, share videos of themselves roller-skating on TikTok and Instagram. In the videos, the pair performs synchronized skating moves to a variety of old-school hits (and more current ones), mostly at their local roller rink in Delaware. It's clear from the videos that the brothers get a great deal of joy out of roller-skating.

“As soon as you step on the floor, like, you ascend into another dimension and I think that's where the love comes from now,” Marcus Griffin told Good Morning America in an exclusive interview.


“It's not even about us anymore. It's about our supporters and the comments and the messages we get from people,” continued Marcus.

Those messages are nothing but overwhelmingly positive:

"I love watching your tik toks!! And I want to learn to skate!!"

"Just purchased my skates, I’m ready😁"

"You all make it look so easy."

"These videos so make my day.🌞🥰 I love it when they hit my feed.❤️❤️❤️"

"I have never wanted to go back to skating until I watched your videos. I remember being a little girl wishing I could groove on skates like those cool adults who's whooshed passed me with headphones and a Walkman while dancing. I am 46 years old and studying your feet to figure it all out lol... keep skating and bringing joy!!!"

Often wearing coordinating (or in some cases matching) outfits, the Griffin brothers tear up the rink with the smoothest moves. They clap, slap and perform other fun moves that keep the videos fresh and entertaining. Seriously, you can't watch just one video—it's like eating potato chips. The pure joy radiates through the screen.

“We're bringing back those old feelings that people had when they used to go skating, when they didn't have to worry about the bills, the houses, everything,” Marcus told GMA. “When they watch us, they get a certain joy in themselves, what they felt when they were younger, like when times were good, no pandemic, no mass shootings, no nothing. They don't think about that.”

Introduced to roller-skating by their mom as children, Marcus explained that they would spend their weekend nights at the roller rink, same as their mom before them. The Griffin Brothers may not realize this, but their roller-skating videos are part of a longstanding tradition in Black culture. A 2019 documentary "United Skates" digs deeper into how roller-skating has been and continues to be a large part of Black culture.

"We were trying to show the importance of roller rinks as community spaces … that were centerpieces for early civil rights battles—one of the first sit-ins in the country was a skate-in at a roller rink," Dyana Winkler, one of the filmmakers, told VICE in 2019.

The pandemic revived an interest in roller-skating. The Daily Beast reported that a viral skating video on TikTok by actress Ana Coto led to people becoming more interested in roller-skating. It stated that Coto cited Black roller-skaters as her inspiration as well.

@griffinbrothersskating Jam On This🛼👑 #TheGriffinBrothers #rollerskating #fyp #foryoupage #jamskating #rollerskating #rollerskate ♬ Jam On It - Newcleus

It was during the pandemic that the Griffin Brothers saw interest in their skating videos grow as well. When one of their old videos started gaining rapid traction on YouTube, it inspired the brothers to head back to the rink. "I was like, Why did I stop skating? Why did I stop skating? And the love just came right back and then we finally made a video last year," Michael Griffin told GMA.

“We just want to bring joy and happiness to everybody who lays eyes on this,” Marcus Griffin added.

And they definitely do!

If you see only one Oscar-nominated film this year, make it "13th."

Directed by Ava DuVernay, the stirring documentary explores America's long history of overpolicing and imprisoning black and brown people since the passing of the 13th Amendment. DuVernay sat down with scholars, educators, elected leaders, authors, and activists to tell this troubling but necessary story.

DuVernay (left) interviews scholar and activist Angela Davis for "13th." Image via Netflix.


While these issues are difficult, we need to talk about them and, better yet, do something about them. "13th" truly couldn't have come at a better time.

Here are 13 lessons everyone should learn from this from powerful must-see film.

1. The 13th Amendment had so much promise ... almost.

Section 1 of the 13th Amendment reads:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

The clause, "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,"was included so farmers and landowners could essentially continue a form of slavery to support their businesses — so long as the black men and women were deemed criminals. There's no such thing as a throwaway clause in the Constitution. This is an intentional legal loophole.

A political cartoon from 1865 featuring President Lincoln and an amended U.S. constitution. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

2. The legal loophole in the 13th Amendment led to mass arrests and incarceration during the late 19th century.

It was the United States' first prison boom.

Black people were arrested en masse for petty crimes, like loitering or vagrancy, and incarcerated. Once labeled criminals, landowners and farmers could "lease" convicts from the state in exchange for full control of their lives.

These convicts were leased to harvest timber. Photo circa 1915, via World Digital Library/State Library and Archives of Florida.

3. While black men filled prisons, popular culture stoked fears.

Black men were portrayed in films as menacing, evil, and in relentless pursuit of white women.

In the 1915 film, "Birth of a Nation," which is essentially three hours of racist propaganda masking as a historical film, a white woman throws herself off a rocky cliff to save herself from being assaulted by a black man. Critics raved, drowning out mounting protests.

As a result of the popular film, membership in the Ku Klux Klan boomed.

Still image from "Birth of a Nation," (1915). Image via "Birth of a Nation"/Wikimedia Commons.

4. As the KKK grew, black people were terrorized and murdered.

Lynchings were used to reinforce white supremacy while traumatizing and terrorizing black people. There was a disgusting entertainment aspect to it, as mobs of white people — including elected officials and community leaders — gathered to watch victims get beaten, shot, and tortured. Picture postcards were made of the swinging, mutilated bodies.

More than 4,000 lynchings occurred between 1877 and 1950 across Texas and the American South.

A large crowd watches the lynching of 18-year-old Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas. Photo via Library of Congress.

5. The murder of Emmett Till kickstarted the Civil Rights movement.

14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally beaten and murdered by a group of white men for allegedly whistling at and flirting with a white woman in 1955. (The woman recently admitted she fabricated at least part of her testimony.) Photos from his open casket funeral and the face of Till's weeping mother sent shockwaves around the country, galvanizing black people and their allies in the fight for equality.

6. But then the War on Drugs started an unrelenting wave of mass incarceration.

Crime started to increase in the early 1960s, and many in power quickly blamed the uptick on the end of segregation. Before long, the word "crime" was a stand-in for the word "race."

Nixon appealed to southern Democrats with thinly-veiled racism and promises to clean up the streets. His rhetorical "War on Drugs" became very real in the 1980s under President Reagan, who threw money, resources, and the full weight of the executive branch behind the issue. A wide swath of an entire generation was essentially removed from the narrative.

President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy wave to supporters in November 1984. Photo by Don Rypka/AFP/Getty Images.

7. The numbers are astonishing. Full stop.

In 1970, there were 196,429 sentenced prisoners in state and federal prisons. In 1980, there were 329,821 people in state and federal prisons, and by 1990, that number more than doubled to 771,243.

Today, the American criminal justice system holds 2.3 million people. This is not normal. It is not OK.

8. Republicans are not solely to blame for this crisis. President Clinton did his part too.

In the wake of President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, appearing "soft on crime" wasn't an option for President Bill Clinton. In 1994, he signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. It expanded the list of death penalty eligible offenses and included a "three strikes" provision, which meant mandatory life sentences for people convicted of their third felony. It also funded new prisons and provided the budget for 100,000 police officers.

President Bill Clinton. Photo by Paul Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

9. Sadly, there's a lot of money to be made off mass incarceration.

Private correctional facilities made a reported $629 million in profits in 2014, and that's just scratching the surface. From the corporations building and maintaining prison facilities, to the food vendors, health care providers, and equipment and textile manufacturers who keep them running, many companies have a lot to gain from maintaining the status quo.

An inmate stands with handcuffs in San Quentin State Prison. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

10. As mass incarceration starts to get a bad rap, the winds are shifting — and not necessarily for the better.

As mass incarceration and America's prison problem take center stage, legislators and businesses are looking for new ways to redefine the narrative while still making money. What does that look like? For starters, monetizing bail, probation, parole, and house arrest.

Photo by iStock.

11. We can't forget the people and families caught in the struggle.

In 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder was arrested for a robbery he insisted he did not commit. Browder was thrown into an adult correctional facility where he would spend nearly three years awaiting trial and almost two years in solitary confinement. In 2013, the district attorney dismissed the case against Browder, and he went home a free — but forever changed — young man.

After many attempts, Browder died by suicide in May 2015.

Browder's story is far too common. Many poor people, especially poor people of color, are locked up for years either awaiting trial or because they cannot afford bail.

ABC News' Juju Chang, Venida Browder, mother of Kalief Browder, and civil rights attorney Paul V. Prestia discuss Kalief Browder's life and death. Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

12. American prisons are intended to punish, but former felons continue to suffer after they have served their time.

Former felons are stripped of voting rights, have difficulty securing employment, applying for aid, and finding housing.

"Ban the box" campaigns that seek to end asking about felony convictions on job and aid applications are popping up across the country, and for many, these initiatives can't come soon enough.

Outreach materials at a press conference for a Ban the Box Petition Delivery to The White House in 2015. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for ColorOfChange.org.

13. As President Trump settles into office, many are worried about his next moves — and rightfully so.

He repeatedly refers to parts of Chicago as lawless, dangerous, and worse than parts of the war-torn Middle East. He's threatened the city with federal intervention to get the "carnage" under control. His repeated calls to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants tend to include gross mischaracterizations of immigrants as gang members, rapists, or drug dealers.

His "law and order" catchphrase is the same dog whistle Nixon used to kickstart the War on Drugs. His comments about Chicago and other inner cities are stoking fears and playing to the imaginations of his base, much like the horrifying scenes in "Birth of a Nation."

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

These facts are alarming, but here's what you can do about it.

Use your privilege for good. Pass the mic to voices that may go unheard. Help others register to vote. Support Ban the Box initiatives and organizations that help people with criminal records land on their feet.

Ask to see the numbers. Plenty of police data is publicly available. Check out the numbers in your community. Look at the demographics of people being stopped, arrested, or convicted. Numbers don't lie. Hold your leaders accountable and make them answer for racial disparities.

Stay active in schools. Overpolicing and the criminalization of black people doesn't begin and end with police officers. Black children are nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white children. Ask tough questions of your child's teachers and administrators. Attend school board meetings.

Photo by iStock.

This is no ordinary crisis and it will require extraordinary solutions.

Watch the film, do your part. Let's get to work.

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"I opened my mouth and my life fell out."

That's how Rue Mapp felt in 2009 when she first shared the idea for Outdoor Afro, a blog to reconnect African-American people with the outdoors.

"And that was a surprising moment, one of those moments where all those things that you just take for granted about who you are come into really sharp focus."


Mapp whitewater rafting. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

Before she founded Outdoor Afro, Rue Mapp came of age in the great outdoors.

She grew up in Oakland, but her family had a ranch 100 miles north of the city. Mapp grew up hunting, stargazing, fishing, and participating in Girl Scouts. Her parents raised animals, preserved food, and made wine. Her family often hosted large gatherings of friends and people from church.

"So having this thread of nature and hospitality instilled in me at a very young age has become the centerpiece of Outdoor Afro today."

Mapp rock climbing. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

In 2009, she started Outdoor Afro, a blog that soon became much more.

At first, she shared her own stories of growing up in the fresh air and how her experiences as a child and young woman shaped her in the best ways. Before long, other African-American outdoor enthusiasts started following her and chatting online. Mapp was pleasantly surprised to learn she wasn't alone.

Since then, the program has moved beyond the web to local meetups.

There are now Outdoor Afro chapters in 30 states. Each group holds open events and programs, including hikes and walks, camping trips, rock climbing, local farm tours, river rafting, and more. If it's outside, someone in the group is probably willing to give it a try.

An Outdoor Afro meetup on the water. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

The programs and trips are led by volunteer Outdoor Afro leaders.

They're not professional mountain climbers or adventure athletes; they're often professionals with a fondness for the outdoors: more community organizer than wilderness expert.

"Outdoor Afro leaders don't need to be the one that has all the gear and expertise," Mapp says. "We want people who can connect-in with other people."

Outdoor Afro leaders at a training session. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

Brittany Leavitt, an early education teacher, discovered Outdoor Afro on a blog and decided to give the group a shot and is now their D.C. leader. Stefan Moss, an environmental science professor and leader of Outdoor Afro-Atlanta joined the group to find more outdoor activities for his young family. Plus, getting outside helps him feel more connected with the world.

"Through outdoor activities I find a deeper understanding of meaning and purpose as I observe the natural order and the way in which things interact with each other," he writes in an email.

Outdoor Afro Leader Stefan Moss takes it all in. Photo via Stefan Moss, used with permission.

That's what's so powerful about Outdoor Afro. It's not just about getting outside, it's about getting outside with black people.

While everyone is welcome at Outdoor Afro events, the meetups and programs are designed by African-American people to encourage African-American people to explore together.

"In the outdoors we can celebrate our humanity and our melanin, without intimidation or judgment," Moss says.

Members meet up for a hike. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

Members can also celebrate the unique and often forgotten relationships black people have to outdoors. From the Buffalo Soldiers of the Old West to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama, there's world of history to take in. Leavitt planned a four-day backpacking trip through the Appalachian Trail, mirroring part of Harriet Tubman's route to freedom.

"It was really fun," Leavitt says. "We had seven outdoor leaders total, and two people who were brand new to backpacking."

Hiking the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail. Photo via Brittany Leavitt, used with permission.

Communing with each other became especially important in the wake of violent and hurtful attacks against African-American people.

After Ferguson, Mapp braced for a long night of protests and demonstrations in her hometown of Oakland. Like many people, she felt heartbroken and wondered what she could do to "show up" for the movement. She reached out to partner organizations and launched the first of many  Healing Hikes, a chance for Outdoor Afro participants to collect their thoughts, share, and reflect together in natural spaces.

Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

"The following weekend we had ... about 30 people show up in the Oakland Hills, and we started off with some yoga and some intention-setting, and we worked our way down into the Redwood Forest."

Soon the group found themselves hiking along a beautiful stream and the weight of history and purpose immediately struck Mapp.

"It was this clear epiphany that we were doing what African-Americans have always known we could do, and that's to lay down our burdens down by the riverside," Mapp says. "We were doing something that was in our DNA to do."

Finally tried out this whole selfie stick thing. #HealingHikes with #GoodPeople 💙

A photo posted by Jesstastic 😎😘✌🏾️🌟 (@missjessica2u2) on

It's easy to feel intimidated by the great outdoors, but it's important to get out anyway.

You don't have to have all the gear or all of the answers, just a willingness to follow through on your curiosity. You may already be more outdoorsy than you realize. If you grill out, garden, or walk your neighborhood, you're farther along than you think.

"If you like to walk, consider a hike at a national park. If you like to swim find the most scenic lake or beach in your area and swim there," Moss says. "Have fun, take lots of pictures and celebrate your own connection to the outdoors!"

In other words: Get outside and let your life fall out.

Go ahead, take it all in. Photo via Stefan Moss, used with permission.

I can't take my eyes off Khoudia Diop's beautiful skin.

Even in pictures, it's easy to get lost in it. Deep and rich, like a thousand night skies. She refers to herself on Instagram as the "melanin goddess," which would normally be boastful and trite, if it weren't so clearly true.

But not everyone sees her beauty, or her worth. Diop was called names and bullied for her skin color as a kid.

“Growing up, I faced it by confronting the bullies," she told The Daily Mail U.K. "As I grew, I learned to love myself more every day, and not pay attention to the negative people.”

Today, the 19-year-old is leaning into her unique, stunning complexion by working as a model. Her 303,000 Instagram followers can't get enough of her striking look.

"If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change," she said.

Though Diop wrote her own happy ending, bullying around colorism is all too common and rooted in historic and systemic issues.

Colorism is the false and outdated notion that the closer people are in complexion to the white or fair-skinned ideal, the better. Complexions that are closer to white are seen as prettier, smarter, more worthy of time, and more worthy of attention. But too often this leads to bullying and discrimination for people of color with darker complexions, from within and outside the same racial or ethnic group.

This issue is complex and has deep historical roots.

Slaves with lighter skin were often assigned to work in the house, while slaves with darker complexions were sent to the fields. This practice continued for decades, turning into discriminatory exercises like the paper bag test. That's where a brown paper bag was used as a kind of "skin-tone barometer" for privileges, like access to certain churches or black Greek life at colleges and universities. Those lighter than the bag were welcomed in. Darker than the bag? Not so much.

Photo by iStock.

But as stories like Diop's illustrate, colorism is not just a thing of the past, and it affects people of color of all complexions. Those with lighter skin may find others challenging their authenticity and their "black experience." Men and women with darker skin or coarser hair may not see themselves represented in the media, specifically as love interests or idealized depictions of beauty.

And colorism is a difficult thing to combat because this type of prejudice and internalized racism begins when we're young.

In 2010, Margaret Beale Spencer, a leading researcher in the field of child development from the University of Chicago, was recruited by CNN to recreate the famed "baby doll test" from the 1940s.  In the original, black and white children were asked questions about whether they favored a white doll or a white doll painted brown. The results showed both white and black children had a bias toward the white or lighter skin doll.

When Spencer conducted a version of the test more than 60 years later, though, she found that the results had changed, but not by much. White and black children still have white bias, though black kids have far less than their white peers.

Photo by iStock.

"All kids on the one hand are exposed to the stereotypes," Spencer told CNN. "What's really significant here is that white children are learning or maintaining those stereotypes much more strongly than the African-American children. Therefore, the white youngsters are even more stereotypic in their responses concerning attitudes, beliefs and attitudes and preferences than the African-American children."

It's a grim reminder that historical, external, and media-driven forces behind colorism are having an impact on all of us, no matter our race or ethnicity.

That's why people like Khoudia Diop are so important.

Watching Diop, and stars like Viola Davis and Leslie Jones, find success in their respective industries is a strong indictment against the narratives that women with dark skin are undesirable or unworthy of admiration or respect. But it doesn't mean their journeys are easy or smooth. All of these strong women experience bigotry and ignorant comments, not just from the dregs of the internet, but from critics who should know better too.

Jones experienced intense online harassment this summer when trolls lobbed insults and images of gorillas her way. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Colorism is real. We live it every day. And speaking out and talking about it, like Khoudia Diop, is the first step to putting an end to it.

Whether or not you're a famous face, it's important to speak out against colorism.

Check your friends and family when they make ignorant and prejudiced comments. Support brands, magazines, and movies that showcase people of color with darker complexions. Signal boost voices when those who've been discriminated against are brave enough to tell their stories. Buy dolls and picture books with protagonists of color for the children in your life.

There's a lot we can do to weaken the hold colorism has on our society so more folks like Diop can rise to the top of their fields.  And it starts with all of us.

Photo by iStock.