United Skates

A community-fighting in a racially charged environment fights to save the underground African-American subculture of roller skating
Dyana Winkler
Year Released
Film Length(s)
89 mins
Remote video URL


As America's last standing roller rinks are threatened with closure, United Skates spotlights a community fighting in a racially charged environment to save the underground African-American subculture of roller skating, which has been overlooked by the mainstream for generations--yet has given rise to some of the world's greatest musical talent.


When America’s last standing roller rinks are threatened with closure, a community of thousands battle in a racially charged environment to save an underground subculture –– one that has remained undiscovered by the mainstream for generations, yet has given rise to some of the world’s greatest musical talent.

Few people are aware that roller rinks remain a segregated space throughout the country. “Black Nights,” now often referred to as “Adult Nights,” can be found in nearly every major city, each boasting a vibrant music and skate scene original to their region. Baltimore is home to Snapping, Detroit has Open House, J.B. skaters reign in Chicago, and in New York/New Jersey they skate in trains and trios. “Adult Nights” are credited as incubators of East Coast Hip Hop, and West Coast Rap. From Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty by Nature in New York/New Jersey to Dr. Dre and Ice Cube in Los Angeles, roller rinks have long been a mecca for music and creativity. These nights are also safe spaces, where street rivalries are left at the door. And still, many white rink owners refuse to host adult nights, even though this community could keep them in business.

With an average of three rinks closing a month, United Skates takes a deep dive into the vibrant and celebratory world of African American roller skating through the eyes of three central characters: Phelicia, Reggie, and Buddy. Each living in a different part of the country, and each fighting to preserve a tradition that reaches deep into their family history, this film documents a small but monumental piece of American culture at risk of disappearing entirely.

Director Commentary

As a female first-time filmmaker, I chose this project because I believe it has the makings of a perfect storm. With the right mixture of mainstream appeal, lovable characters and hard-hitting issues, I have created a film that will attract a diverse audience, while simultaneously opening people’s minds and hearts to the challenges within the subtext of the film. I have worked very hard to create a film that interweaves both the striking visual imagery of these skaters alongside the heavy price our nation is paying for the ongoing, long-term effects of racial inequality. I hope the audience will feel immersed in this subculture, identify with how special their world is, and leave uplifted by a community at risk of disappearing.

In the current filmmaking climate, inclusivity in our industry and the responsibility for communities to tell their own stories is finally being taken seriously. I am not African American, nor do I roller skate! Therefore, in the initial stages of this project, I did not feel that I was the right filmmakers to tell this story. However, each time I attempted to walk away from the project, an army of skaters would reach back out and urge me to continue forward. Ultimately, with the support of the community, I decided to make this film with the utmost respect and humility, forever extending a listening ear to ensure that I, as a filmmaker and as a storyteller, was simply reflecting the voices of the community, and not our own. The skaters were my compass pointing me toward true north. Over the years, doors, rinks, and hearts have opened up to this project across the country, and the skaters have been by our sides every step of this journey. This story is not just about one stand-alone rink, town or city... nor is it just about roller skating. This is a film about dispelling damaging stereotypes within society, the allocation of resources in our country, and most importantly the celebration of a joyous community in peril. It is my hope that United Skates will act as a powerful vehicle to document a small yet monumental piece of American culture.

Features and Languages

Film/Audio Languages

  • English
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