Here is an interview I did with the skateboarder Stevie Williams. It was originally intended for the Fear Issue of Vice magazine but ended up on the Viceland.com blog
Stevie Williams knows fear. He grew up in West Philadelphia having to look out for himself and his mother. As an eleven year old black kids he was in the damned if you do damned if you don’t position of being called ‘white’ by kids in his neighbourhood for picking up a skateboard as well as being ostracized by the predominantly white skating community. While this would have made most kids quit before they could even pop an ollie, Stevie came up skating in Philly’s notorious Love Park. Love in the early 90’s was an area as synonymous with police brutality, fistfights and intimidation as it was with skateboarding. By the time he hit 15 he was already restless and decided to head to the West Coast ‘cos you know…it’s always sunny and every street is just one big skate spot right? Like something out of a Steinbeck novel, Stevie wound up on floors and in doorways without food or friends. Somehow in the face of what amounted to be a whole brimming shit storm of fear he pulled out a defining part in the Chocolate video and the rest you probably already know.
Vice: How was growing up as black kid in Philly trying to skate?
Stevie: Y’know, people are just unaccepting of shit that’s different just cos it wasn’t playing basketball or whatever. They just don’t get it. I mean I knew all the kids from round the way but I still got in a bunch of fights all the time. It was tough being ten and a half and being in West Philly and wanting to skate and just getting shit. You’re always living in fear of the cops too you know? We were getting chased four, five times a day. But that kind of fear is good. It keeps you on point.
It must have been pretty scary turning up in California alone at 15?
Well, all I knew was that trying to skate on the East Coast was harsh man. Real harsh. I knew my boy Marcus McBride to talk to on the phone and one day I was just like: I’m a be there in a week. I just made that decision you know? I didn’t even know what Marcus looked like or where I was gonna stay. No school, no parents, nothing. I doubted myself a whole lot of times. It was the same when I first got to LA. I didn’t really leave the house for a month cause I was just intimidated by the whole place. Then one day my boy Keenan Milton just came and got me out of the spot and made me go to a party and cheer me up. It was the first time I was feeling happy, I was partying till late. On my way home though I began to feel something was wrong, I just didn’t know what. The next morning Mike Carrol called me and told me what had happened. It was like right when I was feeling happy for a minute my boy Keenan passes on, drowned, just like that. That was a dark time right there and it was on the 4th of July. Every year I get the same dark chill on Independence Day. After that I was back in the house for like two months. Dark times, the fear was high-level right there for sure.
There is always a massive pressure to be putting out video parts. Have you felt scared trying to pull big tricks out for a video part?
I only just started going down stairs again. Stairs is scary.
How about sketchy spots?
Oslo, Norway. We were chased out of a spot by some Nazi dudes, seven skinhead guys and I was the only black guy in sight. We split real quick, that was some scary ass shit for real.
You are in Serbia right now, is it weird skating a city that was war torn just a couple of years ago?
It was? Man, no wonder it all looks like it’s falling down. I like it though; it’s one of the best places I’ve ever been in Europe, good kids.
It is also the world’s second largest producer of raspberries.
They need to start getting some nicer buildings up in here then.