This Leimert Park group is bringing back a lost art that’s rooted in Black culture.
By Blake Carter
During the later decades of the 20th century, it was commonplace to see young Black girls skipping jump ropes in front of their homes or on school playgrounds. In the 1970s Double Dutch became a sport when two Black New York City police officers, David A. Walker and Ulysses Williams, created the Double Dutch League and hosted citywide competitions. These competitions were a space for young girls from urban communities to see their favorite street activity being placed on a larger stage where they could showcase their unique talents.
Like the early days of Hip Hop music, Double Dutch quickly spread to Black communities around the nation.
“Me being from the West Coast (Los Angeles), I learned from my neighbors across the street, and they were also from out here,” said Courtney Tell, co-founder of the Melanated Jump Squad. “It’s also interesting that In every state and every city you’ll find young girls or young kids playing, they all have their own lingo for different styles of jumping.”
Today jump rope is not as popular as it once was, so Tell, along with Sharalle Horn, who is from Brooklyn, New York, created the Melanated Jump Squad, and they hold an open session once a month in Leimiert Park Village on Sundays at the African Marketplace along Degnan Boulevard.
“We’re bringing this back to the forefront,” Horn said. “A lot of people did it back in the day, and it’s lost its way a little bit. But it’s something fun, and it’s a cultural thing as well. For young people who don’t know much about it, it’s amazing to them. And for those who did it years ago, it comes back to them and they get excited about it. It has that retro feel, and people want to do it again.”
There is great significance in holding these open sessions in Leimert Park Village, which is one of the few Black cultural hubs in the Los Angeles area.
“Leimert Park is home,” Tell said. I’m from South Central, so I’ve always come to Leimert Park and enjoyed and partook in all types of activities for the community. With us being melanated, there is no better place for this.”
“With the gentrification of Leimert Park, I think that it’s important that we showcase these lost arts that people may not know about, and represent our culture in a positive light,” Horn said.
People do not need to have any jump roping experience to participate and have a great time.
“We teach people how to jump and how to turn,” Tell said. “All ages, races, and genders are welcome to jump with us. We just really want to inspire the youth to come outside and have some good old fun.”
While Double Dutch is a very technical activity, people are able to quickly learn the basics.
“I think that a lot of people are intimidated at the fact that there are two ropes turning simultaneously,” Tell said. “They’re kind of confused on how to begin. But once they figure out that, then they just want to keep going and get better.”
One of the many great things about jumping rope is that it is a rigorous physical activity, so people can incorporate it into an exercise program. Boxers have always utilized jump rope as a part of their training regimen.
“I’m physically fit and I work out, but when I hit those ropes, I get the same feeling as when I’m running or doing some type of cardio,” Horn said.
For more information about the Melanated Jump Squad, visit https://melanatedjs.mystrikingly.com/ and follow them on social media.