Photo Courtesy of Ryan Kellman

Skateboarding through cultural gaps

Skateboarding is an integral part of the Southern California lifestyle, but as USC Annenberg lecturer and alum Neftalie Williams demonstrated in “The Nation Skate: What you can do for your country,” the sport has global appeal. Capturing images of skaters from South Africa, Switzerland, Cuba and more, Williams’ exhibition was shown as part of the “Finding a Line” skateboarding, music and media festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Williams is a 2015 graduate of the USC Master’s of Public Diplomacy program and works with the USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media & Society as research and development director. He has spent his career exploring the relationship between skateboarding and cultural identity around the world. 

“The Nation Skate” presented a view of the future of skateboarding diplomacy, a subject that Williams not only researches, but actively contributes to through Cuba Skate — a program which aims to use the sport to strengthen U.S.-Cuba relations. 

“The organic nature in which global youth arrive at the construct identity of the ‘skateboarder’ makes skateboarding the perfect manner to bridge gaps across cultures," Williams said. “The photographs on display showcase how all of the youth share a common set of norms, regardless of race, class, sex, gender and social status."

Last year the Annenberg Agenda commissioned and published a series of portraits by Williams showing students with their skateboards, bikes, and scooters. The images were also the debut exhibition on the Third Floor Digital Gallery inside Wallis Annenberg Hall.