Cynthia E. Griffin- | 9/17/2008, 5 p.m.
When Barbara "Adjoa" Murden and her son Keith William went to events like the X-Games, they noticed something that troubled them.
"We noticed that kids in the community didn't go to such events," said Murden. "We knew it was part financial and part the distance."
Lack of interest was definitely not a reason, because Murden and Williams knew that urban youth were very involved in skate boarding.
Determined to remove as many obstacles as possible, the duo created a company called Hood Games in 2005, and began to hold what amounted to giant community parties.
"We created skate jams, where we set up obstacles, blocked off streets or a parking lot," explained Williams, who is an artist and teacher who grew up skateboarding.
In addition to testing their skills on the ramps and obstacles, youth at Hood Game skate jams have the opportunity to create T-shirt art, win prizes in raffles and learn from professional skaters.
The company tries to hold three to four skate jams a year--several in Los Angeles where Murden is, and several in the Bay Area where Williams lives and works.
"We try to keep it family friendly; there are no four-letter words, and no smoking or drinking," said Williams about the skate jams.
The duo's dedication to making top-notch skateboarding available to inner city youth has brought Hood Games to the attention of a number of organizations including a Y that offered them something very unexpected.
"The YMCA in Pleasant Hills contacted Keith and told him they had wooden ramps that were about five or six years old that they were going to get rid of, and we could have them, if we came and got them," explained Murden about how the park is being developed.
The city of Oakland gave the company Defremery Park, where the Black Panthers used to have rallies, and told Williams they would pave and fence it, if he could develop it. That is exactly what Hood Games is currently doing.
They have recently just finished putting about 200-feet of mini ramps and banks in place in the park. Now they are working to get the skate park in the proper shape for use. The cost to build the skate park and hold their skate jams currently comes out of the pockets of the company founders and from the few sponsors who support their events.
But Murden and Williams are looking for more. They want additional sponsors to come on board so they can hold more skate jams and invite professional skaters to work with the youngsters. Ideally the company is also hoping to create a skate park in Los Angeles similar to the art center/skate park they are building in the Bay Area. But they are realistic about how the lack of available space in the City of Angeles may hamper that search.
Meanwhile they continue building partnerships and finding ways to make sure inner city youth get exposed to the broader world of skating.