Femmes Across the Board seeks fresh faces

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Watching each other's backs since 2019. Ingrid Van Opsal

With current leadership stepping down, continued community is critical

In an effort to meet the need for affordable and sober activities in Regina, and to increase opportunities for women, girls, and non-binary people to learn how to skateboard, Alejandra Cabrera started Femmes Across the Board (FAB) in May 2019. Though the role of the person who gets an organization’s ball rolling is heavy, Cabrera was encouraged then by “the great response from my post and then seeing so many people answer, and then of course going to the skate park that very first time and not knowing what to expect, but then seeing people show up. That’s what kind of lit a flame under my butt, just to get over the fear and then continue to do something because it was just so rewarding to see that community come together.”

Skateboarding has long been considered a straight cis-male dominated sport and recreational activity, but Cabrera suggested that the tides may be shifting on a larger scale. “I think with the rise of social media and some stuff within mainstream culture, skateboarding with women and with diverse groups have become more prominent, like you see more of it.” Those who attend their 1-5 p.m. Sunday skate sessions at The Heritage Skatepark range from parents and their non-binary kids to groups of 20-somethings, creating a collaborative environment where those of any skill level can have a good time.

 This indoor location is relatively new to Regina, where the previous indoor skatepark was demolished nearly a decade ago, leaving skateboarders out in the drifts in a province with roughly half a year of snow. Cabrera worked alongside others on the Regina Skateboarding Coalition to organize the location, and claims that “there’s a lot of space which is perfect for people who aren’t very experienced with doing tricks and obstacles, things like that, so they can just practice pushing around and not feel intimidated. But if you are wanting to learn more or want more challenging obstacles, there’s those options.” The entry fee for one day is $5 for those under age 17 and $10 for anyone over, and Cabrera noted there may be passes available for frequent skatepark attendees at a reduced price in the future.

Through donations from companies like Tiki Room and Vans, FAB is able to bring skateboards and safety equipment to sessions and lessons for those who may not have their own. “Colonialism Skateboards also had donated some skateboards, which was awesome, and then we also had Right to Skate who had purchased a few completes, I think about eight of them for our group.” These donations come in especially useful when members of the group have opportunities to facilitate workshops.

 FAB worked with University of Regina’s Dr. Charity Marsh on her recent project titled “Take Up Space, Your Voice Matters!,” which Cabrera explained is “basically in response to COVID, creating workshops around connecting with other young folks and in-person physical activities. So there’s dance, there’s music, and then there’s skateboarding. GRR!, Vibes YQR, and FAB are a part of that, and so it’s an eight- or ten-week workshop for youth, and it’s about 10 youths that get together for an hour each week and do different activities.” They went on to state how valuable the experience was “for some of the folks that are involved with FAB in getting some experience teaching, and also earning a decent income from that gig, but also to invite younger folks to also learn in a safe space.”

Over the past three years, Cabrera has seen the group through literal blood, sweat, and tears, but is looking to bring fresh faces into the group as they plan to step down from their leadership role shortly. “I don’t think I have to be the sole person that maintains this, like it should be turned over!” they noted with enthusiasm. “You can pass the torch and it’s okay, like you want that community to grow. I have been in talks with one individual who is interested in taking over. I would still be a participant, just not at the same capacity because I do love the projects, but I’m excited to have someone younger and who is also super excited and feels passionate about the project to take over. I can’t wait to see what they do with it.”

This decision was not made lightly, but Cabrera outlined that running this style of group is no simple task when most of the members worked full time and were building lives of their own. “It’s a lot to take on a group and then be the one that’s organizing the meetups, bringing all the supplies, doing all that […] The first year was great because it was pre-pandemic, but then with everything kind of at a halt, people’s lives and their interests had to change. Naturally, I’m totally fine with that. Lots of people had settled down, bought houses, started families, things like that, and so some of those participants or people who helped out are no longer at the capacity that they were in 2019 – that goes the same with me.”

Fortunately, whoever takes up the FAB torch will have many shoulders to lean on should they choose to truly engage with the community that’s been built. “There’s been a lot of great collaboration when it came to being involved with the Regina Skateboarding Coalition,” which Cabrera claimed has been consistent. “They made a good effort to reach out to us, to make sure that there was always a representative of FAB to be there, because they do want to have the skatepark be accessible to more people than just cis-hetero men. They’ve always included us in the conversation which is really great, and have been supportive.”

 As a final note, Cabrera described the types of people they think would both do best in the environment, and be the best for the community: “You gotta have passion, like you have to be interested in what it is that you’re getting involved in, and ambitious. So, you know, being able to put something out there and whether it’s well received or not, just doing it. And then also willing to kind of take the lead in that role, showing up. A lot of people want to participate but don’t want to lead because it can be kind of intimidating, but someone who’s willing to do that work, and it not being about you but for the community.”

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