Monyell Sessoms and Kameren Halliday are in the process of leaving a legacy at Howard University. As co-founders of the HU Skateboarding Club, Sessoms and Halliday, who are also the club’s president and vice president have created one of the most inclusive and welcoming spaces on campus.
But it wasn’t something that happened overnight.
After meeting over Twitter, Sessoms and Halliday began skating together at Banneker Skatepark, across the street from campus. At first, it was just them. Now the group chat for the HU Skate Club has over 400 members. “It’s not something that I fully expected,” says Halliday. “The skate club is something that we both agreed we wanted to do our sophomore year and to see it come to life...it’s nice.”
The origins behind the club came out of a desire for community. Sessoms and Halliday both started skateboarding in their respective hometowns of Gaston, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up, they both experienced the hardships of being one of the only Black girls at the skatepark. These experiences of otherness guide them in creating the welcoming environment that HU Skate club is known for around campus.
In explaining how they’ve created this inclusive space, Halliday says “when you have positive energy, you tend to receive that back.”
Embodying the University’s motto of truth and service, Sessoms and Halliday’s quest for community doesn’t stop with Howard students. The greater DC area, other universities, and social media have a growing love for both girls and the rest of the HU Skate Club. And the feeling is mutual.
“We are all about making sure our students have a safe space that they belong [to] and taking care of the park itself, making sure it's clean,” says Halliday.
It’s even bigger than skateboarding...it's about accepting who you are and basking in that.”
Within its first year, the club has had a range of events to draw interest and inspire members to explore all that the skating community offers. Group skate sessions with skate clubs at University of Maryland and Georgetown, open mic freestyles, markets for student businesses, and collaborations with local businesses such as Crushed Skate Shop, who support giveaways to club members, are a few of the things the club has done so far.
When asked about the process of deciding their initiatives, Halliday says “when we decide to do something that's not a meeting, it's like...who are we helping? Who are we benefiting here? What connections are we making? And who are we impacting?”
The HU Skate Club also has an ongoing relationship with the DC youth in the area. At any given club meeting, children ranging from elementary pupils to high school students are seen skating and communing with club members. “I’ve helped some kids with homework and essays at our meetings,” said Sessoms. “We kind of act as mentors, but in a more casual way so the advice is more likely to be taken.”
Most of the club’s events and opportunities for its members have come from the friendships that Sessoms and Halliday made through skating. A good portion of the club’s reach is attributable to Sessoms who was also her high school’s student body president, an experience that taught her a lot about organizing people. “It’s a big responsibility to make decisions on behalf of others,” says Sessoms. “It’s really important to go in with genuine intentions and to try to make decisions for the benefit of all.”
During club meetings at Banneker, but in between her skating, Sessoms can be found taking the time to talk with everyone. Similarly, Halliday uses almost every club meeting as an opportunity to teach beginner classes for those looking to pick up skateboarding.
On campus, Sessoms and Halliday have become poster children for skateboarding. With them both frequently getting stopped by other students to talk about the club. “I don’t mind the attention because its good people...it's always people who just want to know more about skateboarding and I’m willing to help,” says Halliday.
The power of social media has added to the newfound celebrity of the club. After posting a viral TikTok that was then reposted by larger accounts across platforms, the HU Skate Club hit the mainstream. The attention caused the club to be known across the country, inspiring Black kids everywhere to pick up skating. The skate club’s TikTok account is just 11 accounts shy of 3,000 followers with its most-viewed video of the skaters earning 78,000 likes and 274,000 views.
As North Carolina A&T has created its own skate club, the influence of Howard students has spread. This is something that the club’s advisor, Shelly Ridgeway, is most proud of. Ridgeway also serves as the strategic communications manager in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.
Ridgeway called the skate club the epitome of students “finding their tribe and sense of belonging,” “They are getting noticed, because of their hard work in making sure every student who wants to join them to learn to skate can do so. Theirs really is a judgment-free zone,” she wrote in a statement.
This school year, the club gained official status as an organization of Howard University. This opens doors for the club in terms of opportunities for longevity and resources. As Sessoms and Halliday embark on their senior year, they want the club to stand on its own. “This club is bigger than us, bigger than Howard, and even bigger than skateboarding...it's about accepting who you are and basking in that,” says Sessoms.