How skating evolved into a liberating outlet for Miami’s queer creatives

Miami’s skate culture is a growing community where free expression is encouraged, and judgment is disdained – a space many members of the queer community consider home.

Steven “SDotBraddy” Braddy, rap artist and founder of local streetwear collective So Shitty It’s Good (SSIG) hoped to find an escape from life’s stresses in 2020 when his mother passed away.

“Skating was always that outlet for me to let go, even in a s—-y situation,” Braddy recalls. 

The streetwear designer hoped to practice the sport as an outlet to express his grief, but eventually learned the community itself was what he needed most.

“I’m pretty sexually open, which is what I try to show through my designs,” says Braddy. “I realized you can only get so far by yourself, so I eventually let more and more people in.”

He’s not the only one.

A long-term study by the University of Southern California (USC) began exploring the mental benefits of skateboarding in 2019. Many participants consider the sport’s social aspects more beneficial than even the sport itself.

“The kinship allowed new skaters to feel a sense of belonging and build on their intrinsic motivation to become better,” the study states.

Another local rapper and streetwear aficionado, Fellahboy, guesses he would end up back in jail, or even dead, if it weren’t for skateboarding. It serves as both transportation and a form of therapy for the Liberty City native.

“Geographically, if you look at these neighborhoods, they’re not for the weak,” Fellah emphasizes. “There was a lot of aggression in the inner city, so even looking at somebody for a split second could cause a fight.”

During Fellah’s middle school years, he found it increasingly difficult to survive the school day. Some students would stir up fights with him for reasons he believes could have been avoided.

“Frank and two of his homeboys waited outside my classroom for two hours one day, all because his girl liked me,” Fellah recalls, shaking his head. “I did not go to schools where you could not fight.”

The school administration did not intervene, he adds.

“I was in class scared as a motherf—-r, where even my teacher was like, ‘I don’t know how to save you,” Fellah says.

The USC study reports that 36 percent of participants believe the best aspects of a skatepark are that the “police do not bother [them],” and 32 percent say it’s a “safe place for [them].”

Both Fellah and Braddy found a new purpose in creating skate attire to match the needs of their community.

Fellah developed the brand Talk, named after his Instagram Live series, Fellahtalk, where he discusses evolving personal experiences and ideas.

The artist hopes he can continue to share his feelings of belonging with the wider skate community through his brand.

“I had to turn my life’s trials, tribulations, and tragedy into something profitable to survive,” Fellah explains. “A lot of skaters and artists start these brands to sort of promote what they stand for because it’s all about building that reputation. I really am my own staunch advocate.”

Jesse Fraga studies Digital Journalism as well as Women's and Gender Studies. He was awarded "Best Coverage of LGBT Issues" and "Best News Photo" by the Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Awards. Fraga works as an intern for Miami New Times and was the former News Director of PantherNOW. He hopes to bridge the gap between queer news and mainstream media.