The Oxford Skate Park hosted an audience of all ages and skating abilities for the SouthTalks series event “Skating South: Oral Histories and Music” on Nov. 1. Film students worked alongside Southern Documentary Filmmakers, John Rash and Melanie Ho to highlight members of the Oxford skating community and the significance skating has on their lives.
In collaboration with UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture professors Rash and Ho, Northwest Community College student Skyler King wanted to bring the Oxford skating community into the limelight, so the trio teamed up to host an evening featuring an original documentary screening, punk rock and lots of head banging.
“Melanie Ho and I teach a class in documentary field work and every year…we try to find a unique aspect about life in the South or life in Mississippi that our students can engage with,” Rash said.
After skating for a pro company in San Francisco, King returned to the south and created the Oxford Skateboarding Association, which aims to promote skating in North Mississippi. King brought the idea of a film highlighting skating culture in the south to Rash, which is how the production began.
The documentary, projected onto the bowl of the Oxford skate park, contained a series of interviews featuring different Oxford skateboarders. The film highlights the diversity in the skating community and the bonds forged from every trick mastered and board broken.
“If I could use one word to describe the Oxford skating community, it would be inclusive,” UM junior history major Remi Smith said. “You got my boy Hayden over here. He’s in middle school, right, but if you look at Mike Ranes, he’s like 50 or 60 years old. So, the diversity and inclusivity are really cool for me. It’s cool that many people can meet together like that.”
The film screening was accompanied by music from local band Harvey Dug and the punk band School Drugs from New Jersey.
“Skateboarding is singular, but with such a finely tuned community,” Josh Jurk, School Drugs’s vocalist, said. “It’s awesome to be able to go somewhere and feel like you belong, and that is the most important part.”
Aside from documenting the community that has come together through skateboarding, the evening at the skate park was also an opportunity for Rash and Ho’s students to challenge themselves as filmmakers and documentarians of southern studies.
Rash, who grew up in the mountains of North Carolina and always had an affinity for skate culture, is a producer and director of the Southern Documentary Project. He coordinated the physical skate park screening and brought School Drugs, a band that he has been following since the pandemic, to the scene.
“I just think that southern studies is a great program that supports all sorts of various interests, whether it’s history, sociology or punk rock and skateboarding,” Rash said. “I feel privileged to have the Center for the Study of Southern Culture here at the University of Mississippi because it allows me to explore my interests professionally and with my students.”