The number of international Roller Derby teams has grown rapidly in recent years, and the number of teams participating in the Roller Derby World Cup has more than tripled between the inaugural 2011 competition and last year’s games in Manchester, UK. Some of us have been playing sports our whole lives, and others have only ever played roller derby as adults – but none of us could have ever imagined having the opportunity to skate on a National level team. Roller Derby continues to push the limit on what we believe we can do every day, and we are proud to represent what is possible for the next generation of skaters. Derby United skaters Electric Piranha (Team Philippines) and Slamurai (Japan and Fam) competed at the third Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester, UK in 2018. This past July, they both competed against fellow Derby United teammates Isabelle Ringer (Jewish Roller Derby), Knockturn Ally (Jewish Roller Derby), and Margaret Bleed (Team Indigenous) in a mini-Nations Tournament hosted by RollerCon in Las Vegas, NV.
Representation in roller derby matters, and the power and emotions you feel when you see people who look like you and share your heritage on the track is powerful. “Words cannot describe the feeling I get skating for Team Philippines. I am surrounded by smart, beautiful, athletic Filipinas.” Piranha says; “When we are together, there is an extraordinary and undeniable bond we have, like we’ve been skating together as a team for years when we only have had the chance to skate together a handful of times.” My experience with Team Indigenous was nearly identical. While I was nervous and jittery at our first practice, that feeling faded as we took the track together and started communicating and skating together in a way that rivaled my experience on my home team. Each game we clicked a little more and the vibes on the bench were always positive, if not electrifying. The increasing representation in our sport is only a start and we look forward to seeing new teams (cough*BRDN*) join the platform in years to come.
The athleticism and teamwork is incredible when you have the opportunity to skate with amazing skaters and officials from all backgrounds, but Roller Derby has always been so much more than just a sport: it is a community; it is a movement. The arrival of Team Indigenous in 2018 and the formation of Jewish Roller derby in 2019 saw the addition of two new “borderless” nation teams, comprised of skaters with a shared cultural history of oppression, genocide, and removal from their homelands. “I will play for all those who are oppressed and yearn to live free. I will stand for those [who] cannot stand up…This team is about so much more than a sport. This team represents the collective resistance and resilience of the Jewish people. This team is about saying, we are here and we get to be here. These games are for every Hebrew that was enslaved, that was killed, [and] that was persecuted. For everyone who came before and those that will come after”, shared Derby United Manager and skater, Isabelle Ringer. Jewish Roller Derby raised funds and awareness of the humanitarian crisis at the border by selling #NeverAgain t-shirts at RollerCon. Team Indigenous uses their platform to raise awareness of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women around the world as well as the lingering effects of colonial racism that exist in policy and micro-aggressions that continue to affect our members and communities both on and off the track.
Roller Derby can be empowering to the skaters, officials and volunteers that join their local program, and has the ability to affect meaningful change and awareness within their own communities. At the Team Indigenous seminar “Mascots, Columbus Day & Red Dresses: Using Small Pebbles to Create Big Ripples”, co-captain Jumpy McGee told us that activism can be achieved through small actions that add up. Although progress may seem slow and there may be resistance to what our teams represent at times, we are excited to be a part of this movement and will continue to skate, support each other and foster an environment that values diversity and inclusion of all members of Derby United.
Contributing Writer: Margaret Bleed
Photo: Kelican Bae