Fierce

This Chicana Started A Collective For Girl Skaters To Confidently Take Up Space In Los Angeles

For Leti Lomeli, skating always provided her with sisterhood. Playing roller derby for nearly a decade in Phoenix, Arizona, the team contact sport was a community of mostly Latina girls who had each other’s backs and were always bigging one another up. So when the Chicana moved to Los Angeles in her 20s, she was surprised to find that skating was predominantly the realm of white male bros, far from the inviting space she knew and loved. To survive in the new unfamiliar city busting with opportunity, she started the LA chapter of Chicks in Bowls (CIB), an international group building inclusive skatepark communities and experiences.

“It’s more of a structure to get people there, to get more variety and diversity in the skatepark and take up space,” Lomeli, 28, told FIERCE.

After dedicating so much of her life to derby, Lomeli didn’t want to commit herself to the sport as she had in the past. Moving to California to focus on her graduate degree and career, she wanted to enjoy her lifelong hobby without team responsibilities. She hoped it would be fun. But when the transplant first visited a skatepark, her excitement immediately swiveled to insecurity. Alone in a park filled with overweening men, she scurried back to her car, feeling unwelcome in an environment that usually felt like home.

“It was all guys, all skateboards, no quad skates. It was so intimidating to be there by myself. I felt like such a weenie. I left. I didn’t feel comfortable,” she said.

The Gnar Gnar Honeys

Hoping to never relive that moment of unease again, Lomeli began searching for diverse skate spaces in LA. She didn’t find one, but she did discover a larger network that would ultimately allow her to create the community she was hungry for: Chicks in Bowls. Founded in 2012 by New Zealand derby skater-graphic designer-entrepreneur Lady Trample, CIB creates and promotes mostly-girl, but open to all genders, roller skate crews around the world. With more than 300 chapters across the globe, the space brings seasoned skaters together with newbies in an environment where they can feel safe, comfortable and excited to do what they love.

While there was already a CIB group in Long Beach, Calif., Lomeli made her case to Lady Trample on why the sizeable and diverse city of Los Angeles needed its own crew, too. In 2016, Chicks in Bowls LA was born, with Lomeli at its helm. She eagerly began organizing meet-ups, which she’d promote on social media. As she anticipated, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the collective she was creating. During any given event, a group of about 30 women skaters took over bowls, confidently entering spaces enmass where they otherwise felt excluded from.

“We just wanted to take up space and own it. We wanted to let them know, we are going to be here, and you’re going to be OK with it. We are going to do what people come to the skatepark for,” she said.

During meet-ups, some women took the opportunity to skate freely while others taught newcomers the basics. Regardless of why the girls came, though, Lomeli wanted them to leave feeling one way: welcomed, not like she did the first time she hit an LA skatepark.

But even among a group of powerful girls, creating an environment where everyone feels safe and secure isn’t always easy.

The Gnar Gnar Honeys

“It’s mostly the feeling of intimidation that comes with being surrounded by testosterone and eyes. They might not say anything, but it’s just a big deal to go in there and take up that space. There are certain instances when they do say something or it does get physical, though,” she said.

On one occasion, a male skater, who she says wasn’t practicing proper park etiquette, crashed into her. He then blamed her and wrongfully told her she wasn’t allowed to have roller skates in the bowl. During another event, there was a drunk male skater loudly taunting some of the women in her group. Lomeli put a stop to the jeers.

“For new girls entering a park and seeing this, it’s scary,” she said. “But having other women there, watching them stand their ground, it shows you, ‘I can do this, too.’”

Lomeli, who has since stepped down from her role as president of CIB LA to focus on her career as an applied behavior analyst and explore other recreational passions, says she started the group for selfish reasons: to create the community she felt she needed. However, through that, she was able to organize a collective that extended far beyond her and would excel even without her leadership.

The Gnar Gnar Honeys

While the former roller derby player, who has replaced her skates for dance shoes in recent months, may no longer be active in the scene she helped create in Los Angeles, her message, especially for Latinas, remains the same: be bold about your greatness.

“Because we are women and Latinas, we are told to be humble, be quiet, don’t make daring statements. Fuck that! Make your accomplishments known. Be loud and proud about them. Confidently take up space,” she said.

This story was done in collaboration with the The Gnar Gnar Honeys.

Read: Not Seeing Women Represented In Extreme Sports, This Colombiana Skater Created An All-Girl Collective In Bogotá

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Fierce

Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Beverly Hills, one of the most well-known destinations in the country and world has long been a thriving and prime area for real-estate. Long before it was colonized by the Spanish, and was largely populated by rich white elites, the Indigenous people of California known as the Tongva, thrived there.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1830s, when the area was colonized, Maria Rita Valdez Villa, the granddaughter of Spanish colonists Luis and Maria Quintero and the great-granddaughter of an African slave was granted the original 4,500-acre of Beverly Hills, then known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas.

Yes, as it turns out the foremother of Beverly Hills was a Black Latina!

During her ownership, Maria Rita oversaw cattle ranching and farming.

According to LA Magazine, Rita “was well known for holding a yearly celebratory rodeo under a famous eucalyptus tree at what is now Pico and Robertson boulevards.”

Sadly, after working the land for so much time, three Indigenous Californian outlaws attacked the ranch in 1852. The attack led to a shootout amongst “a grove of walnut trees at what is now Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase drives” and eventually in 1854 Maria Rita decided to sell the area to investors Henry Hancock and Benjamin D. Wilson for $4,000.

Perhaps there’s a chance for justice for Maria Rita in the end.

Recently, Los Angeles County officials revealed that they were contemplating returning a beachfront property that was seized from a Black family nearly a century ago.

According to the Guardian, Manhattan Beach used “eminent domain” in 1924 to force Willa and Charles Bruce, the city’s first Black landowners, of the land where they lived. “The Bruces also ran a resort for Black families during a time when beaches in the strand were segregated,” explained the Guardian in a recent report. “Part of the land was developed into a city park. It is now owned by Los Angeles county and houses lifeguard headquarters and a training center.”

Manhattan Beach county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced that she was looking into ways to restore justice for Bruce family. Options include delivering the land back to the family, paying for losses, or potentially leasing the property from them

“I wanted the county of Los Angeles to be a part of righting this terrible wrong,” Hahn explained in a recent interview with KABC-TV.

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mitúCares: Babes Of Wellness Wins Grant To Help Domestic Violence Survivors Heal Mentally And Physically

Things That Matter

mitúCares: Babes Of Wellness Wins Grant To Help Domestic Violence Survivors Heal Mentally And Physically

As our community works to beat and recover from the Covid pandemic, mitúCares wants to help those helping our community in this time. We asked all of you to nominate people who were making our community better with their work and you delivered. mitú is proud to announce that Babes in Wellness is one of two winners for the mitúCares grant program.

Babes of Wellness is more than a fitness business.

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Founder Kat Novoa started Babes of Wellness with a vision to help people achieve wellness as well as physical fitness. Novoa started Babes of Wellness in South LA as an extension of her work as a domestic violence advocacy.

“I became a domestic violence advocate back in 2016 and in volunteering in these shelters and providing complimentary fitness classes for the survivors of violence that were at these shelters, I realized that fitness wasn’t enough for them. Once I introduced them to mindfulness practices like meditation, journaling, just affirmations, I really noticed a change in them and a shift in their mindset.”

Novoa noticed that the fitness industry was not a place that allowed for the mindful healing that can happen while engaged in physical fitness. The male-dominated industry wasn’t built to help with that kind of work.

“Women have been stigmatized for so long and sexualized because of our bodies,” Novoa says. “There’s not really an emphasis, especially in a male-dominated industry like the fitness industry, to take care of and tend to our emotional needs, our spiritual needs all in one place.”

The fitness professional wanted to make sure she helped the community that made her.

Novoa grew up in South LA and there was nothing the community like Babes of Wellness. She saw this as an opportunity to bring something to her community that will help people heal and grow, especially after 2020.

The pandemic has devastated low-income communities and communities of color. Our community has experienced the disproportionate impact of Covid with mounting deaths and financial losses. Unemployment surged and hospitals filled with our loved ones leaving a lot of damage and trauma from which we still need to collectively heal.

“Me, myself, I recently lost my dad due to Covid and I think that for me now that my business and the mission has really changed in the last few months for me,” Novoa recalls. “Now, more than ever, I feel even more passionate about helping our community and really teaching them these principles where they haven’t been taught. They’ve never had access or resources to someone who looks like them that cares about them and knows their struggles.”

Novoa plans to use the same skills and tools she uses to help survivors of domestic violence to find peace to help others heal. The boutique fitness studio is a place where people can find peace while working up a sweat.

Knowing that her work is helping people is the most important part of her day.

Novoa is moved by every client that tells her how much they get out of the work they do with her. Her plan is to make sure that everyone can get to their goals while enjoying the work.

“There was a girl that followed me on Instagram for a really really long time. Years. Prior to me going into this industry though mutual friends,” Novoa recalls. “She saw my journey and she thought 1) she looks like me 2) she’s female in a male-dominated industry 3) she’s Latina 4) she works with survivors of violence. She was a survivor of violence herself. She was overweight and she was really really insecure and she never thought that in her life she could look and feel and be the way that she is.”

Two years later and Novoa is still working with the client.

Congratulations, Kat!

READ: Domestic Violence Victims Have Been Using Code Words At Pharmacies To Escape Abusers During Lockdowns

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