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    Harry Martin: Re-Aligning Roller Disco & Hip-Hop

    Long before roller disco and hip-hop were even a thought, the trend of roller skating was beloved worldwide. The first ever pair of skates were designed in 1760 by John Joseph Merlin but would ultimately fail due to an inefficient structure. However, the potential of the new skatewear was quickly realized, and by 1819, French inventor M. Petitbled patented the three-wheel inline model.

    It wasn’t until 1863 that Petibled would forever “revolutionize the roller skate” and introduce the quad skate that we all know and still use today. From then on, mass production would start, quickly followed by the opening of the first-ever skating rink in 1866 at a resort in Rhode Island.

    For the next century, roller skating would be considered an activity everyone can enjoy: no matter age, gender, or race. However, as popular as it was, not even roller skating could break the white-and-black separation barrier. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, skating rinks would still follow segregation precedents.

    This would cause the black community to adopt certain venues as their own, including three legendary rinks in New York City. The Skate Key (Bronx), the Roxy in Manhattan, and the most legendary one of the all, EMPIRE in Brooklyn.

    Ironically enough, a new genre of music in the urban world was rising in popularity in the mid-1970s within the City that included deejays and break-dancing with a more up-tempo sound; Hip-Hop. With roller skating slowly starting to lose its edge around this time, a revolution was needed once again, and the rising, new rhythmic was the exact piece necessary — and by 1979, roller disco was born.

    The two sub-genres would help elevate one another tremendously. Roller disco transitioned rinks to upgrade their sound systems with DJ booths — and Hip-Hop would rely heavily on the fresh new atmosphere to showcase talent and break records. For years, the skating rink was the new nightclub, and similar to all other hotspots, that setting can attract just as much bad as good.

    Violence would start to plague the roller disco world, and by the late 1990s, rinks were being forced to close. In 2007, the birthplace itself, EMPIRE, officially closed its door as well, marking the end of an era. And with the rise of technology and other sports such as baseball, basketball, and football fully thriving, roller-skating/disco was fading into a past-time hobby.

    Nonetheless, a young entrepreneur by the name of Harry Martin is here to change that. Growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and once an avid skater at EMPIRE himself, Harry was there to experience it all. The rise and downfall.

    Like many others, Harry would lose his passion for roller skating following the closure of venues and not skate for years.It was until a company party nearly a decade later at Lakeside Prospect Park, that Harry would rediscover his love.

    From that point forward, Harry’s mission was to revive that feeling for everyone else; by 2016, he founded The RollerWave. Initially, the concept was pop-up rinks, as he hosted multiple sold-out events at Webster Hall, the Hudson Hotel, and the W Hotel.

    Although he was finding much success, Harry’s ultimate goal was to provide a concrete outlet he and many other Black Americans once depended on. And what better place than in his neighborhood of Brooklyn?

    On February 11th, 2023, Harry officially opened the flagship Roller Wave location in Atlantic Terminal Mall, directly across the street from Barclays Center. The 24,000 square venue houses a 9,000-square-foot skating rink, along with modern amenities and aesthetics.

    Furthermore, Harry also made it a point to include elements of what started it all—art, disco lighting, and most importantly, the music: Hip-Hop.

    “Hip-Hop started in the streets of New York City, just like roller disco. The two are synonymous with one another. We used Hip-Hop as an outlet to escape our troubles. It helped people tap into a source of light that’s inside all of us.

    It gave us a sense of confidence… and brought our communities together. That, in turn, started a lot of movement to fight the systems that keep us down. Everything successful is based on community.”

    “Roller-skating has the same effect. It makes people feel whole again. Even as outcasts, we can find a tribe of people going through the same daily struggles and cope together in a fun, positive way.”

    Harry has hosted multiple events synced with Hip-Hop in just four months of being open. Whether it’s with an artist or DJ such as Alicia Keys and Roxanne Shante, to the finale of Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga series with the cast, the trendy CEO always makes it a point to implement the soundtrack of the culture in some shape or form in the hottest new rink of the millennium.

    So the next time you’re in the mood for fun, fitness, and hip-hop, be sure to visit The RollerWave in Brooklyn- and lace up.

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