Stepping into your true cultural identity is an imperative factor in our lives. If we aren’t organically embracing all that makes us who we are, it is so easy to get lost. Tapping into our higher selves and originality contributes to what makes us authenticity unique and stand out for the rest of the world. This can be seen through the lenses of Daija Moss, an Blackuadorian roller skater that hails from Los Angeles, California.
Her raw, dope and radiant talent is beyond influential and impactful. One can get lost just by vicariously living through her instagram reels. Daija brings the Black and Latinx flavor and soul that is instilled into her along with her skates. Her passion to create the conversation of diversity amongst the skating community and build as stronger network is crucial.
There are so many talented souls and narratives to be amplified and the work is being done. Sit back and dive deeper into to all that encompasses Daija and this will truly inspire you to tap into your purpose.
What are three characteristics that Daija embodies?
Creative, Empathetic, Resilient
How do you embrace your Afro-Latinidad ?
I like to remind myself of who I am and watch things or listen to music that reflects my cultural background. I am also from Highland Park, Los Angeles, which has always had a really strong Latinx influence so growing up there I was able to learn a lot of different customs from different Spanish-speaking countries.
How was growing up a Black Ecuadorian in Los Angeles ?
Difficult to say the least. I was made fun of for the darkness of my skin and the fizziness of my hair. I also grew up around people who had predominantly Mexican and Salvadoran backgrounds, so my features really threw them off too. My blackness was never fully accepted, but when I started playing more on my Latinx roots, trying to understand Spanish and cultural references, then I was a little more accepted.
Have you ever faced any challenges not feeling Black or Latinx enough?
Every day of my life. I don’t speak Spanish, so it’s often assumed I’m not Latina, but I can understand Spanish, and I speak Italian. I also don’t really practice traditions that you may see more in Black or Latinx households because my grandmother is white and she was the matriarch of the house I grew up in. That being said, it can be difficult to act outside of the boxes that people like to put me in. If I come off as too “spicy” people will attribute it to the Latina part of me, if I come off as angry or aggressive, they’ll blame it on my blackness, if I get a cultural reference wrong or if I don’t understand something, they’ll blame it on my whiteness—it feels like I can’t ever win.
My own family has made me feel strange for being the mixed girl I am. My Ecuadorian side spent years trying to assimilate me, to no avail really, and I often get the sense of “colorblindness” from my white side, then there’s my black side of the family that barely knows anything about me because I’ve only just met them this year. At the end of the day, I just want to be loved for being methe me that is Black, Ecuadorian, and White at the same time, all the time.
What is the biggest misconception you’ve heard as an Afro-Latinx ?
There are so many and there are some that I didn’t even know I was contributing to, like this idea that you have to be mixed to be considered Afro-Latinx when really there are people of African descent that were born in Spanish speaking countries and aren’t mixed at all. Adding to that too, the idea that being Hispanic means being a POC, when really that’s not the case. There are white Latinx people and they benefit greatly from that privilege.
What are ways we can raise consciousness about the African influence in Ecuador?
The best way is just to do some research. I rarely see Ecuador come up on the news (both Spanish and English news networks) and it can be hard to see it come up on social media. I did not grow up in Ecuador and I have only visited once when I was about eight or nine years old, so I’m about as lost answering this question as many others would be. I fully intend to learn more about my culture though, starting off by just speaking with my relatives about their experiences living in the country and so on, and then by revisiting the country for myself when travel becomes safe again. Some resources that have been surprisingly helpful are actually Tik Tok hashtags and Instagram accounts that showcase Ecuador and the indigenous and Afro-Latinx people who live there. It has been fascinating to see the country through the lenses of people who have lived there for their whole life.
How did you begin your journey with roller skating ?
I started skating after I had a dream that encouraged me to get skates. I kept skating because of the new and constant challenges it made me face. I had to learn how to balance, how to get back up after a fall, how to maintain stamina, etc. It kept my mind occupied while helping me stay active, which in turn really helped me battle my depression.
Do you see a lack of representation in preferably roller skaters of color ?
Yes and no. In the commercial world of roller skating there is no diversity. Most skate related shops are owned by white people, the roller skating “aesthetic” has been influenced by white people, and to this day a majority of white/ white passing people have been chosen to be the faces of roller skating on major brand platforms. However, in the actual skate community that I am a part of there is a ton of diversity. That being said, it is my community, and I can’t really speak on the company that others choose to keep.
How do you use Instagram as a tool to bring awareness about the art of roller skating?
I use my platform on Instagram to hopefully encourage people to learn more about the people behind skating, rather than just skating itself. We are all unique in our own ways and have a variety of talents. It is my goal to create a community that is open to conversation, networking, and collaboration as well as general support. I believe that no skater should feel alone in their journey. We are a collective and we might not all share the same things in common, or have compatible personalities, but we do know what it feels like to eat shit on some concrete- so that’s got to be something, right?
What is your signature trick?
I don’t really have one yet. I’m working on developing my style and smoothing out the moves that I already know to make things seem more natural. I’ve always wanted to be seen as graceful and soft, because even though I am a tall black girl who often gives off an aura of intimidation- I’m really just a big softie.
Has roller skating contributed as a therapeutic space for you?
It is therapeutic for me in that I need something to challenge my views on things to keep me motivated. My depression works to numb me and affects my ability to get out of bed and feel motivated. So, skating is something that pushes me to do more, to be more. Lately, it’s made me want to work on my confidence because even though I’m a better skater now, I want to be able to look and feel like I’m confident on my skates.
Has your Afro-Latinidad contribute during to your roller skating journey?
It’s allowed me to add more flavor to my skating. Black and Latinx people have an impeccable sense of rhythm and flow and the music is just unbeatable. When I tap into that energy and get into that flow, I feel like I am the coolest person in the room. It also helps me to connect to both my dance and skate park skating communities, because I’ve found that there are more Latinx people in my park skating community and more Black people in my dance skating community.
What is your advice to anyone wanting to become a roller skater?
Invest in quality skates, learn how to fall, never take yourself too seriously, and educate yourself on the sport and the community. You don’t have to be a pro skater to be in the skate community, but you do need to be respectful of the innovators that came before you. Once you’ve done a little homework and come into the community ready and willing to engage, there’s no telling what might happen!
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