Cammie Shibata knows you’re staring at her. Her skate wheels are flashing, her hair is bright pink, and most afternoons she’s dressed like a sparkly cartoon. And she’s fine with it – as long as you stay to hear her message.
Five years ago, Shibata formed the punk band Kochiyama named after one of her longtime heroes, Yuri Kochiyama. Kochiyama was known for her outspoken civil rights activism, and Shibata wanted to bring that same fiery energy to her music. And she did exactly that. To the outside, her success was a triumph. But on the inside, she was furious. Repeatedly falling victim to the same old sexism at shows was making her tired. So, Cammie decided to fight back. She began naming abusers in her songs to let them know she wouldn’t back down and that she wasn’t afraid. Just as she was gaining traction, she had to move across the country to be with family. She paused her performances, settled in Palo Alto, and planned her next move. Inspired by some of the women she’d seen at the skatepark near her home, she bought a pair of roller skates. After practicing on her own for months, she went to the park in hopes of making a few friends.
That’s when she noticed the aggression.
While Shibata and her new friends were largely cheered on by the skateboarders present, not everyone was so lucky. Often women at skate parks are more likely to be flirted with, sexually harassed, and seen as objects. They’re also more likely to be “snaked,” meaning cut off or not given space to learn. Discouraging women from showing up and practicing a sport others deemed a “cutesy fad” became routine at various parks. For safety reasons, Shibata asked a few more familiar faces to join them when they skated. And then a few more. And just like that, what was once a place that invoked fear became a home for these women. They started attending other events and meeting up with other skate groups. They named themselves the Concrete Sluts, due to their passion for skating every single day. And when the number of hate crimes towards Asians swelled, just like she had with her band, Shibata fought back. The Concrete Sluts began encouraging anyone who was harassed anywhere to get information or a photo of the harasser, with the promise that their ever-growing community would share it on social media, and keep them from doing more harm. Inspired to do even more, Founding Slut Zelina Roxas linked up with Chinese for Affirmative Action to hold a rally to raise money for AAPI Hate. Buoyed by their turnout, the Sluts have new plans to keep growing, raising funds, encouraging women everywhere to #takebackthebowl and most importantly, to never allow themselves to be silenced by anyone.