If you grew up skateboarding in New York City before 2006, you probably have memories of Harold Hunter.
Hell, if you grew up paying attention to east coast skateboarding before 2006 you have memories of him. There’s nothing I can do or say that would truly honour his impact so I’ll just share a couple of mine. I didn’t even personally know him, but he taught my friend Gabe how to remove a kingpin by lining it up with a manhole and forcing it through the small openings used to lift them. At the first Clean Up the Banks Jam he stoically stared at my friend Dan and then followed it up by saying “Fuck you looking at?” He was undefinable, unhinged, and irreplicable. As teens, we were enamoured. In 2006, Harold died and the world lost a rare, strange, special person. As with all our dead and gone, there is nothing left to do but remember them and live well, hopefully incorporating the small strength that their memory may provide into ourselves. It is with this idea that we entered the 11th year since Harold’s death and the 11th annual Harold Hunter Day.
This year Harold Hunter Day got a dose of that sweet adidas money and was transformed into Harold Hunter Weekend. The days surrounding April 2nd (Harold’s birthday) and February 17th (Harold’s death day) haven’t always been ideal for skating, so the five-day series of events was celebrated from May 31 until June 4th. Adidas hosted a slew of soirees, shindigs, and get-togethers; a release of a shirt/shoe collaboration with UXA, photo exhibits—the more thematically relevant featuring exclusive photos of Harold—new contests, a couple of parties, industry panels, and of course the OG skate jam. Importantly, all proceeds from product and arts sales went to the Harold Hunter Foundation, an organisation familiar to New Yorkers and Harold fans alike.
Founded the year after Harold’s death, the HHF uses skateboarding as a vehicle to provide resources to underserved youth with the goal of reaching their full potential. Adidas released a quickly but slickly made video about how the HHF helped their own team member Tyshawn Jones who, as a youth growing up in the Bronx, got some gear and a session at Woodward. Glitz and gear and parties aside, what’s really important about this day, or weekend, or remembering Harold at all, is recognising the power of community and its potential to engender change. This potential was a key component to the life force we lost too early when we lost Harold.
The HHF definitely has things in control on their own, this being their 10 year anniversary. But with bigger sponsors comes bigger checks and more awareness and this year over $60,000 was raised—$7,900 through art and product sales alone. I hope that adidas sticks around and continues to sponsor the newly minted weekend. With help from these big companies with deeper pockets—who actually care about skateboarding—the HHF can continue to extend their programming and services. You never know where the next TJ is lurking in the vast five boroughs of New York City. And with the money they raise from bigger sponsors, the HHF will be able to turn days of skateboarding into weekends and then into lifetimes for youth just like TJ and Harold. And one day one of those kids will be teaching a new generation how to whack their kingpins into the sewers, flowing relentlessly, beneath New York.