Thursday, May 14, 2009

What is Brotherhood?

This post is an article I wrote for a local magazine called Finna'Do. I thought I'd post it on here for all the people who aren't going to have the opportunity to see Issue 2 of Finna'Do Mag. Tell me what you think...

What is Brotherhood?
Written by: Adeshola Adigun

Brotherhood Skate Shop
17 Mildred Dr. Fort Myers, FL. 33901

What is brotherhood? As a child, I probably would have told you that brotherhood meant that biological brothers – blood brothers – should stick together. Or even maybe that Black brothers should work together to be “successful.” According to brotherhood is: the belief that all people should act with warmth and equality toward one another, regardless of differences in race, creed, nationality, etc. Based on this definition, Brotherhood skate shop has been an ideal example of what term brotherhood means to skaters, sneaker heads, and others in the Lee County area.

Traveling south on U.S. 41, if one was to make a right on Mildred Drive – across the street from Edison mall, they would notice a warehouse looking structure on the left side of the road; that structure is Brotherhood skate shop. Brotherhood, neighbored by the Midas Auto Service Center, has bars that run up and down the glass windows and door. The skate sneakers displayed in the shop window almost look like they're in jail for a crime – due to their visibility through the bars.

When one enters the shop it's almost like entering an art gallery. There are various colors throughout the shop, produced from the skate decks that are displayed along the wall, behind the register, and above the clothing rack. Also seen around the shop are miscellaneous items and accessories such as wallets, beanies, and Tech Decks – miniature skateboards, guided and operated by the fingers of the user.

On this particular day, Brent Sanders, shop owner, and Tim Carver, shop employee and long-term friend, are watching a vintage skate video containing some of their skate footage from 1998-2001; the film wasn't top-notch, but I appreciated it's rough, gritty picture quality. Now standing outside taking drags from their cigarettes, Brent and Tim discuss future plans and projects, as well as pop culture. The “Kanye West/ Fish sticks” episode of South Park becomes the topic of discussion.

Both fighting hunger pains, Brent and Tim agree to order a pizza from Birdie's Pizza, located across the street from the shop. After convincing Brent to sell me a slice, the three of us enjoyed our grease coated slices of pepperoni pizza, when a friend of mine, Matt, walked into the shop.

“Dude! I was going to ask you if you wanted to go get something to eat because I knew you would be hungry,” says Matt looking humorously disappointed. “I walk in here and you’re grubbing on some pizza. That's fucked up!” After devouring my $1.15 slice of pizza and a couple garlic knots, I agreed to accompany Matt across the street to Edison Mall, so he could grab something to eat.

When we returned from Edison Mall, local skater, Gnarly Charly, was now amongst those in attendance at the shop. Charly, 16, is well known for his affiliation with Cape Coral skate crew, The Krew. Consisting of a few young teens living in a suburban environment, The Krew embodies the common lifestyle of suburban teens – youth who, regardless of personal issues, continue to prevail over their daily obstacles and have fun. Dressed in a Tony the Tiger t-shirt, khaki pants, Nike SB Blazer lows, and a white Boondocks beanie, Charly laughed while Brent kept a couple shop frequents entertained.

Brent picked up a remote and turned on his Lasonic boom box. It was a very retro looking stereo, a boom box that would have been quite common in the 80's, except it had an iPod insert. Some relaxing reggae now joined in the collection of sounds floating around the shop. I stared down at Charly's Nike Blazers. One foot had a black shoelace, while the other had a purple one. I wondered if he did it for fashion, or if the other black lace tore from skating and he decided to replace it with a purple one. “Before I started skating, I used to walk everywhere,” recalls Charly. “But once I got on that board, I started to hate walking.”

Brent began to share this story with a mother who was purchasing a Brotherhood board for her son:

A shop frequent, Jeffry, recently brought his little cousin with him to the shop. Jeffry began to play EA Skate on Brent's XBOX 360. Entranced by his fixation on the game, Jeffry ignored his cousin’s requests to go pee. What didn't help at all was the fact that Jeffry's cousin doesn't speak a lick of English, so he began to make animated faces and expressions indicating that he had to go to the restroom. When Brent finally realized what was going on, he suggested that Jeffry take his cousin to the bathroom located in the back of the shop. But by the time Jeffry put down the controller and agreed to assist his cousin, it was too late. The stench of fresh urine began to linger around the shop, a wet spot appeared along his cousin's leg, and a golden puddle remained as evidence. With nothing to do but laugh, they all – except Jeffry’s cousin – satisfied their comedic urges. In the end, Jeffry’s cousin had the last laugh, leaving Brent with the duty of mopping up the urine.

“That’s funny,” replied the mother paying for her son’s new board. “Well, that’s not funny, but…” We all started laughing instantaneously.

Soon enough the only people left in the shop were me, Brent, Jeffry, Charly and his friend. With a boosted amount of energy, attributed to the Vitamin Water he drank like a thirsty man who just found a water fountain, Brent began to play fight with Jeffry. The four foot tall, husky Vietnamese boy fought back until he found himself trapped in a headlock. Jeffry immediately admitted defeat and sat down. Brent, now laughing, approached Jeffry and said, “Are we still friends?” “Yeah,” replied Jeffry as he began to chuckle himself, still gasping for air.

While I was asking Brent questions, I caught a glimpse of a Slave skate deck that gave me a good laugh. It was black and white with a George W. Bush skull head on it – crossbones and all. He had on one of his famous smug-like smiles, and beneath George Bush said “Thanks For Nothing.” I immediately began to smile and nod.

When did Brotherhood skate shop originally open?

We originally opened in late 1995. We were a skate park inside a warehouse across from the old airport on U.S. 41. I started renting it out to some ravers, so they could throw parties, which usually had hundreds of people in attendance. Most of the ravers would be on drugs. We ran a concession stand in the back, and sometimes ravers would try to buy water with ecstasy pills and other pills. Since we weren’t into that crap, we would take the pills, smash them, and give them a bottle of water anyways.

Do you have a mission statement or a creed that you try to fulfill?

BROTHERHOOD! It's really that simple. But we used to have a Bible verse tagged up on the wall, by Jonathan Paiz, in the bathroom at the old shop that said: “I urge you brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

You get a lot of non-skater customers. Do you feel that by catering to them you're “selling out”?

Brent: Nah. People are people. I don't care who they are.

Tim: Back in the day, I used to get hated on for skating. Now that big companies like Nike are supporting skateboarding it's definitely become more acceptable, and I think that's cool.

Brent: Even skaters want to look stylish when they're skating. A lot of styles became popular because of the skateboard world; like baggy pants.

Why did you create this brother-like atmosphere in your shop?

When I was a kid, my family was ghetto. My brother and I were living with our single mother, who eventually sent us to live with our grandmother. We started going to private school, where the rich kids acted snobby toward the less fortunate ones. So from a young age I saw all walks of life, and witnessed and experienced unjustified cruelty. It doesn't matter whether you skate, BMX, or whatever; good people come in all shapes and sizes.

What's the best part of owning a skate shop? What makes doing what you do tolerable?

I'm into skateboarding and art. I just happened to be lucky enough to own my own shop. The expansion amongst the sneaker head world has also allowed me to expand. It's not easy to find an occupation you're interested in and/or make a living doing what you love.

The skateboard business requires you to be a regular, chill dude. People expect you to be a cool, laid back guy. And most of the business you get is through word of mouth. You're not necessarily required to dress up in a suit and tie and have an expensive work place; you just wear what you like and run things out of a little spot because you're ghetto.

Why do you think there's such a big buzz around the skateboard industry right now?

Skateboarding has always been connected to art and music. So the skate brands usually base their products around art and music. That's why the decks, clothing, and shoes are so popular and creative looking.

I feel like this is a very critical question: Why the hand logo? What does it represent?

It was a mix of a few things. Most of my teachers in private school were hypocritical. I used to read up on religions. I had great interest in Buddhism. One of the idols in the Buddhist and Hindu religion is a figure holding one hand reaching out, and one hand being held up. I also learned about the Mayans who have a similar figure they worship. Basically, when I was coming up with the design of the shop logo, I continuously drew various sketches, but those hands kept coming to mind. Eventually, I decided to use the hand as the shop logo.

As I started to exit the shop, I watched, through the bars, as Charly landed a full 360 degree spin gracefully.
“What was that you just landed, man?” I asked, as if that was the first time I saw someone land a trick. He told me it was a BS Full Cab and I began to jot down his movements on his board.

Charlie, now sweating profusely, continued attempting tricks. Once he landed one, he would move on to the next. Watching him land a kickflip that afternoon remains with me for one particular reason: as his board began to flip, the grip tape glistened. When it flipped over to the graphic on the bottom of the board, the printed letters spelled out BROTHERHOOD. That image became instilled in my mind. Both of his feet returned to the grip tape when the board made it full revolution, and Charly coasted away in success.