In 1992, actor Woody Harrelson helped changed the perception that all white guys suck at basketball in the hit film “White Men Can’t Jump”. In the movie, ball players throughout Los Angeles put money on the line, assuming Harrelson’s character couldn’t play the sport because he was a white guy. Of course, they were unaware of the skills he possessed and based their opinion solely from the color of his skin. This type of stereotypical thing is way too familiar to a Rochester skateboarder. Contrary to the popular belief, Ajani Jeffries is a Black man that loves to skateboard… and damn good at it!
So if white men cant jump, Black guys can’t skaterboard? Like Harrelson changed some viewpoints of peoples expectations about basketball, Jeffries is doing the same thing with skateboarding. He’s using his passion for the action sport to help change the perception of all the risk-takers that hop on skateboards every day. Jeffries is creatively working to help people in his city have an appreciation for skateboarding no matter who’s kicking and pushing.
Inspired by Hip Hop mogul Pharrell Williams and his unique way of self-expression through fashion and music, Jeffries aspire to make skateboarding as cool as Pharrell made fitted jeans and loud color clothing trendy for black men. In 2011, just 3 years after he picked up his first Penny Skateboard, Jeffries became CEO of GoldnRd Clothing Co. (pronounced Golden Road) to help other skaters gain sponsorship to push their careers in skateboarding—a path he believe inspires people to use their imagination to do the unthinkable.
The name behind the company is symbolic to Jeffries. He “believe the streets in heaven are paved with gold,” and he “wanted to create an idea of heaven on earth” because of the supernatural feeling he gets while skateboarding.
A full-time entrepreneur, Jeffries has now turned his clothing company into a multi-media business where he thrives to enhance the brand of other small businesses in Rochester through creative media production.
On any given day, throughout all 4 seasons, it’s likely for Jeffries to pull out his Penny Skateboard to get him to his desired destination in Rochester. It’s common for people to see him dancing while skating to songs like “Skateboard P” by new school hip hop artist MadeinTYO as seen in the video above. From the east end neighborhood to the west side of the city, Jeffries has found that he’s making people smile from his theatrical moves combined with his love for skateboarding.
“All of the guys around the way have respect for me when they see me riding on my skateboard,” said Jeffries.
While appreciated by many, it’s likely that Jeffries and other skateboarding buddies are perceived in a different light by law enforcement. Jeffries acknowledged that it’s not an unfamiliar thing for them to be stopped by the police for skating in the street.
“There’s no lane for skateboarders…and there are no parks,” said Jeffries. “I’ve been stopped and frisked a number of times for skateboarding,” expressing frustration for the lack of passion for skateboarders in Rochester.
For several years, there has been talk about a skate park making its way to Rochester. In a recent tweet by Roc City Skatepark, whose mission is to build a world class, public cement skate park in the City of Rochester, a MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the City is almost finalized to move forward with a plan that will allow skateboarders like Jeffries an outlet for self-expression.
While Jeffries is patiently waiting for the development of a local skate park to actually happen, he has plans to continue to inspire through skateboarding. In 2018, Jeffries will tour several cities that are known for popular skate parks to educate and entertain communities about how skateboarding can be used as a tool for people to step out of their comfort zone in an effort to accomplish unimaginable goals.