We had the good fortune of connecting with Audrey Faison and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Audrey, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks requires you to face uncertainty. What is going to happen? Will I succeed? Will I fail? Will I be denied? When I was growing up, my mom always told me “the worst they can say is no”. I think this outlook and mentality stuck with me throughout my childhood and adult life. I would say that I have always been someone that puts themselves out there, takes risks, and is committed to being a lifelong learner. This can be something that is challenging to do, especially as a woman, but I know it is important if I want to achieve the goals that I set out for myself.
I found myself taking risks in all aspects of my life: in sports, college, when moving from Baltimore to LA without knowing anyone, and committing to teaching in South LA without any prior teaching experience. Risks can be scary, even terrifying, but they can also be extremely rewarding.
I have now been a teacher for the past 5 years in LA and feel at home in my community and at my school. I won Rookie Teacher of the Year in 2016 and founded the Athletic Department in 2019. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, everything stopped. I wasn’t teaching, able to see friends/families, or go out in public. In April 2020, I decided to learn how to skateboard as a way to cope with these unexpected changes. I can honestly say that skateboarding changed my life.
Skateboarding is all about taking risks. It’s shocking how your brain can trick your mind and body so much that you truly believe you can’t do something. When you are taking a risk and trying a new trick, slide, or drop it, you really have to talk with yourself and say: “the worst that is going to happen is that I am going to fall, but I can always get back up and try again”. This mentality is key and can be applied to so many facets of your life.
When you are skating and you take a risk and you succeed, the feeling is indescribable. It is a mixture of joy, pride, excitement, and genuine happiness. I can’t imagine not being able to push myself in this way, daily.
After having these experiences skating I wanted to take this back to my school. I created Concrete Queenz, a girls skateboarding club with the goal of empowering girls to skateboard. I want girls, specifically girls of color, to be in a safe space where they can take risks, fail and try again, be successful, and build community. I am looking forward to continuing to build the program in the upcoming months and I am excited to see the sisterhood and solidarity develop.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am originally from Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Los Angeles, CA in 2016 when I was accepted as a Teach For America Corps Member. I taught for 4 years at a transformational charter school in South Los Angeles and currently teach at a charter school that serves the communities of Compton and Watts. Some of my proudest moments as a teacher include winning the Rookie Teacher of the Year in 2016, receiving my Masters in Urban Education: Administrative & Policy from Loyola Marymount University in 2018, and founding the Athletic Department in 2019. 2019 was the first time there was football, volleyball, and cheer teams on campus and I was extremely excited that the students got to experience something that meant so much to me growing up.
When my school transitioned to Distance Learning in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, I had the opportunity to pause and evaluate where I was in life.
I started surfing in high school, but in April 2020 I began skating for the first time as a way to take my mind off of everything that was happening in the world. I had never been able to ride a skateboard and set a goal for myself to simply “get really good…fast”. I skated around 10 miles per day, back and forth from Marina Del Rey, through Venice, and up to Santa Monica. I could not put down my board. I fell in love with surf skating: carving and gliding around just like in the water.
July 2020 was the first time I went to a skatepark. I’m still not sure why I decided my first time should be at Venice Skatepark, one of the most notorious skateparks in the world…but I showed up. I can’t remember the last time I felt nervousness or fear like the way I felt that day. I did (looking back) the smallest roll in and I was proud. After that I became addicted to going to the park.
From the countless hours I put in at the park and skating on the boardwalk, I was able to progress fast. The only thing that makes me happier than seeing my progress is being apart of the skate community. In September 2020, I attended a GRLSWIRL group skate and met a bunch of awesome womxn that I started skating with. There is something about skateboarding that will bond you to someone else faster than any other activity.
In addition to meeting this group of womxn, the local skaters at the Venice Skatepark truly welcomed me into their community. I attribute a lot of my progress to them and I cannot thank them enough.
After having all of these priceless experiences skating I knew I wanted to bring this to my school. I decided to create Concrete Queenz and provide the girls at my school with the opportunity to come together and skate.
Often times girls, especially girls of color, are not provided with opportunities to help them succeed or a safe space to allow them to grow and learn. It is my hope that through Concrete Queenz and skateboarding, we are able to foster community, independence, and strength, and the girls participating are left feeling uplifted and empowered.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
VENICE 1. Surfing!
2. Breakfast at Menottis (great coffee and arepas)
4. The Whaler (tacos and margs)
1. Sunset Blvd
3. Santa Monica Blvd
1. Hermosa Beach
2. Manhattan Beach Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to shoutout my coworkers, friends, and family. Special shout out to all of the amazing people I have met skateboarding, especially in and around Venice!
Photographer: Shayna Naemi @shaynaemi