Issue 18 has only been out for a few weeks and it contained an interview with Brixton Baddest’s very own Ashura Parchment which we’re very stoked on, the interview didn’t contain many visuals within it as we and Ashura himself wanted the words to do the talking. We wanted to upload the interview online to reiterate the importance of this one. Ashura talks about some very personal and life changing experiences like being incarcerated, his experiences in prison, his views on Black Lives Matter, growing up skating Walthamstow and Southbank with the likes of Jak Pietryga, Morph and Hold Tight Henry, the support he received from the likes of Chewy Cannon, Karim Bakhtaoui, Ben Grove, Brixton’s Baddest and more after being released from prison and Ash talks about many more important subjects in his insightful interview below. We are super proud of Ashura for sharing this all with us. For a physical copy of Ashura Parchment’s interview in Issue 18 you can get hold of a copy from your fave SOS or the Vague shop here.
Interview by Guy Jones
Photography as stated
Firstly do you want to start off with the basics, name, age and where you come from?
My name’s Ashura Parchment, I’m 24 and I’m from south of the river, originally born and bred in Brixton.
How did you get into skating and where did you go skate when you were first getting the itch? Who did you first start skating with and do you still skate with them today?
I first got into skating when I moved to Walthamstow, my mum’s mate’s son had this shitty McGill board and I started taking it down to Lloyd’s park. I fell in love with it and happened to meet Morph, Jak (Pietryga) and the rest of the Walthamstow bruddas who took me under their wing. I still see most of the boys, I haven’t seen Paco in a while and unfortunately I haven’t seen Morph due to his current situation but we talk a lot, big up Morph!!!
You’re the only member of your family who skates, are your family supportive of this hobbie and has their opinion changed since you first began?
At first my family I would say was more confused, because of the stigma attached to skating – which was that it was a white man’s sport and black people didn’t skateboard – but as time passed and they saw I was actually getting good and taking it seriously, I had their full support. My cousins would jokingly call me a grunger and ask if I wore really big shoes.
Once I got a bit better I would go on little trips with Morph and the boys, this lil kid skating with the big boys at the time. I never knew Morph and the boys held such a key role in the skate scene, I just took it that these bruddas wanted to help me with skating and were showing me the ropes and bringing me into this family of skaters. One of the first edits I was in was one of Morph’s Yes Fam/Yam Dat edits, after that I met Henry and I’ve been filming ever since. I never got the chance to attend the premiere of the Dendric Flux video because I happened to be in jail, I was pissed because it was my first feature in the HTL saga. Growing up watching all of them meant it was like a childhood dream to then be in one, but you know shit happens for a reason.
Has it been 2 years since you came out of jail? If you don’t mind could you explain how you ended up getting incarcerated, what you were charged with and for how long? How were you feeling around this time in your life?
Yeah man it’s been two years since I’ve been out of jail. I got caught up with selling Class A drugs, mainly crack and heroin. At the time I had moved out of my aunt’s and was doing an apprenticeship, but that wasn’t paying well and being a lot younger and young minded I wasn’t seeing the long term benefits of doing an apprenticeship. I thought that I needed fast money, so as soon as a friend of a friend suggested I could make a bit of quick bread I decided to get involved. The day I happened to get caught after numerous run-ins with Babylon, they happened to catch me with about 30 of each – so that’s basically £600 worth of gear – and a flick knife. For that I ended up getting charged with PWITS (Possession With Intent To Supply) and a bladed article, and was sentenced to 32 months. I had to serve half of that, with a month taken off due to me being on tag after getting bail. While on tag every day is a half day off your sentence so ideally I wanted to be on tag for as long as possible, but I ended up only doing two months – not going to lie, I was a bit pissed haha.
I doubt that you only started skating after your release, so having already been in the skate world before going to prison, do you think it gave you a different mentality going in and being released to, say, an inmate who doesn’t have that kind of expression?
Definitely. I’ll say skating helped me mentally in terms of being able to get along with people of different ages, religions and creeds and knowing that I had an outlet I was passionate about kept me focused most of the time. Some people who are in jail, not all but a large amount, don’t have an outlet or the support to look forward to.
How did you occupy yourself inside and what flaws did you notice with the British ‘justice’ system?
When I came out I was bigger than I was before going to jail; like many inmates I took up going to the gym a lot, about four times a week, and really took a liking to calisthenics which is more about using your body as a weight. I also took various courses such as barbering, youth work and mentoring. I started banging out table tennis as well, hadn’t played for a while but I had more than enough time to get it back. Anyone that was in ISIS 017 they would know FACTS, screws included.
Have you got any stories from whilst you were away you’d like to share? Checking Morph’s Instagram it seems he’s been doing crazy hacks and producing more despite the restrictions.
Big up Morph again, most of that stuff is real shit – like when I first went to jail I had no idea how to heat shit up and I remember asking my cellmate how to heat up milk. He said just put it in the kettle, so like a fool I emptied the milk into the kettle and hit the switch thinking that the kettle would just boil the milk. The kettle evaporated my shit into thin air and I was left with no milk. I kind of bugged out on my cellmate a bit, like “you told me to put the shit in there”, but what I was meant to do was peel the packaging of the carton of milk leaving the foil lining and put that in the kettle with some water. I definitely learnt my lesson from then, the kettle was like your personal stove haha.
One time a brudda was spiced off his nut on association, he was bugging big time, started blowing down the wing toward the wing gates and ended up running slap bang into them, knocking himself out cold. That shit was mad funny, it’s boring in jail but when shit like that happens it’s a sort of entertainment on the wing.
BLM is very prevalent at the moment and it seems social media has overtaken a lot of larger newspapers and publications. Why do you think this is and why do you think it’s taken so long? How do you feel this movement can keep up it’s momentum and what would you like to see achieved?
I think it’s because of the current situation that the world is in at the moment, a lot of things are being brought to light now that people have more time to take in and digest information. I also feel like, because everyone has been taken out of their own little reality – working a 9-5, paying bills or attending education – they don’t have the choice to ignore what’s going on worldwide in this system of oppression. I don’t think it took a long time at all, I think it couldn’t have happened at a better time to be honest. I personally feel like the way to keep this movement’s momentum up is to not lose sight of the bigger picture; to keep on educating ourselves, and also helping and teaching our white counterparts to understand People Of Colour’s daily struggles. I would like to see a change first within the educational system when it comes to learning about history from both sides and not just depicting one side of the story; I feel this is definitely important for the next generation of kids, to know the truth about their people and their country whether it is good or bad.
"I personally feel like the way to keep this movement’s momentum up is to not lose sight of the bigger picture; to keep on educating ourselves, and also helping and teaching our white counterparts to understand People Of Colour’s daily struggles. I would like to see a change first within the educational system when it comes to learning about history from both sides and not just depicting one side of the story; I feel this is definitely important for the next generation of kids, to know the truth about their people and their country whether it is good or bad."
With the prolific racism within the police and the sheer amount of money put into legal fees and prosecution, how do you feel this money could be better spent, and what options do you feel there should be as an alternative to prosecution depending on the crime?
For me this question is very simple to answer; rehabilitate people instead of just throwing money at the police to police us, giving them unnecessary equipment and funding. We all know that if we rehabilitate people that means less crimes committed which leads to less jobs for the police officers, less judges needed in courts, so it puts people out of jobs. When they say crime don’t pay it’s a big lie, it pays both parties but the guys in suits benefit a lot more behind closed doors, just remember that.
Can you remember your first session after getting out and how did it feel?
Like it was yesterday man. I had messed around on my board outside my house and at the local a few times, but the HQ (Southbank) was the first proper session I had. It was a Saturday in the summer and it felt so strange because I had put on so much weight and I had less mobility, but felt a lot stronger. It felt like I was learning all over again but at the same time I was doing tricks I couldn’t do prior to jail, which was really strange for me.
Do you feel your time inside helped you focus on your priorities and what you want to do?
For sure, it made me realise how much I took basic things for granted; first off things like going to the shop and shit, being able to eat what I want, but most of all how much I missed skating and the feeling it gave me of being free amongst people with a similar interest. It definitely made me more focused on building a master plan, for both skating and my personal life, once I was out of that joint.
It must be hard to get back on your feet after being released – did you receive much support once you were released, be it from certain individuals or companies? Who do you feel helped support you the most?
I’ll start with people; shout out to Chewy, he definitely gave me and still gives me a lot of his time. Definitely one of the people I can call night or day for help or advice, so big up Chewy man. My big bro Karim, when I came out i didn’t really have that much in the way of clothes and boards and stuff. He straight away got me to come to his yard, grab some shit and I ended up leaving in a cab full of stuff. I’m forever grateful for that one for real. My boy Riki blessed me with a whole load of Supreme gear – my brudda from early, defo a real one. Shout out to all the boys at Supreme as well, definitely held me down, but the people I really have to give credit to are Val and Daphne. They straight away made sure I came to the shop and hooked me up with everything from boards to clothes and shoes, but most importantly they gave me the opportunity to work on their concession in Selfridges which was a big move for them and a sick opportunity for me. They trusted me to be a part of that team when really they didn’t have to take that chance.
Recently, when I came out of jail I was stuck with some court fees and while working at Brixton’s Baddest, HM revenue contacted them and demanded they take money from my paycheck. Val and Daphne being who they are were like fuck that, we ain’t doing that. At the time the fine was just over two grand. I was on the toilet bussing a mad shit I’ll be honest haha, and I get an email from Daphne. At first I was like damn, this must be serious, because I don’t normally get emails from Daphne or Val. I opened and proceeded to read it and basically it said that with what’s going on in the world at the moment we want to donate to a charity, but don’t want to donate not knowing where the money will be going so we’ve decided to pay 1/3 of your fine. At the time I was so overwhelmed that it brought a tear to my eye, it was one less thing to worry about and they had done so much for me up to that point. I couldn’t express how grateful I was and still am, SO NUFF LOVE TO VAL AND DAPHNE, 1000x over my BLOODCLART family!!!
I’ve also had the support of Supra when I came out as well, Ben Grove definitely put a good word in for that one to happen. Shout out Grove for sure, I got to thank him for hooking me up with the Fake Scum lot as well who have been supporting me recently and have shown nothing but love. Also Virgil from Louis Vuitton sending your boy some kicks and supporting my skating, which is dope on all levels being that I only see Lucien skating in LV creeps. Being a part of that is a big big blessing, so big up Virgil for sure!!!
"If we rehabilitate people that means less crimes committed which leads to less jobs for the police officers, less judges needed in courts, so it puts people out of jobs. When they say crime don’t pay it’s a big lie, it pays both parties but the guys in suits benefit a lot more behind closed doors, just remember that."
Being a Southbank staple and having such a sick community there, did this help you talk about the stigma around being arrested and did it help being able to speak to friends who have also served time?
It definitely helped with SB being such a diverse community and having people who have been down different roads in their lives. Sharing and speaking on my experience with the bruddas was a lot easier than just speaking to a normal group of people, because I know that none of them will pass judgement or look at me differently – specifically talking to my good friend Nelly, who could relate a lot more than most people seeing as we were in the same jail at different times. On the other hand I will say some skaters I know or have been around, I can see they feel intimidated by me because of my experience. It’s a shame, but that’s something that they need to fix themselves because I ain’t changing for shit.
Do you feel there should be more programmes to help ex-offenders get back on their feet and could skateboarding be worked into this? Would it be something you would like to get into?
100% – don’t quote me, but I’m sure the re-offending rate in England is around 75% of offenders will reoffend within nine years and 39% within one year. There is definitely an issue and I think skateboarding could play a major role with the rehabilitation of ex-inmates for sure, by helping with people skills. This is something that skating helped me with over the years and still does. To me this is a key skill that a lot of people, not just ex-criminals, seem to struggle with. It’s something I saw a lot while away, a lot of people didn’t know how to speak to people. This led to arguments or fights in some cases, or not being able to acquire certain things because they were so used to shouting and throwing their weight about to get whatever it is they needed and that doesn’t always work. I feel skateboarding can definitely teach inmates and ex-offenders some key skills for the life they have beyond the gate.
It seems that Brixton’s Baddest has always had your back and promoted your skating through their platforms. How important is it to have such a down to earth skate shop that also prides itself on morals and doesn’t take any shit from racists, homophobes or general wankers?
Very, very important man, to have a shop who are so supportive of not just me but the skate community worldwide as well and who hold such strong morals when it comes to equality. I felt like skating for a while lost its authenticity and that’s something Brixton’s Baddest in my opinion brought back to life. You know them sharing certain morals and values with myself makes it even better, I’m someone who doesn’t take shit from no one. It could be your favourite pro skater, big photographer, magazine owner; if you do some fuckery or take the piss out of me and mine then you’re definitely gonna either hear it or feel it from me or Baddest, facts. I feel some people are scared to speak out sometimes because they don’t want to get banished from the scene or compromise their position, which is a bunch of bullshit.
"I feel skateboarding can definitely teach inmates and ex-offenders some key skills for the life they have beyond the gate."
Skateboarding is getting bigger and slowly more diverse but still has a long way to go. Since you first started skating, what differences have you seen in terms of exposure to BAME skaters and different cultures?
When I started skating I was the only black guy in my family to ever skate, the only one in school, and even when I used to go to the park I’d be the only black skater. It was really only when I started skating Bay66 that I would see kids of my colour and age skating, Kyron Davis and few other mates. Over the years the numbers have slowly increased and I think social media plays a big role in this, being able to see someone of the same creed as you somewhere else in the world doing the exact same thing. Despite this, I feel that we’ve still got a long way in terms of representing BAME skaters because I feel some brands only do so to go “Oh look, we’ve got a black skater”. Then there are, like, six other white bruddas on the team and they have the cheek to talk about diversity. I feel like in some cases, once on a team they get treated like a commodity to an extent; but again that’s just my opinion.
Again as great as we think the skateboarding world is it’s definitely got its downsides, what stereotypes within the skate community have you faced and does it differ from the racial stereotypes you have experienced day to day, be it on the street, going into a shop or in the workplace?
To be fair it doesn’t differ to me, I’ve had people think before meeting me that I’m some angry black guy who’s gonna beat the shit out of them or rob them when they come to SB; which is not true, just if you say some bullshit hahaha. What I have come to notice is that I tend to have more problems with people when I don’t have my skateboard. I was speaking to Ross McGouran about this, people tend to leave you alone when you’re a skater and you kind of get away with a lot more shit than the average joe. There have been times where I’ve had a shit ton of weed on me and not been stopped, but one time I was meeting Charlie Birch at SB to go to Aimee’s birthday party on Halloween, I didn’t have my board and I walked past a police van which is always lurking around SB. I got to the park, said hello to a few heads and walked over to the stairs to wait for Charlie but as I got over there he rang me saying he was coming down from upstairs so I walked back over to the yellow stairs. Before I could say “bacon” they had grabbed me and put me in handcuffs, saying I looked suspicious and they were detaining me for a search under the Misuse of Drugs Act, which was bullshit. After getting my name from my bank card, having the history I have they ended up taking me to the van for a deeper search. Meanwhile Charlie is filming the whole thing, going all Scouse on them – proper legend, but it just goes to show how much people view you differently when you have a skateboard and I’m sure a lot of black skaters will agree.
Was racism prevalent in your scene when you first started skating and how did it affect meeting new skaters? Do you feel other skateboarders treated you differently because of your race?
I wouldn’t say it wasn’t prevalent from where I was standing, but everyone’s experiences are different and I was blessed to be around a group of guys who took me for me and showed me that it’s just as good being a black skater and there is nothing wrong with that. It was more stereotypes in my scene, there just weren’t that many of us at one point; I could count on my hands how many black skaters my age were coming up. That’s why I hold BAME skaters in such high regard, especially the likes of Lucien Clarke, Stevie Williams, Kareem Campbell and Karl Watson. These people for me broke the stigma, shaping the way in which black skaters are perceived and helping to inspire a new generation of successful BAME skaters.
"I feel that we’ve still got a long way in terms of representing BAME skaters because I feel some brands only do so to go “Oh look, we’ve got a black skater”. Then there are, like, six other white bruddas on the team and they have the cheek to talk about diversity. I feel like in some cases, once on a team they get treated like a commodity to an extent; but again that’s just my opinion."
For a physical copy of Ashura Parchment’s interview in Issue 18 you can get hold of a copy from your fave SOS or the Vague shop here.