Go Skate Day Interview with Keith Marks
I first met Keith Marks through local artist Shaun Thurston. I believe the introduction was centered around making BURRO yoga bags for Ananda Kula, the Avondale healing center where Keith teaches and yoga and performs massage. The Daytona-born UNF graduate has only been back in Jacksonville for two years after living in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Since he’s been back he’s landed gigs writing for Arbus and Folio Weekly, teaching at UNF and with an improv theater group and convinced thousands of people to give up meat for a month during No Meat March. Not too long ago, Keith started a small organization called PB&J that began throwing get-togethers mostly involving pot-luck vegan dinners and musical performances. Since then, I’ve witnessed the PB&J juggernaut host and support some increasingly epic events. When I saw the logo on the Go Skate Day poster, I knew it was time to catch up and see why a philanthropic community organization would sponsor a bunch or skaters and punks like me wreaking havoc on one of Downtown Jacksonville’s most visible landmarks.
Keith and I met for coffee at Bold Bean Coffee in Riverside (where I impressed upon Zack the need for a Downtown location!). I had a latte and Keith had tea. Although his resume and appearance may qualify him for hippie guru-status, he’s actually an incredibly down-to-earth and business-savvy dude. We caught up for a second and got down to business.
Jack: So what is Go Skate Day, exactly?
Keith: Go Skate Day is an international day to promote skating and skate culture now in its tenth year. Martin Ramos, who owns Kona wanted to do something that promoted the new Kona School that’s launching soon. James Smith, who’s the guy who’s running the Kona School and putting this thing together came to me and asked if PB&J wanted to get involved to help promote the school, which is a non-profit school that’s going to launch within the next year or two. Martin had the idea of collaborating Go Skate Day with a big launch for the school. Initially the idea was let’s do something at Kona. We’ll have bands, we’ll do a skate day there and the conversation moved to, wouldn’t it be neat if we could do something with a little more visibility and Hemming Plaza has always been the ideal skate spot for Downtown Jacksonville. The only issue with that is that the city has a no-skate policy and chases kids off, and probably one out of every three skaters I know in this town has either been arrested or fined for skating at Hemming. So the idea was, let’s see how far we can push this thing. So Go Skate Day is a skate awareness day. It’s a call to the masses.
Jack: For those who don’t know, what is PB&J and its mission?
Keith: PB&J stands for Party, Benefit and Jam. It started off as a group of five guys in Jacksonville and we said wouldn’t it be neat if we did events for causes. People like going out and hanging our for events, let’s use that energy and put it towards positive things in town. We have an arm that does community events and we raise money and awareness for local non-profits and local movements in the community. Another arm of PB&J is, we’ve just taken over the Pecha Kucha evenings so now we’re the official Pecha Kucha people in town. We would like to start an international cultural series, we would like to do a teen youth program, we are really interested in growing this idea of doing good in Downtown Jacksonville and sort of turning it into Jacksonville’s community non-profit.
Jack: What do you see as Downtown’s role in the cultural evolution of Jacksonville?
Keith: Ideally, Downtown Jacksonville should be the hub where we have culture coming into and out of. . . it should be a fountain, overflowing into the rest of the city. It should be everything from art, music, business, everything, funneled through Downtown Jacksonville, rippling out to the community at large. What I would like to see Downtown do is a little more community-minded activity, where people who own businesses and own land, collaborate together. I feel like if we’re a city, then we need to be functioning for the greater good. For me there’s a disconnect between what ideally should be happening and sort of what is happening. Downtown’s role is in creating a scene and a hub and creating a brand awareness for our city to attract business and culture.
Jack: How will Go Skate Day accomplish that goal?
Keith: Well this is the first time a city has ever given a permit to publicly use one of its parks for skateboarding. The really cool thing about Hemming Plaza is that it’s the doorstep to Downtown Jacksonville. The entire skate media is going to be at this thing, it’s going to be a huge ripple. This could turn into the catalyst for other cities jumping in on this. I would like to see Jacksonville embrace not only skate culture but the extreme sports community that is prevalent in this city from surfing, skating to power sports and water sports, this could be a divining rod to bring more attention and awareness to fringe culture that’s happening in the city.
Go Skate Day invades Downtown Jacksonville on June 21st at Hemming Plaza. The event will benefit the Kona School and welcomes skaters of all ages and their families. On a side note, BURRO will be launching a new campaign at the event in cooperation with Volcom to help raise funds for the Kona School so even if you don’t know how to ollie or kickflip, come check out what’s going down!