Growing up in East Cleveland, there weren’t any skaters in Ja’Ovvoni’s neighborhood. Most of the kids played basketball or video games. Eleven years ago, he received a demo copy of a Tony Hawk video game from his local Pizza Hut. After playing the game, he decided to give skateboarding a try and quickly fell in love with the sport. He spent most of his time skating solo around his neighborhood until hearing about the downtown skatepark left behind by the Gravity Games organizers in 2003.
Ja’Ovvoni skated the tiny downtown park frequently. It’s there, that he really connected with other skaters in the city and became submerged in skateboarding and the culture that surrounds it. In 2007, he took a trip to visit relatives in Georgia and Tennessee and decided to check out the skateparks there. He was in awe! Ja’Ovvoni says, “At the time, more people were open to skateboarding there. It was an open atmosphere, the skaters weren’t hassled, and it wasn’t treated as just a white persons sport.”
Inspired by the parks, Ja’Ovvoni returned home and reached out to the Slavic Village Development Corporation with the idea of a building a skatepark in his neighborhood. They connected him with Vince Frantz, President and Executive Director of Public Square Group. The two hit it off and they quickly began strategizing.
Since 2004, Public Square Group has been dedicated to supporting and growing the skateboarding scene in neighborhoods across Northeast Ohio. Using their pop-up skate parks with the Skate Kitchen and housing an indoor skate facility and main offices at Jakprints, they’ve created opportunities to skate all year round. They’ve become a vital part to the skate community, constantly helping to build and create public skateparks in the Cleveland area and surrounding suburbs. PSG also organizes pop up skate events and teaches skateboard lessons to kids year round. Ja’Ovvoni is now the Program Coordinator for Public Square group and assists with teaching lessons and planning events.
Together, Garrison and Frantz successfully secured a Neighborhood Connections Grant which helped launch their first East Meets West competition. The idea was to create an event in the neighborhood that would connect skaters from the East and West sides of Cleveland. Once they could show city officials that a skateboarding event would bring skaters to the neighborhood, it would help them bring a park to Slavic Village.
Now in its 6th year, East Meets West draws hundreds of skaters to Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood for a Game of S-K-A-T-E (Skateboarding game, similar to the basketball game of horse but spelling out the word “Skate” instead.) The annual spring event will be held this Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 2 P.M. East Meets West is an all ages, free event that will feature the Skate Kitchen’s pop up skatepark, food from Fired Up Taco Truck, raffles & music.
Jakprints is a proud sponsor and printed the flyers, stickers, and other promotional materials for the skateboard festival and fundraiser. Proceeds from this event will help fund the conceptual design phase of the Broadway Public Skatepark.
Ja’Ovvoni’s skateboard brand, R.T.A (also known as Renegade Transit Authority) is also a sponsor of the event. He’ll be there skating his decks and selling the custom t-shirts that were printed at Jakprints. R.T.A. is also adding a new, fun twist to the event this year. The finals match will be extended and challenge skaters to spell “W-I-Z-A-R-D” for the prize! When we asked how R.T.A. started, Ja’Ovvoni told us, “I always wanted to start my own business. I initially wanted to open a skate shop in Cleveland but decided in 2012 to start with a skate deck and clothing line and let the business develop organically.”
R.T.A. stands for Renegade Transit Authority. Ja’Ovvoni says he came up with the name after riding Cleveland’s R.T.A. for most of his life. He said “until he discovered skateboarding, that’s what took him places.” Both literally and metaphorically speaking, skateboarding is now what moves him to new places.
Last month, R.T.A. hosted a pop up skate event in the Skate Kitchen. For the first time, the Skate Kitchen ramp was open for public skating. Proceeds from the event helped further develop the R.T.A. brand!
We encourage you to check out the East Meets West competition this Saturday and shop Ja’Ovvoni’s Garrison’s new innovative skateboard brand R.T.A. Thanks to Ja’Ovvoni for taking the time to meet with us! We love his entrepreneurial spirit and wish him the best with his new brand!