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Two girls turn the ropes while a third one jumps double Dutch with a crowd watching on a city street.

Double-Dutch and Black culture: the pairing takes center stage at Richmond Juneteenth party

on June 20, 2024

There’s a skill to jumping double Dutch. The feet have to move fast, almost instinctively, to the rhythmic patter of ropes hitting concrete. 

At 12, Ah-Miya Miller has it down. 

“The thing I like about jumping rope is that it keeps my body moving and keeps us in shape, and when you get the rhythm, you can see it’s not that hard,” she said. “It makes me feel excited to know that a crowd is watching me perform double dutch.”

Ah-Miya is among about five jumpers with the Oakland-based double Dutch group Jump Squad 510 who are set to perform from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday at Nicholl Park tennis courts in Richmond as part of a Juneteenth celebration that also includes a parade, live music, dance performances and food vendors. 

The group teaches Bay Area kids — and adults — how to jump double Dutch and what the activity can tell them about Black culture

“This event is to introduce the Richmond community back to the culture of double Dutch,” founder Ariel Loudd said. 

Juneteenth celebration

  • When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 22
  • Where: Nicholl Park
  • Activities: Parade, live music, dance performances, cultural displays, food vendors, family-friendly activities.

Double Dutch was a popular pastime in post-war America, especially in northeastern cities, where the game was contained and easily played on sidewalks or in streets. It was especially embraced in Black communities such as Harlem, where girls used it as a way to express themselves through movement and songs that they invented to keep the pace. 

“They were defining Black culture in a public space, doing something where Black boys and white girls couldn’t keep up or were not interested in being included,” ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt, author of “The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop,” told The Kennedy Center

In Oakland, double Dutch was commonplace from the 1970s to the 1990s, Loudd said. 

“But today, you don’t see that so much,” she said. 

Jump Squad 510 wants to reconnect kids with the game, giving them an alternative to social media, as well as a way to interact with the community. The group can be seen in various Oakland neighborhoods, every other Friday, bringing together rhythm, song, dance and friendship. 

The group also travels to different parts of the Bay Area and across the country, teaching and playing double Dutch. Jump Squad holds classes, promotes jump therapy and conducts community sessions. In December, the group is taking about 15 young participants to watch the Double Dutch Holiday Classic competition at the Apollo Theater in New York.

Watching the rapid footwork can be intimidating. But Loudd and her team coach kids new to the activity, helping them gain confidence and get past the mindset that they can’t do it. That’s what they will be doing in Richmond this weekend. 

“Lots of kids are scared to try new things,” she said. “So we are just trying to open the minds of the youth.”

(Top photo: Oakland’s JumpSquad 510 performing in September 2023. Courtesy of Ariel Loudd)

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