Roller Skating Association International

Darius Sanders Taking His Anti-Bullying Message From the Rink to the Youth

By Chuck Williams and Afrika Porter

September 21, 2023

At just 20 years old, champion skater Darius Sanders is used to taking on big challenges—and winning. He’s been skating since age four, when his mother, a national champion in artistic skating, first put a pair of skates on him during one of her practices. These days, he’s using his platform to help address the global problem of youth and bullying. 

Darius accepted the challenge after seeing first-hand how some of his friends in high school were bullied. According to Darius, “A lot of people are bullied and we don’t always see how impactful that is on a person.” He’s taking action across several fronts to help get the awareness and also offer practical help for children and others to more effectively deal with the problem.

Darius’ primary focus is “Skate Across America,” an anti-bullying campaign designed to spread the word by hosting skating challenges and competitions to bring awareness to the effects of bullying. The program organizes schools, roller rinks, and community organizations to skate for the cause. The shared mission is to reduce and prevent bullying, cyberbullying and other digital abuse.

Chuck Williams, Managing Partner of Sidwill Management Group and co-creator of the campaign with Darius’ father Phil Sanders, felt the time was right to unveil the program considering the rise in students affected by bullying. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, one out of every five (20.2%) students report being bullied. Additionally, bullied students indicate that bullying has a negative effect on how they feel about themselves (27%), their relationships with friends and family (19%), their school work (19%), and physical health (14%).

Revin Fellows, founder of Books Over Balls and sponsor who has supported Darius by connecting him with political leaders said, “Darius’ skill with skating has allowed him to enter a safe haven mentally and physically. I want all youth to enjoy the sense of comfort and confidence that skating provides.”

Even the members of the Illinois House of Representatives of the One Hundred Third General Assembly of the State of Illinois recognize his efforts.  They have issued House Resolution HR0205 which states, “Darius Sanders wants to inspire other Chicago youth to try different sports and hobbies to help keep them off the streets and to encourage more black kids to try the sport of artistic skating.” 

Skin In The Game

Darius is also taking a more personal approach, speaking at schools and community groups in his hometown of Chicago, and talking about techniques for how to respond to all forms of bullying. Recently he addressed groups at Irving Middle School, Burnside Academy and The Garfield Park Dome Community Center. “I’m just trying to keep bullying away from people and uplift everybody,” he said.

At Burnside Academy, he spoke about his mission and passion, and used a skating theme by giving away free skates, t-shirts and passes to the iconic “The Rink” in Chicago. At Garfield Park, he performed to a standing ovation of inspired youth and newbie skaters.
At the same time, Darius has partnered with Dr. Dwayne Ruffin, author of “The Bullying Phenomenon: Breaking the Cycle.” Their goal is to ensure that children receive meaningful and impactful solutions to deal with the bullying pandemic. “Early intervention is the key to ‘skating’ out bullying and preventing major trauma to those affected,” Darius said.

Finally, he’s using his own brand, “Stay Focused Stay Balanced” to teach youth they can overcome bullying in all its forms. Darius created the brand early in his skating career as a way to inspire those coming behind him with what he’s learned from the sport: stay focused on your goals and life is all about balance. He finds time to assist other youth at his skating rink with their jumps and spins, as well as preparing for their competitions.

Big Skating Goals Ahead

In addition to his anti-bullying work, Darius is setting even more ambitious goals for his skating career. He has set his sights on being the first African American to go to the World Championships and win. He talks excitedly about Serena Williams and Tiger Woods, and how they made history and opened doors for other African Americans. “I want to do the same thing and teach more people about the sport of skating.” 

As a seven-time regional and national champion with more than 100 medals, he’s got the record to support his ambition. He also has the family legacy. In addition to his mother, Darius’ father was a skater and taught him the JB (James Brown) style of skating. Darius built on those early lessons to incorporate other dance moves and styles into his routine. Darius father said, “I noticed his talent at age 7, but I realized by age 13 when he started lifting his partner and kept his poise he was going to be special. And despite all of his success, he remains so humble.” 

Darius says skating is becoming more mainstream, in part because he and others are showing how artistic it can be. “I really like the performance and the music. I have this feeling of being free out there, so it’s like a kind of therapy.” 

To put an exclamation point on just how mainstream skating is becoming, Darius recently joined the Disney Marvel Universe and will be appearing on the Disney Channel’s “Saturdays” and superhero TV series “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.” Another big challenge—an even bigger platform for Darius to help bring a higher profile to skating and expand his support for youth outreach and initiatives.

Chuck Williams

Chuck Williams is Managing Partner of Sidwill Management Group (SMG) a sports and entertainment management firm. Outside of SMG, he is a community development leader, legal strategist, and consultant with over a decade of experience in the entertainment field. He holds a Juris Doctor (JD), an LLM in Intellectual Property; an MBA in Management, and a B.S. in International Business and Marketing. 

Afrika Porter

Afrika Porter is CEO of Afrika Enterprise Consulting P.R. She is an award winning writer, documentarian and community activist. 

Photo credits

P4 Entertainment Inc. and Dr. L. David Stewart, ASMP, PPA for Year 60 Photography


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