Double Dutch-style jump rope is a game born and bred in the streets, and one I grew up watching in awe in junior high school and high school in the integrated NYC/Queens public schools I attended (Robert Goddard Junior High School and John Adams High School).
The International Double Dutch Federation, the official organizing body of the sport, defines Double Dutch as a rope skipping exercise played when two ropes are turned in eggbeater fashion. While the ropes are turned, a third person jumps within. I played double dutch with my friends in the parking lot in the back of our court. It is very exhilarating and perhaps a bit intimating to get into the “eggbeater.” You have to be sharply focused and I was never all that coordinated to do it well. I did love the sound of the jump rope smacking the concrete, and I liked the synchronization and fast pace that Double Dutch required to keep it going.
Twenty two years ago some spirited 11-year old Brooklyn girls used their love of double Dutch and rap-infused cheers to cope with the harsh aspects of their neighborhood, becoming subjects of a 1988 New York Times article. Athletic and graceful, they were expert Double Dutch jumpers, and often performed a rapping, clapping game they called ‘cheers’. No matter what was going on in their lives, or on the block — which became increasingly dangerous as crack hit the city — they showed up for their games.
Susan Hartman profiled the girls for The New York Times.
Several years later, Hartman revisited three of her original subjects–then young women, some with children of their own–for a follow-up article in 2008 and a continuing multimedia project. The women had struggled in some way. Peachie Navarro, heads a four generation household of women; GeeGee Goodwin, cares for her three young children; and Elbe Vasquez, who ran away from home at 13, gave birth at 15, and is raising her teenage daughter and young son by herself.
Their Brooklyn neighborhoods – Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Sunset Park – are very much a part of the story. Six award winning photographers and filmmakers also contributed to the project: Nancy Kaye, Peter van Agtmael, Rebecca Norris Webb, Christian Hansen, Carola Mamberto, and Andre Lambertson.Ms. Hartman, who is now on the International Center of Photography faculty, joined some of those young women this past weekend for a preview of her documentary film, Jump Rope Project, and a discussion at the Brooklyn Public Library.