The Street Culture Story behind The Double Dutch Classic

Found on the many sidewalks and playgrounds of New York City's concrete streets, Double Dutch a childhood game was birthed from the Aborigines and the Egyptians. It has been practiced for centuries by various cultures around the world. Fast forward to the 1940's and 1950's , the popularity of jumping rope became a playtime favorite amongst girls because of NYC's narrow cramped apartments that came with sprawling concrete front yards. Girls would take their mother's wet clotheslines and rush to the sidewalks eagerly creating funny and clever song chants with jump rope games.

Art by Chris Kindred

In the 1970's jump rope games became popular again going back to its concrete roots when former NYC Police Community Affairs Detective, David A. Walker, and his partner Detective Ulysses Williams reinvented the street game adding rules and regulations to turn the game into a nationally recognized competitive sport. That transformation from a simple playtime game favorite to an exciting sport of intense competition has manifested  into the international class sport that it is today. Detectives David and Ulysses realized that the NYC's sports culture was geared towards boys and men. The community sports culture was male dominated and just not fun and competitive for girls and women.  Together the NYPD veterans decided to create a community sports league that was safe, fun, and competitive for girls and young women. The female youth were able to develop skills, esteem, and discipline for showmanship competition and at a cultural sport they loved. Essentially, the double dutch sport was hand built by the community with the support of the police department. As The National Double Dutch League began to reach out to public school gym teachers, the sport began to spread throughout New York City and the competition was bold, exciting and fierce. 

By 1974, David and Ulysses launched the first American Double Dutch League championship at Lincoln Center. Laren Walker daughter of the late founder David A, Walker, and the leagues' current president says, " the leagues' goal was to take double dutch, and urban traditional sport and take it to the next level and really let Black girls and the community shine. It was an opportunity to make double dutch an Olympic sport." With 25 years of competition under their belt there is no denying Lauren's father's legacy has unfolded right before her eyes in with its roots in Harlem.

The emergence and popularity of hip-hop played a key role in popularizing many facets of hip-hop street culture and one of the most interesting creations with the sport of double dutch. Hip-Hop catapulted the double dutch phenomenon from New York City streets to overseas in cities like Paris, France. The innovate bold personality and freedom of creation of hip-hop culture captivated the masses around the globe. Fab 5 Freddy particularly solidified the concept of merging hip-hop and double dutch because it was an authentic fabric piece to the street culture and a great element to add to the diverse umbrella of hip-hop art culture. Hip-hop pioneers Grand Master Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Fab 5 Freddy alongside graffiti writers, rappers, DJ's, and double dutch girls all defined the birth of hip-hop. It was the popularity of NYC's street force, the 1980's influence of hip-hop, and the community support that allowed the league to not only be a competition program but become a catalyst in fighting the drug era in NYC and creating opportunities for the youth in spite of the times. Growing from a community sports organization on the street of Harlem to citywide and nationwide championships with nearly 100,000 girls and boys representing schools and communities from all over the US.

As the predecessor of her dad, Lauren Walker plans to continue her father's legacy of community teamwork, cooperative economics, and positive self-esteem by expanding the competition circuit of the teams internationally. The National Double Dutch League is continuously developing its sports programs and adding them to community organizations and specialty camps for the youth.

For the celebratory 25th year, The Annual Double Dutch Classic will be held at the World-Famous Apollo Theater this Sunday, December 4, 2016, from 1pm - 4pm. The competition will be hosted by OWN TV's star of Tyler Perry's "Love Thy Number" Kendre C. Johnson. Coined, "The Superbowl of Double Dutch" by president Lauren Walker the competition highlights national and international communities competing in three categories:

  • Speed & Compulsory (fastest team)
  • Fusion Freestyle (double dutch choreographed with music)
  • Best in Show: (the championship title for the best Fusion Freestyle team)

This year's participants come from Africa (Morocco and South Africa,) Belgium, Dominican Republic, France Japan, Trinidad, and U.S. states which include CT, DC, NJ, NYC, NC, and SC. The 2016 Double Dutch Holiday Classic is sponsored by American Dairy Association & Dairy Council, Coca0Cola, Eastport, Con Edison, and New York Daily News. The NDDL 25th Annual David A. Walker  Memorial, Double Dutch Classic makes possible speed and music fusion events for the best Double Dutch teams in the world. Each year since 1992, the double Dutch Classic has previously sold out to parent supported, standing room only audiences.

Tune in next week for our exclusive "INSIDE THE COOL" coverage of the 25th anniversary!!!