Columbus women are bringing back — and passing down — a lost art

“This is a black girl emergency.”

That was the sentiment when local musician and entrepreneur Qamil Wright found out her friend, Hana Abdur Rahim, had never learned to play Double Dutch — a jump rope game. Though Dutch immigrants reportedly brought the activity to New York City, it soon became a staple of African American culture throughout the country.

“All the little black girls I knew, that's all we did all day,” Wright said. “It was like, ‘Your aunties jumped. You’re going to learn how to jump. … Here are some clothing lines, go out there and figure it out.’”

Inspired by Rahim and Facebook comments from other women who wanted to learn, Wright created “Double Dutch & Brunch.” The monthly event, returning Sunday, July 14, takes place in the parking lot on the corner of Mt. Vernon and 17th avenues on the East Side. Vegan restaurant Willowbeez Soulveg will be on hand to provide the post-jump meal.

Attendees will likely be inspired by Charlene Williams, one of the more seasoned jumpers in the city.

“My mother created a team of us in the neighborhood,” said Williams, who participated in Double Dutch competitions, which became popular in the 1970s. “It would happen at recess, too. And in middle school. This was before they started cutting everything like PE, home economics. This is back when exercise was a part of your day-to-day.”

Though recognized as a sport, anyone can learn Double Dutch. 

“I think it takes some level of coordination because it's two ropes and there's a timing aspect,” said Karen Hewitt, who grew up jumping rope. “But the thing about it that’s cool is you can create your own rhythm and it doesn't have to look any particular type of way. Your feet just need to be above the rope when it goes under them.”

The women all agreed that Double Dutch has become a bit of a lost art. Children are more preoccupied with computers and phones, and parents are often too busy with work to think about passing on traditions from their childhoods.

“You don't really see little girls just standing around the neighborhood jumping rope,” said Wright, who is making an effort to teach her own daughter and nieces. “Hopefully this [event] will help change that.”

Although “Double Dutch & Brunch” is kid-friendly, it has already proven to be a bonding experience for women in the community.

“We realized when we were eating how many connections we had,” Hewitt said. “We're talking about going kayaking and we're talking about doing different things that we normally might not do.”

And maybe some of the Double Dutch beginners will grow to master the activity. So far, Hana Abdur Rahim is sticking with it.  

“I like it but I have a long way to go,” she said.