People had been jumping rope in New York City since the 1930s, but Double Dutching grew in popularity when David A. Walker, a New York City Police Community Affairs Detective, developed the pastime into a competitive sport in the 1970s. Walker realized girls had fewer opportunities to participate in sports, so he created official rules for the game, and worked with physical education teachers to integrate Double Dutch into gym classes.
In 1974, he hosted the first Double Dutch tournament, with almost 600 students competing. As participation increased, so did opportunities to compete. In 1991 the Apollo Theater began hosting the Double Dutch Holiday Classic, an annual tournament that brings competitors from all over the world. New York City’s Education Department made Double Dutch an official sport in a handful of high schools in 2009.
Double Dutch has remained popular in some Black communities, including Bedford-Stuyvesant, where Whaley and Turner are from. The two said they founded Brooklyn Recess in the summer of 2018 out of a desire to have some childhood fun.
“One summer I kept tweeting ‘I want to play Double Dutch, who is down for a link up?'” Turner said. “And Natalage was just like, ‘Listen, I’ll do it with you’ — and the rest is history.”
Turner and Whaley designed a flier, posted call-outs on social media, and told their network of friends — around 40 people came to their spontaneous gathering.
“We had like four or five ropes going, and so many kids and family came out,” Turner said. “And then as we’re jumping, people coming out of the train or walking to the train station are stopping by to get jumps.” That’s how she met one of the members of their street team, she recalled.
“He was going to the train, and he sat on the side and watched us,” Turner said. “And we just like, ‘Come get a jump!’ And he came down and he killed it! He’s been coming to pop-ups ever since. So it’s very much community based. Very organic. And it’s beautiful.”
Every summer since 2018, the two have hosted their pop-up events in different places throughout Brooklyn. They began hosting gatherings in late May and will continue until late August. While they hold most of their events in parks, sometimes they’ll bring the ropes out to places where they know the community will be present.
“Two weeks ago, we were at the DanceAfrica Festival, which is very popular in Brooklyn — it’s like the official kickoff to like Black Brooklyn summer,” Whaley said. “We said, let’s make that our start to summer officially as well, because we know people are going to be there, and we know people are going to know how to jump. So sometimes we go to bigger events, and we bring the ropes there where the people are.”