Harry ‘Travelling Shoes’ Turner is a highly talented rollerskater, singer, teacher, preacher, postal worker and community activist out of Birmingham Alabama. He has also recently joined us at Rolla Skate Club as a Certified Instructor, so we wanted to take a moment to tell you his roller skating story…
Harry has had a passion for roller skating since childhood, and boy does he have some stories from those days! When he was only 11 years old he accidentally shot himself in the upper thigh with his parents 0.38 calibre pistol – an injury that Dr’s believed would be with him for life. Here’s how Harry describes coming back to skating after the accident: “When I got home from the hospital with a cast on my left leg my friend came over to sit with me and play checkers everyday, I looked at him and said I miss skating, Will you go get my right skate and put it on my foot. Once again I became the neighborhood night show, with sparks coming from my right foot, a cast on my left leg and 2 crutches under my arms. By age 12 God healed me completely and I’ve been skating on 2 feet ever since.”
Growing up in Birmingham Harry had the opportunity to spend time with his grandmother, Yvonne Turner, who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and a lifetime member of both the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth-cofounded American Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). “Every time I would go by to visit my grandparents, [my grandmother] would tell me one of these stories about what it was like when she was arrested protesting the Woolworth’s stores,” he recalled. “She was part of that protest for them to break down those segregation barriers.” Activism was in the family, and Harry took to it the same way that he did with skating – with great care and passion. Harry once ran for Mayor of Birmingham Alabama, is a former Volunteer Birmingham Police Chaplain, the former Special Projects Coordinator for Birmingham Metro NAACP, and is the current Legislative Director for the State of Alabama America Postal Workers Union. He is also curretly enrolled in the FBI Citizen’s Academy program. As you can see Harry serves daily as a (very busy) Community Activist!
Harry got the nickname ‘Travelling Shoes’ when he started preaching as a young man, and included the old gospel song “(Got On My) Traveling Shoes,” as part of his sermons. Harry would play with the lyrics and invent new verses to the song. One day at church the pastor introduced him as “The Travelling Shoes Preacher” and since then the nickname has stuck! Here’s a version of “(Got On My) Traveling Shoes,” by the Clara Ward Singers to give you an idea of the tune. (Note: Harry was originally inspired by Bishop Jasper Roby’s version of the song, but I wasn’t able to find that on YouTube)
Currently Harry runs a program called Stay in School with Travelling shoes, which I’ll let him describe in his own words: “I tell people all the time I don’t skate because I know How I skate because I know Why. If people are going to take out their time and watch me then I wanna make sure I’m giving them more than just something for the eyes, I started a program called Stay in School with Traveling Shoes Free Skate Night, I pay out of my own pocket once or twice a month for 20 to 50 kids to skate for free, That’s probably why I’m broke now. Lol The program helps me to encourage children to stay in school and don’t give up on their education, then it also helps me address childhood obesity, while teaching them when someone fall down we all pick them up. We have a great issue with gun violence In our community, So my motto is if they are skating with me they are not shooting at you. I told you I don’t skate because I know how, I skate because I know why”
You can join Harry’s Facebook groups here:
HARRY TRAVELING SHOES PREACHER TURNER
TRAVELING SHOES HEALING SKATERS
… message him via those groups if you’re in Birmingham and are looking for roller skating lessons from a caring professional.
If you want to learn more about Harry’s life and activism in Birmingham, check out this article:
Harry ‘Traveling Shoes’ Turner: The Ministry of Activism By Birmingham Times – September 14, 2022
If you’d like to join Rolla Skate Club as a Certified Instructor, check out our program here: