People of a certain age and who watched ESPN Classic or late-night television are probably familiar with roller derby. They might have seen old grainy films showing women skating in a sport that looks more like pro wrestling, or the 1975 film "Rollerball" starring James Caan. Those women played larger-than-life characters much like pro-wrestling stars, with the physicality of football or rugby players on skates.
Roller derby was popular in the 1970s and '80s and began to decline by the 1990s. While roller derby in the '70s and '80s was choreographed sports entertainment like pro wrestling, it adopted new and strict rules in the early 2000s and became more organized. The changes kept the spirit of roller derby alive, however, by keeping the alter-egos, face painting and fun.
Pamela Bates Graham is a mild-mannered assistant executive administrator for landscaping business Neat-N-Trim, a full-time student at Tulane University's Madison campus and a wife. But at night and on weekends, Graham puts on the green and black uniform of the Capital City Roller Girls and transforms into Graham Reaper. Sporting uniform number 666, she becomes one of those larger-than-life players in the sport she loves.
Graham grew up in Jackson and attended Madison Ridgeland Academy. During her school years, she first got wind of the sport.
"I had heard about roller derby in high school, but I was too young to play," Graham said. "I moved away (from Jackson), but came back and learned that my husband's cousin was president of the (Capital City Roller Girls). I went to a game and had a lot of fun."
Graham joined the Roller Girls in 2012 and fell in love with the sport immediately.
"I really loved how all the girls were supportive and helpful as I learned how to skate and how to play," Graham said. "It was really empowering to see women of all ages, races and religions all together."
Graham is the public relations and events director and on the board of directors of the Capital City Roller Girls. She spends 20 to 30 hours a week working on fundraisers and events to let the community know about the team.
The Capital City Roller Girls were formed in 2007 as Jackson's first roller-derby team. In 2011, the team was reestablished and is currently the only nonprofit one in the capital city. The team funds their own equipment, travel, promotion and other expenses.
The Capital City Roller Girls also give back to the community, donating about 10 percent of ticket sales to local charities like CARA, Life of Mississippi and Stewpot Community Services.
"We love to have fun and to be able to give back," Graham said.
The team practices at the Brandon Armory (300 Highway 468, Brandon) at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays. The Roller Girls encourage anyone interested in helping out or joining the team to come check out practice and ask the ladies questions. Men and women above 17 are invited to join, as the Capital City Roller Girls are hoping to start a men's team if they can drum up enough male interest. The team members even offer skating lessons to those who don't know how.
Next month, fans can check out the team at a public appearance and demo bout at Fondren After 5 on Sept. 5, the Rowdy Roller Takeover fundraiser at Skate-N-Shake (2460 Terry Road) Sept. 6 and at the final bout of the season against the Mobile Derby Darlings Sept. 20 at the Mississippi Trademart (1200 Mississippi St.). Gates open at 6:30 p.m., and the game starts at 7 p.m.
For more information on the team, visit their website, check them out on Facebook @ Capital City Girls, on Twiter @CCRGms and on instagram @CCRG_MS.
Anyone who would like to donate to help out the team can inquire about a sponsorship packet at [email protected] or send direct donations to the Capital City Roller Girls at 306 Colonial Circle, Jackson, MS, 39211.