Neftalie Williams


Served as envoy

  • 2016  –  Netherlands
  • 2017  –  Cambodia
  • 2021  –  Virtual
  • 2023  –  Barbados
  • 2023  –  Grenada
  • 2024  –  France

Dr. Neftalie Williams is the Director of San Diego State University’s Center for Skateboarding, Action Sports, and Social Change. His work delves into global issues surrounding race, gender, diversity, and youth empowerment, using critical theory to examine power dynamics, identity politics, and social transformation through the lens of action sports. Dr. Williams focuses on the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as their non-BIPOC counterparts, to provide historical examples of challenges and solidarity that can guide us toward a more inclusive future.

With a background in both academia and a deep personal connection to skateboarding, writing, and photography, Dr. Williams has made significant contributions to the study of skateboarding culture. He has published scholarly works, written op-eds for mainstream publications, and provided commentary for various traditional news outlets and documentaries, including The New York Times, CNN, ABC, Forbes, and the documentary ‘Reaching the Sky’ featuring Olympian Sky Brown. His research on race and skateboarding, conducted as part of the 2019-2020 USC x Tony Hawk Foundation project, was prominently featured in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

Dr. Williams’ extensive experience also includes positions at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, as well as serving as a Yale Schwarzman Center Visiting Fellow in Race, Culture & Community. His scholarly expertise is complemented by his personal history as a skateboarder, writer, and photographer, which has led to features in publications like Transworld Skateboarding Magazine and Thrasher Magazine.

One of Dr. Williams’ pioneering concepts is using skateboarding as a tool for cultural diplomacy, both in theory and practice. He has spearheaded skate diplomacy initiatives for the U.S. Department of State’s embassies, engaging with youth globally and connecting them with their host country’s academic, sports, and cultural institutions. His work has taken him to countries such as Cambodia, The Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Barbados, and Grenada, aligning with his scholarly research in Brazil, The Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, and Cuba.

In an effort to expand public discourse on skateboarding culture, Dr. Williams founded “The Nation Skate,” a series of public panels, lectures, skateboarding demonstrations, and photography and skateboarding media. This initiative explores the intersection of race, gender, diversity, and diplomacy through the mediums of skateboarding, academia, and popular culture. His photography and scholarly endeavors have been showcased at prominent institutions like the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Ford Theater in Los Angeles.

Currently, Dr. Williams provides consultation on skateboarding and action sports for Disney Studios and Burton Snowboards. He is also a co-founder of the College Skateboarding Educational Foundation (CSEF), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing scholarships for young skateboarders pursuing higher education. Furthermore, he serves on the boards of the Tony Hawk Foundation/The Skatepark Project, Skateistan, McKinnon Center for Global Affairs, and chairs the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for USA Skateboarding.