Black Girls Skate Meetup at KCDC in New York. Photo by Nate
We’ve mentioned this adage time and time again: When you see someone who looks like you, doing something you want to do it gives you that wave of acceptance to go for your goals. Black Girls Skate is more than an Instagram. They’re re-defining representation and access in the skate space. Whether it’s traditional skateboarding or ice skating, their feed is full of inspiration. We sat down with DJ Gooden and Nicole Humphrey to learn more.
What inspired you both to first start skating?
DJ Gooden: Rocketpower, I loved it when I was younger and I bugged my mom when I was eight to get me a skateboard. A landlord came over one day and came outside and taught me how to ride it like it was nothing. I wanted to be that cool since I saw that.
Nicole: I started cruising about five years ago and was introduced to an ex partner who was excited about it and bought me a skateboard. For the tour we did, I got an actual skateboard and picked up a couple months ago.
Aside from seeing the guy skate, how else did you start progressing? Were you watching videos or going to skateparks?
DJ: Okay so for childhood it was skating around riding for transportation. Recently, I moved to LA and when I lived out there I would get advice from others at the park. I was watching videos and noticing people had different equipment than I had. So then I started to get the right equipment for the skating I wanted to get into for riding bowls.
I wanted to create a place where we could celebrate ourselves
How did Black Girls Skate form?
DJ: Right before I left LA there was a really nice community out in LA who skated– not a lot of people who looked like me but still very friendly and inspirational. When I was looking up what I needed for bowls, I came across Samarria Brevard and was like wow why did it take me so long to stumble upon these professionals. So I started to question, ‘where is the equity in this?’ and I wanted to create a place where we could celebrate ourselves.
I started a social media where I could highlight all these Black and Brown skaters and then earlier I asked Nicole if she wanted to hop on the team. Nicole joined in and it’s snowballed from there.
That’s so awesome. So what are some of the things you guys do with the platform and in person?
DJ: We have Skaters Speak which is a 30 minute conversation where we have skaters to talk about some of the nuances they face in the skate world as well as some of the stuff that they bring to skate to have a positive experience. We also have our care box initiative which is an activation for certain skaters of different levels. It may be a token of appreciation or something they need.
How did the Skaters Speak panel get started?
Nicole: It started three or four months ago. The idea was to build the audience around the platform we have. We were beginning to organize with our seventeen ambassadors and thought it would be cool to create a dialogue between them and some of the other folks that follow our account. What put the fire to it was getting a Reebok representative to activate a campaign around us all about legacy and we were able to use that platform to provide a budget to get guests on and have a conversation. Once our ambassadors got excited about it, we started to plan how often to do it.
With the tour, we’re back to once a month but it lives on IG live as a 30 minute conversation series. We want to grow it into its own series in physical form in a panel with skaters all around the world.
Black Girls Skate Meetup in Atlanta. Photo by Essence Ransome-Ambersley
Being able to hear from your ambassadors and speak in your own words is such a powerful step that is missing when you’re just reading an Instagram caption or something like that. How do you pick ambassadors? What does that look like?
Nicole: We launched our ambassadors through an open call on our social media platform. We didn’t know initially what we would do but we wanted to add to our service. Our goal was to pick fifteen and we got over fourty applications. We settled on seventeen out of all the applicants. The ideas were content based but when we started to connect monthly, things started to get really heavy around the world. So we just started to have check-ins and see how everyone was doing and feeling. Some folks were skating, some weren’t. Specifically because we didn’t know how safe everything was. We have an ambassador in the UK, France, all around the world. The goal is to have them to continue our programming.
That’s so cool, I can totally empathize with not understanding where to go next in this environment. I think there are a lot of eyes right now on the Black and Brown community of skating so it’s really cool to have so many perspectives through your platform. What kind of things are in your ambassador boxes? How did you create that idea?
Nicole: DJ wanted to do a meetup for our one year anniversary. Of course with the pandemic we thought more about what we could do now since we couldn’t come together. We thought a lot about the virtual events and we started to think about the educational component: How could we send you gear and have an online event where we teach you how to assemble it? Long story short, that was too much to manage and make it fair to distribute.
The world started to open back up this Summer a little and with that, we felt comfortable to define our own safe social distance practice to distribute these boxes. We didn’t feel like a meetup was safe but we wanted to figure out where to pass these out. Additionally, every supplier was so backed up and it was really difficult to figure out what to offer up. So we thought about PPE and other types of accessories that go with skateboarding.
We really wanted to focus on a wearable, something to inspire you to skate, a Thrasher magazine “Black Skaters Issue”, a face mask. It was a combination of things but it was an idea to create a continuous care box program. We could ship out these accessories and hardware or equipment.
Proper Gnar at Black Girls Skate Meetup in Ohio
I think that’s such a great idea. The whole root is accessibility and to your point, it’s more difficult to send it out. I’d love to see how that progresses. Specifically this time it was in a tour setting. What was the inception of that?
Nicole: So basically once we decided that we could have a safe way to give stuff away, we started to arrange pop-up events to create a moment in these cities. We were able to drive and use our ambassador crew in various cities to partner with a shop or community group and then name a skate park to take over for some hours. So quickly in New York for example, we did our event at KCDC and they also donated things and let us use their space. We made it collaborative but we had a goal of 100 boxes to give out.
So aside from NY where did you go?
DJ: Atlanta, New York, Philly, Dayton, Chicago
Obviously you picked them surrounding your ambassadors, was that mainly because you were driving or how did those cities stand out?
DJ: I live in Atlanta and Nicole lives in Chicago so those were easy. Then the other cities we had a big ambassador presence. We also did an event with Proper Gnar in Ohio.
What are some of the things you guys are working on for the future?
Nicole: We’re digging in internally. We were able to reflect from the tour on our strengths and areas of opportunities. For the next 4-6 months we’re going to update our roles and our budgets. We can set ourselves up for annual success. We are in the process of the software and hardware side of development. We want to launch products and merch.
We’re also re-defining our ambassador program to bring new ones on. We want to be able to duplicate our programming all around the world.
That’s so important and the fact you can define that is really powerful. When you build that foundation you can action it and it’ll build from there. The boxes are so unique, especially in the women’s space as well.
How can people not necessarily in the skate community get involved or support BGS?
DJ: Comments, likes, shares, reviews are so helpful. Financial contributions and networking help. Reaching into our DM’s are ways to reach out and support us whether you’re a skater or not. Our needs, wants and goals are evolving so we’re in the process of defining what that looks like too.
We wanted to share all skate styles, not just skateboarding as well. A skateboarder could pick up rollerblades, you never know what is inspirational to them.
There are so many different accounts that are coming to terms with the fact they’re not diverse. You’re obviously doing this from a place that is not performative but impactful or uplifting. What do you look to post on Instagram?
DJ: I look for anything that amplifies someone or is inspirational.
Nicole: We wanted to share all skate styles, not just skateboarding as well. A skateboarder could pick up rollerblades, you never know what is inspirational to them.
I really liked that it’s the definition of skate. Obviously our content surrounds skateboarding but the breadth of everything you post is so cool. How does that translate to the boxes you produce?
DJ: That was some of the obstacles we initially ran into with the sizes of wheels because some wheels go towards certain skaters. As we define our program we can better organize which box goes to which skater.
Why do you feel like it’s important that groups or pages like BGS exist?
DJ: For me, I felt a need for a place to amplify and celebrate ourselves and our accomplishments. A lot of times minority groups go unnoticed. I think it’s very important to let our peers and people outside our communities know these things are happening. I want the younger generation to see that and see people who look like them are doing this and they could do it too and even greater.