Ramdasha Bikceem

In 1990, when Ramdasha Bikceem (they/them) from Basking Ridge, New Jersey was 15 years old they started a skater gang and band, both called Gunk. Ramdasha taught themself to play guitar without formal training, and the band’s early shows were held in the basement of a friend’s parent’s place. The following year Ramdasha launched a ‘zine of the same name and in Issue #1 Ramdasha exclaimed, “We are girls!!! We are sk8ers. We are musicians. But most importantly, we are teenagers! We want to be heard! We strive to be free thinkers.”

In a 1995 interview with Hillary Carlip Ramdasha shared:

“When I got my first skateboard I was probably around 12 years old. It didn’t really occur to me at the moment that what I was doing was considered out of the ordinary for a lot of girls. But as I got older and started getting more into skateboarding, I realized what role most girls played when it came to skateboarding. Their role was to sit on the sidewalk while the rest of the boys were having a rippin’ time. At first I tried to ignore and I even looked down upon these girls for not trying. I felt like nothing was stopping me, so why couldn’t they give it a try? When I turned 14 years old my two best girlfriends also started to skate also. We were truly an awesome anarchic girl skate gang. But every time we’d skate with other boys we started to feel intimidated ‘cuz we didn’t know all the latest tricks or the ‘cool’ skate lingo.”

“This is when I finally started to realize why those girls on the sidewalk didn’t skate… it was because a vast majority of those boys didn’t want us there… we threatened their territory. I remember reading in some skate magazine how one pro skater said he was annoyed when girls started skating because it was too ‘distracting.’ He went on to say that our only function was to sit back and shut up and watch boys skate and be their little fuckpigs after a hard day of skating. Now that I’m eighteen, I don’t care about the latest skate trick or the newest lame skate lingo. All I really care about is having fun! I only skate with people now who are not competitive and are interested in having fun. Although it is still very frustrating for me when I see girls sitting on the sidewalk swooning over these macho shitheads. I can only hope that they will see me there and hopefully see themselves one day. Or at least question what they’re doing there sitting on the sidelines. I know it’s hard when the only image girls see themselves in skate magazines is one that is the totally typical unevolved skate ‘bimbo’ (I hate that word).”

Writing a ‘zine was a great outlet for sharing frustrations, hashing out lyrics, and making connections with other skaters like Ne Tantillo and Kym Agresti. Ramdasha discussed their situation as a skateboarder and eventually delved into their experience as a person of colour in white-dominated subcultures. Ramdasha completed five issues of the ‘zine from 1991-1995.

In an article for Vice, Gaby Bess shared that “Bikceem was introduced to Riot Grrrl after an older friend of [theirs] moved from Bikceem’s home in New Jersey to Olympia, Washington; the friend became roommates with the soon-to-be drummer of Bikini Kill, Tobi Vail, and started mailing zines to Bikceem back east.”

The pen pal friendships Ramdasha established and the material they were receiving like the ‘zines Girl Germ and Bikini Kill were inspiring. Ramdasha “was already into punk (the members of the Bouncing Souls went to [their] school), and [they] couldn’t help but identify with these missives from the West Coast” (Bess).

Another absolutely ruling fact about Ramdasha is that they had a letter published in Thrasher magazine in the November 1991 issue (annoyingly placed next to a Thrasher ad of a bimbo in a bra)! Ramdasha was frustrated that there were no photos of female skaters featured, which meant a lack of role models. “The only time you see females in your mag is when they’re standing there in some skimpy-ass outfit swooning over some skater guy… Anyway, I still love your mag, but I’ve decided not to wait around for you to include females in it. I’m going to start my own mag. So, all you skater chicks, send me pictures of yourself skating. (You don’t have to be good, it’s not a competition).” Hell yessss!

In Issue #1 of Gunk (1991), there’s a photo montage of Ramdasha and their crew, a skateboarding comic, zine reviews, and some genuine excitement about discovering three sponsored skateboarders being Saecha Clarke, Cara-beth Burnside, and Lori Rigsbee. Ramdasha doesn’t know much about them, it’s almost rumour based, but they hope for more insight. Ramdasha wrote about Clarke, “I am going to write to Venture to see if they could send me info on her. If anyone knows anything about or has pictures, ads, interviews, etc. PLEEZ send a copy to G.U.N.K.”

Ramdasha did have access to the October 1991 issue of Thrasher featuring Cara-beth and they offered some commentary. “She has been sk8ing since the 70’s (before I was born). She is the only female sk8er who is a pro-ranks… CaraBeth is revolutionizing the art of sk8ing!… She seems to have a good head on her shoulders!… I think this issue is definitely worth checking out, this girl is not only a excellent sk8er but an interesting person! I want to meet her! She is so inspiring. If anyone has any info, photos, ads on her please send a copy of it to G.U.N.K. zine. It will be well appreciated!!!!”

For Lori Rigsbee, Ramdasha had seen an interview on television, and a skate video, but had no means to determine who Lori was sponsored by or her story. East coast skaters in the pre-internet era did not have it easy.

While a copy of Issue #2 hasn’t been retrieved, in issue #3 of Gunk (1992 or 1993?) there’s a photo of fellow skater and ‘zine maker Kym Agresti skating and a scathing review of Jason Lee, who behaved like an absolute buffoon when Ramdasha attempted to interview him at a Psycho Skateshop demo in Morristown. First off, he refused to be interviewed, then he interrupted other interviews by saying “all there is to life is beer, babes, and skateboarding.” Ramdasha seemed grateful that their recording didn’t work. And was too generous by saying Jason Lee was probably having a crappy day, but then remembered he got paid $2000 to show up. Jason Lee, you blew it!

There’s another fun cartoon of role reversal, with a crew of dejected guys being told off by the GUNK girl skater crew that they can’t skate because they might injure themselves. The girls are baffled because “Why don’t guys just face the fact, sk8boarding is for girls. At least we’re nice enough to let them watch. Isn’t that enough?”

In issue #4 (1993) there’s a great photo of Ne Tantillo skateboarding, and a pretty funny report by Ramdasha’s bandmate Stacer, who goes to Woodward Sk8 Camp in Florida. There’s a photo of Stacer and another girl skating ramp simply called “Killa.”

Ramdasha also wrote an essay called “I’m Laughing So Hard It Doesn’t Look Like I’m Laughing Anymore,” where they begin to dig into the challenges of being a black skater and riot grrrl. “White kids in general, regardless if they are punk or not, can get away with having green Mohawks and pierced lips ‘cause no matter how much they deviated from the norms of society their whiteness always shows through. For instance, I’ll go out somewhere with my friends who all look equally as weird as me, but say we get hassled by the cops for skating or something. That cop is going to remember my face a lot clearer than say one of my white girlfriends. I can just hear him now… ‘Yeah there was this black girl w/pink hair and two other girls.’”

In 1992, Ramdasha had attended the Riot Grrrl conference in Washington, DC and Gunk performed alongside bands like Cheesecake and Slant 6. In Issue #4 Ramdasha wrote, “I cannot describe the feeling I had watching all of these women up there, I felt really proud… When we played it was in my opinion one of our funnest shows. We sucked so bad. My singing was a nightmare. I was so filled with adrenhalin that I couldn’t control my voice or my hands. All our songs came off as completely spastic and disjointed, but the funny thing was I think a few people recognized that there was something there.”

Here’s footage of their show:

Unfortunately, the conference had some issues, as Ramdasha realized how “white bread” everyone was. “I mean mostly all Riot Grrrls are white and only a few Asians were there. I think I was one of the only 3 black kids there…” Ramdasha recognized that the movement created solidarity, and they were stoked to see openly gay women, but Ramdasha was concerned about stagnation in the movement. Ultimately, Ramdasha said, “I’m really glad I went ‘cuz I finally got to meet a lot of my pen pals and also meet a lot of other rad people. And it was also the first time Stacer & I played a show where some idiot guy did not scream out ‘there a bunch of dykes!’ or ‘they’re not a popular real band!’” The problem was that, even during a conference workshop on racism the white participants were resistant to criticism and discussion.

In the 2005 documentary by Kerri Koch called Don’t need you: The herstory of Riot Grrrl Ramdasha spoke about their frustration of often being the lone person of colour at shows and within the Riot Grrrl scene. Ramdasha acknowledged how shitty it felt feeling isolated in a movement founded by white middle-class women, and the realization that these weren’t their people.

Ramdasha still seemed committed to skateboarding though and doing their own thing. In Hillary Carlip’s book Girl Power: young women speak out! (1995), Ramdasha acknowledged that “Even though I dislike a lot of the attitudes that have been linked with skateboarding I think I’ll be skating as long as my body will allow and hopefully things will change soon. But in the meantime I’m tired of wasting my time with these misguided young men. I see where they’ve taken skateboarding and frankly it disgusts me. I’ve seen what the majority of their companies think of me and the rest of us girls in their sexist ads… I don’t need or want their validation anymore. I’m gonna do my own thing and hopefully with the help of other intelligent boy and girl skaters we will redefine what used to be (and still is most of the time) a fun sport.”


Excerpts from Gunk were reprinted in the anthology The Riot Grrrl Collection, compiled by Lisa Darms from the Riot Grrrl Archives at Fales Library at NYU, and published by The Feminist Press in 2013. In the biographical note on Ramdasha through the Fales Library archive, it says, “In 1993, [they] moved to Brooklyn, where [they] attended Pratt University. [Ramdasha] currently lives in New York City where [they] DJs and makes music. [Ramdasha] also runs an online vintage clothing store called Klub Kid Vintage.”

Issues #1, 3, and 4 are available to view in-house only at the Seattle Public Library and I am eternally grateful to SPL skateboarding librarian, Richard V. for the scans!


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