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Bike advocate Kenya Templeton is taking The Velo Griot to another level

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Bike advocate Kenya Templeton is taking The Velo Griot to a different degree

Anticipate to see extra of Charlotte entrepreneur Kenya Templeton and her orange cargo bike that doubles as a cellular classroom she calls The Velo Griot.  

By a number of grants from the Arts and Science Council, Templeton will increase choices that take riders into communities of colour to show them about native Black historical past, pure well being training and artwork — three matters she says lack depth in public colleges. 

The previous yr has sparked nationwide conversations about social injustice, racism and the necessity to increase college curriculum to incorporate extra Black historical past. The Velo Griot is offering a possibility to study outdoors of the classroom. 

“We don’t need to be depending on programs that don’t assist us,” she stated. “It’s essential to speak about Black historical past as a result of so many issues coping with racism try to erase that. It’s not simply essential for Black folks to know the historical past, however for white folks to grasp the place anger and ache come from.” 

Kenya Templeton. Picture: QCity Metro

Templeton’s concept for The Velo Griot was first funded final spring by means of ASC’s Tradition Blocks initiative — a group partnership with Mecklenburg County to offer cultural programming. Nevertheless, Covid-19 circumstances have been on the rise and in-person gatherings have been prohibited. Togetherness is a vital a part of Templeton’s work, so she returned the undisclosed quantity and determined to proceed The Velo Griot with out it. 

“I felt very strongly that individuals of various backgrounds wanted to have the chance to be collectively, to study this data collectively, to have the ability to have conversations,” she stated. 

With Covid-19 restrictions lifted and backing from Tradition Blocks funding, the self-described “historian, musician and performer on a motorbike” — therefore the identify The Velo Griot — is planning for brand new programming and curricula operating this fall from late August by means of October. 

Kenya Templeton shares data throughout a motorbike tour by means of Charlotte’s Lakeview neighborhood on April 25, 2021. Picture: Lee Flythe Images

At the moment, she’s within the strategy of updating the classroom on the again of her new bike, which she named Sidola. Her design plans embody a microphone, a dry-erase board and a pill. She acquired a $5,000 ASC Emerging Creators Fellowship that may assist her on this transformation. For now, she makes use of a karaoke microphone hooked up to her bicycle. 

Although The Velo Griot model is barely two years previous, the idea advanced from the biking group she began after shifting to Charlotte in 2012, Queen Metropolis EZ Riders Gradual Biking Gang. Her mission was to get folks of colour on bicycles for psychological and bodily well being. She moved to the town and not using a automobile, closely counting on her bike for transportation. 

On these bike rides, Templeton would share tidbits of knowledge she researched concerning the histories of Charlotte neighborhoods. At first, her rides would stick with native greenways, however she shortly observed one thing was lacking. 

“Solely 10% of greenways in Mecklenburg County hook up with communities of colour,” she stated. “Let’s determine which Black communities we might bike and present Black folks and different folks of colour, ‘Hey, you may bike in your group.’” 

Templeton’s fellow riders have been impressed together with her displays and inspired her to show the rides right into a tour. She grew from about 10 folks to 60 folks, together with her greatest journey internet hosting 78 riders. 

The Velo Griot formally kicked off Black historical past rides in April, starting with the Brooklyn neighborhood in Second Ward, as soon as thought of Charlotte’s Black Wall Road. Different neighborhoods included Grier Heights — Charlotte’s first suburb created by Black landowners — and Biddleville — Charlotte’s oldest surviving Black neighborhood.  

Kenya Templeton leads one in all her historical past bicycle excursions by means of Charlotte’s Lakeview neighborhood on April 25, 2021. Picture: Lee Flythe Images

She collaborates with grassroots organizations and bike teams, like Journeys for Youngsters. Later this month, Templeton will lead a lesson in Salisbury with The Pedal Manufacturing facility, a nonprofit group bike middle. 

Sooner or later, she hopes to take her cellular classroom into communities of colour throughout the nation as a touring educating artist. In the meantime, she’s planning for her seventh neighborhood historical past tour and new curriculum associated to pure well being. Courses will likely be one to 2 hours and contact on matters like stress, weight administration, digestion, haircare, and coronary heart and lung points.  

“As a plus-sized black girl with congenital beginning defects and mobility points, I symbolize that anybody can cycle,” she wrote in an April post on Instagram. “My rides embody ALL folks.” 

Templeton is understood in Charlotte for not simply her bike excursions, however as a jazz singer, actress, dressmaker and market supervisor at Viva Uncooked, a juicerery situated in seventh Road Public Market in uptown. She stated the proprietor of Viva Uncooked could be very supportive of her bike excursions and even sponsored a motorbike journey earlier this yr. 

Templeton acknowledges she has rather a lot on her plate however stated her plan on how you can steadiness the whole lot is pretty easy. 

“Every little thing has a season,” she stated. “For the out of doors season – spring and fall, it’s going to be all about The Velo Griot. If it’s winter, present season, then I’ll be extra about my style designing factor.” 

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