Journey to D.C. | Group Bikes to Washington, D.C. for Social Justice
Lena Tibebe has by no means actually loved consideration.
The Ethiopian-born, largely Michigan-raised New York Metropolis public faculty instructor has been lively and concerned in social justice actions all through her life. She helped recruit college students to her campus’s Black Reside Matter group throughout undergrad at Michigan State College, she has been an advocate for supporting college students’ psychological and bodily wellness inside her job as an NYC public faculty instructor, and he or she has been lively in supporting causes by which she believes.
However after witnessing quite a few extremely publicized deaths of Black folks by the hands of law enforcement officials, Tibebe realized that remaining within the background for this particular motion was not an choice. So, she logged onto Instagram and started organizing the Ride to D.C. to coincide with this 12 months’s March on Washington, a nationwide effort to protest police brutality and racial injustice, held on August 28, 2020.
“I’m a instructor and I’ve my summer season off, so I believed, Why not experience to D.C.?,” Tibebe informed Bicycling.
Tibebe hasn’t at all times been an avid biker, however when COVID-19 disrupted the nation in March, she started to make use of her bike extra usually for train, to experience round city safely, and to ship meals to these in want. As racial justice protests sparked throughout a weary nation, nevertheless, Tibebe seen a change.
“There’s been a shift in using a motorbike,” Tibebe stated. “It used to simply be used for a commute or as a leisure exercise, however the bike has change into political. … I seen the significance that bikes have inside this motion. There are only a few marches—no less than in New York Metropolis—that I’ve attended that didn’t have bikes. It’s change into this political assertion and this option to defend protesters.”
Initially, Tibebe had deliberate to simply collect a number of buddies to experience collectively as a bunch from NYC to Washington, D.C. However when she determined to put up about her experience on Instagram, what began as a small group of buddies blossomed into about 130 folks from the NYC space dedicated to driving to the nation’s capital. Remaining true to her values of inclusion, Tibebe and her workforce inspired riders of all expertise ranges to affix, from seasoned cyclists to those that had simply bought their first bike. Tibebe believes that the messaging and that means behind the experience is what really attracted people that she’d by no means met to enroll in this journey.
“We need to elevate consciousness to the truth that there are racial disparities throughout the Black and Brown group, and that police brutality nonetheless exists throughout the Black group. There was a younger man that not too long ago died that was killed by the police whereas on a motorbike. That is who and what we need to struggle for, consciousness and true change.”
The messaging captivated folks like Shani Rosemary, a self-described “informal commuter” and mission supervisor for a expertise workforce. Shani heard in regards to the experience from her roommate and determined to take part.
“What caught me actually was the tagline that I learn for Journey to D.C. which was: ‘Using to acknowledge the existence and the importance of black lives,’” Rosemary informed Bicycling. “I needed to provide my entire whole physique—my spirit, my psychological capability, my feelings—to the struggle for Black lives.”
To organize for the greater than 300-mile journey—one of many longest protest rides in America this summer season—Tibebe, Rosemary, and the remainder of the group participated in three coaching rides every week in NYC over a interval of two months. Because the group grew, Tibebe broke groups into “pods,” or teams of about ten riders every so contributors might socially distance and experience on the acceptable pace for his or her particular person ranges.
Earlier than becoming a member of the experience, all contributors needed to take a COVID-19 take a look at that got here again destructive, and masks had been required when riders weren’t on the bike and after they couldn’t safely distance from each other when in movement.
For Tibebe, security, inclusivity, and accessibility had been additionally important to the trigger.
“We would like each single individual to have entry to bikes in addition to entry to appropriate infrastructure,” Tibebe stated. “By that, we imply secure bike lanes and parking areas and whatnot for bikes. We need to change the bike tradition that exists in America, we need to have a group the place you can’t establish the bulk.”
In search of to make biking a extra inclusive group, the group of riders included a diverse team of people who different in race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
Jetting off from Seneca Village, a as soon as thriving African American group pushed out by the white improvement of Central Park, the Journey to D.C. crew made an specific effort to focus on many facets of Black historical past and identification alongside the route, together with the items that aren’t as generally identified.
“It’s very a lot vital that folks know that there’s a aspect of historical past the place Black and Brown communities are thriving, and that it’s a risk.”
The crew biked by way of main cities and rural cities, generally encountering individuals who heckled at their shirts, which bore messages about Black lives and ending police brutality. Nonetheless, they remained steadfast of their mission. To assist set the tone for every day of driving, the group set intentions for every day, similar to recognizing privilege or noticing resilience.
The group determined to go to an underserved neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, on their route, which was some of the impactful stops on the journey for most of the riders, together with Erin Poland, a inventive artwork therapist who helped with the experience because the occasions and outreach lead.
“Seeing the youngsters popping out of their homes and their faces lighting up the place individuals are telling them that they are vital, and that they need to have a voice … I don’t really feel like there are phrases to explain that have,” Poland informed Bicycling of their cease within the Baltimore neighborhood. “It was giving an actual face to folks and to those protests and this motion proper now.”
Tibebe believes biking with these intentions made the experience all of the extra highly effective and allowed her to acknowledge the challenges—in addition to prospects—of her life as an Ethipioan lady dwelling in america.
“As a Black lady, I’ve to be resilient,” Tibebe stated. “Daily, there’s a mountain that I’ve to climb. And I would attain the highest of the mountain and I would return down, however then there’s at all times one other impediment I’ve to battle.”
The riders accomplished the journey in triumph, reaching the capital six days after departing from NYC, 57 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. led his personal momentous march there.
Tibebe plans to do the experience yearly. Those that watched the experience by way of social media have already change into extra curious as to tips on how to assist the group, and Tibebe believes that the biking group can contribute to the mission properly past this summer season’s experience.
Citing the necessity to proceed preventing for Black lives and to supply bikes for underserved communities, Tibebe needs everybody—together with her college students—to have entry to a motorbike.
“We need to be sure that everybody has the identical entry. That’s our method of preventing for social justice,” she stated.
It’s clear that for the entire riders, the struggle is simply getting began.
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