Remember back in 2012 when people thought the Mayan Calendar predicted the end of the World? I remember my kids being very worried amidst all the End of Days hype that was on all media channels. One of the most interesting things I read was from an actual scholar who studied Mayan culture. What he determined was that the end date of the Mayan Calendar did not signal some end date apocalypse but the end of the old views of society. The end of the old ways that contributed to so much suffering in the World. The stripping away of hate and wars that began merely because of the god you believed in or the country you were born in. 2020 feels in many ways like end of days. COVID stopped the world in its tracks. It is a horrible pandemic that has resulted in so much suffering, Much of it unnecessary. Much of it inflicted upon us by the old ways of thinking. But it has also given us space. Space to finally (hopefully) deal with the systemic racism and brutality that has been the real plague in our country for the past 400 years.
The recent horrific events and murders of innocent BIPOC has rocked me. I still can vividly remember the police brutality of Rodney King. I was in CA at the time and it hit me so hard. It is madness that nothing has changed since then. In fact it has gotten much, much worse. The murder of George Floyd finally woke this country up. People took to the streets and responded in a way they had not before. Black Lives Matter became more than a hashtag and become a movement. We are seeing unified protests and action. In the midst of this pandemic I met with a good friend on a picnic bench behind the Landry's Bicycles she manages in Newton, MA. During this crazy time we had been talking about how we could hold a socially distanced ride. The idea was mostly one just to get people on bikes and getting some adventure. But as we sat there Thea looked at me and said "we are going to do a Black Lives Matter ride. Now is the time." I was floored by my friends courage. So many in the bike industry were either afraid to say Black Lives Matter or maybe didn't know how to respond.
We talked more about the messaging and making sure we did it right. We did not want it to seem empty or insincere. Our goal was to fundraise and to raise awareness. We reached out to our friends at Bikes not Bombs. They were so great in helping us put the ride together. And they were a sponsor of a BLM ride that started in Franklin Park and rode through the streets of Boston. Planning the ride took so many people to help make sure it was done safely under COVID restrictions. I have organized rides for over a decade. It is one thing to do so when you can have people in contact with each other and have lots of people riding together. Making it so people are socially distanced and riding in small groups is a challenge. We established waves and did two routes. One road and of course one mixed terrain. One of the things that most impressed me about this ride is that we had people from every cycling discipline. We had legit road racing teams, we had people on hybrids, we had CX racers, we had mountain bikers and even someone on a fat bike! We also had a really great mix of people who were new to adventure riding and following a GPS track. We even made a few cue sheets and maps for those who needed them. Looking back in some ways we modeled this after D2R2. Obviously not on the same scale. But that same spirit was definitely a part of the ride. Everyone was happy to be there and was so happy to be able to show their support for Black Lives Matter.
My favorite group was probably three women who created their own Black Lives Matter jerseys. They creativity was fantastic. I didn't know how the ride would be greeted by the locals. The ride went through predominantly white suburbs. Now this is New England so it is pretty liberal but I see plenty of Trump signs as I ride through Dover. As we set up our checkpoint and aid station at Hale in Westwood and put our Black Lives Matter lawn signs out I thought we might have some pushback from some neighbors. But honestly everyone we interacted with were so positive. We would explain what we were doing and who the money was going to go to and they really were supportive.
The checkpoint was so fun. Usually on one of these rides, even when it isn't a race, people are in race mode. Maybe with racing for 2020 canceled or maybe that this was a lot of people's first ride since COVID people were much more chill. Everyone wore masks and were so respectful. Hadn't seen a lot of my friends since last cross season. I won't lie I wanted to hug some people. But I resisted. I may have hopped into a selfie with MPO but that had to be done.
The ride was a huge success by any measure. Everyone rode for a great cause, we raised $5,000 and had so many great conversations. I personally learned so much. And it is just a beginning. As Thea said so well in the email sent out to all riders:
Thank you for your donation-
We appreciate you riding to support and bolster the Black Lives Matter movement. Social change requires effort by all of society. Your donation matters, and your ambition for the greater good warms our hearts. Movers and Shakers like yourself help to open our eyes to the blind spots we all have, to shed light on issues others face in a way that enables us all to work together for equality on all fronts.
Thank you to all our sponsors, who stood up without question to help this event happen. It is because of our shared gift of passion and determination to create social justice that real movement is being made towards a world without inequality.
For all the extra special donations of space, product, money, time and volunteers:
Hale - Eric Arnold- https://hale1918.org/wave/ Drink Simple - https://drinksimple.com/pages/our-storyLandry's Newton- https://www.landrys.com/Chip Baker and HUP United-
This small event raised $5000! This money will go to the DSNI- which is a BLM affiliated organization that fosters local leadership, ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities and gives residents power and control over their neighborhood.
About Us — DSNIDSNI was formed by Dudley residents seeking to reclaim a neighborhood that had been ravaged by disinvestment, arson fires and dumping. When many had given up, DSNI organized neighbors to create a comprehensive plan and a shared vision for a new, vibrant urban village.www.dsni.org
An eternal thank you for the support, this is just the beginning. -Thea J ChurchThea J Church
Store ManagerLandry's Bicycles Newton
One of the great conversations that came from organizing the ride was with my friend Meg Cater. She helped educate me so much about the Black Lives Matter Movement. She was an invaluable part of the crew that made the ride a success. Post ride she suggested we take part in a challenge being organized by the Unnamed Run Crew. The Black Lives Matter Movement is just building momentum. I for one am committed to working for real change. You can find information on the ride here.