Category Archives: Social Justice

Breaking the Cycle: Kittie Knox

Kittie Knox was a nineteenth century bicycle racer from Cambridgeport, MA, and the first African American to be accepted into the League of American Wheelmen (L.A.W.)

Kittie showed interest in cycling at an early age, saving up to buy her first bicycle and quickly gaining local attention for winning many of the competitions she entered.

Black female cyclist Kittie Knox poses with her bicycle in the 1890s

Kittie Knox at Asbury Park. Referee and Cycle Trade Journal, v 15, no.12.

In 1893, she joined L.A.W., only to have her membership questioned after the organization changed its rules to exclude People of Color. Two years later, L.A.W. clarified that despite its racist rule, it would not be retroactively applied, and Kittie retained her membership.

Kittie became popular for her fashionable riding outfits (she worked as a professional seamstress), unique cycling technique, and speed, but she was still the target of both racist and sexist critique. Her physical appearance was frequently scrutinized by journalists, who described her as a “comely colored maiden”, “murky goddess of Beanville”, and “beautiful and buxom black bloomerite.” Throughout her cycling career, she was denied access to meets, and refused service at hotels and restaurants while traveling for races.

Kittie helped pave the way for other women, People of Color, and Black women to become involved in competitive cycling. Despite enduring both racism and sexism, her resiliency and courage played a role in the desegregation of the cycling world.

This post is based on this article about Kittie Knox by Grace Miller in the Smithsonian Archives.

#BlackHistoryMonth

Who we’re supporting

At Bike Works, we believe that bicycles help build resilient communities. But we also understand that bicycles work best in tandem with culturally relevant services, arts, family support, anti-racism, environmental stewardship, housing advocacy, food security, and gender justice. We also believe that when organizations are led by the folks directly affected by the issues they address, and have internal leadership development to empower their young people, communities can really thrive and begin to breakdown systems of oppression.

Below is a list of non-profit organizations that Bike Works staff are supporting. Some are specifically addressing COVID-19 relief. Many serve and are led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. All are providing vital services for connection, expression, and relief during these difficult times.

Check them out!

Real Rent calls on people who live and work in Seattle to make rent payments to the Duwamish Tribe. Though the city named for the Duwamish leader Chief Seattle thrives, the Tribe has yet to be justly compensated for their land, resources, and livelihood.

GotGreen builds community power by waging visionary campaigns at the intersection of racial, economic, gender and climate justice that incite community participation (via robust base-building), provides a pipeline of leadership development for directly impacted communities, and engages in direct action.

Pride Foundation is the only LGBTQ+ community foundation serving the Northwest region of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Project Feast transforms the lives of refugees and immigrants by providing pathways to sustainable employment in the food industry, and to enriches communities through intercultural exchange.

El Centro de la Raza (The Center for People of All Races) aims to unify all racial and economic sectors; to organize, empower, and defend the basic human rights of our most vulnerable and marginalized populations; and to bring critical consciousness, justice, dignity, and equity to all the peoples of the world.

Reflections on Bicycle/Race

by Allie Sarfaty
Recycle & Reuse Coordinator
They/them

For Bike Works’ antiracist reading project, I picked Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance by Andonia E. Lugo. The book chronicles Lugo’s journey as a transportation advocate in Los Angeles, interwoven with a coming-of-age tale in Orange County with insights into infrastructure policy and urban planning as a whole. Her story tells a cautionary tale of how white bicycle organizers and advocates reinforce racism and oppression in a world where people of color are not seen as the cycling majority, despite the fact that they are disproportionately affected by transportation policies.

While reading this book, I was pleasantly surprised to see Bike Works mentioned. In 2011, Lugo moved to Seattle and was re-energized by the grassroots programming embedded in our organization’s youth Earn-a-Bike and Volunteer Repair Parties. While reflecting on this reading, I thought a lot about how I engage with my community as a white person working in rapidly gentrifying south Seattle, and what it means to be a part of an organization grounded in providing services and resources to people of color. Going forward, I want to continue engaging with my community in meaningful ways in and outside of my job, actively work on improving my own anti-racist practices, and holding myself accountable to undoing white supremacy in the ways that I can.

Interested in what other antiracist books Bike Works staff are reading? Check out the full blog post here.

Equity Reading List

Our shop, warehouse, and programs are currently on hold in order to keep our community as safe and healthy as possible during this time of social distancing. Despite being temporarily closed to the public, the Bike Works staff are still working – building bikes, writing curriculum, investigating new ways to provide products and services, and planning for the future.

Since last fall, our staff, Board of Directors, Youth Advisory Committee, and Racial Equity Task Force have been working with facilitators from Beloved Community to draft our next strategic plan to take us from 2021 – 2025 (check out our 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan on our website here). Beloved Community is a non-profit consulting firm focused on implementing regional, sustainable solutions for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In order to keep up the momentum around this work, and to increase our collective learning, we are all reading a book about race, racism, and/or equity.

Here are the books we are reading – let us know if you’ve got additional recommendations or favorites from this list!

Did You Know? Biking Black History

Blog: Bike Underground Railroad Sign

[Image Description: An official plaque in the foreground reads, “A Gateway to Freedom. Many freedom-seekers coming through New Albany achieved their goal, traveling as far north as Canada. The Underground Railroad refers to a widespread network of diverse people in the nineteenth century who aided slaves escaping to freedom from the southern U.S.” In the background, a blurred bicycle rider in red rides down a paved street.]

Did you know there is a bicycle route that travels along the Underground Railroad – from Mobile, Alabama to Owen Sound, Ontario? The Adventure Cycling Association and the Center for Minority Health from Pittsburgh, PA partnered to develop this 2,100 mile route which uses the historic “Follow the Drinking Gourd” spiritual as a guide through America’s past and as an inspiration for cultural exploration and physical well-being.

#BlackHistoryMonth

For more information check out:

 

Paving the Way: Black Women Bicycling

Marylou Jackson, Velma Jackson, Ethyl Miller, Leolya Nelson and Constance White. In 1928, these 5 African American women rode 250 miles – from New York City to Washington, DC – in just 3 days! What inspired this journey? Simply the joy of bicycling!

History doesn’t tell us much about their adventure. Once in Washington, DC they went sightseeing and paused to take this photo for a local newspaper.

Historian Marya McQuirter shares what she learned while researching the social history of blacks in D.C. during the first half of the 20th century for her dissertation on an episode of the Bicycle Story. We do know that one rider worked at the Harlem YWCA and another at the Sargent School of Physical Training. It seems very likely that they were in the forefront of promoting women and bicycling access. Thank you for helping to pave the way!

Listen Now

#BlackHistoryMonth

Check out some of these great organizations who ride together for simply the joy of bicycling!