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.
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!
[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.
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!