Celebrate Diversity. Thoughts on the Critical Mass Summit.
This was the second year of Trailblazer’s Critical Mass Summit. The two day event is meant to highlight the voices of minorities, such as people of color, women, LGBTQ+. Those with disabilities and others from beyond cycling communities were also included. As a shop, Mojo wants to encourage and welcome everybody into the cycling world. Therefore, it was important that one of us attend this summit. We can always better educate ourselves and service those communities. I (Mal) was honored to attend.
Friday consisted of informational sessions and panel discussions, with Saturday full of outdoor activities. Truth be told, I was nervous. Give me something to do and I’m ok. Put me in a room full of people that I don’t know, tell me to mingle, and I’m lost. None-the-less, I pushed through the nerves and showed up.
I didn’t entirely know what to expect. I walked into the room to see a diversity of people already chatting with one another. Unsure of how to interact with them, I stayed toward the back to soak it all in, learn, and take that education back to the shop. The first session hit hard and stuck with me for the remainder of the day. The speaker, Charles Brown, talked about racism as the root cause of inequality…and the terrible truths of arrested mobility.
My blood boiled up as he quoted facts and statistics of the disparity and injustice being dealt to communities of color. For example – in Florida from 2003-2015 – 10,000 bike tickets were issued. (Bike tickets, we aren’t even talking about vehicles.) What’s devastating is that 79% of those were to black individuals. He showed the group city map after city map from across the country of the segregated lines of black and white communities and how the transportation system (bike, vehicle, or public) failed to safely service those areas within the communities of color. As a white person, I've been ignorant of this racist disparity. It was good to be in a space where the uncomfortable truths could be spoken by the people who experience them. Did it make me, and perhaps the other white individuals uncomfortable? Sure; I hope so. Sometimes we have to be confronted with truths that make us uncomfortable so that change can be made.
As the discussion panels and sessions continued, I was left feeling discouraged by the overall state of humanity. But I wanted to see hope in the fact that this Summit was taking place, fostering these hard conversations. If every individual and every small business thought they can’t make an impact so why bother, that change will never happen. We may not make policies within governments, but we can drive social change. Racism is a change that must happen within people if it is ever to become a lasting change. If a whole community lifts up the minorities, allows their voices to be heard, their lives to be seen, their rights to be demanded, then change can happen. Everyone must do their part no matter how small they may think they are.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking “Ok, great. But what’s this have to do with biking?” Day two of the Summit brought that together. In the morning, there were a variety of outdoor activities to select from. I went to a beginner gravel ride that concluded with cycling-focused yoga, led by Yoga Story. Getting to ride and be active, while interacting with others, was much more my style. I felt more at ease on Saturday. Those who chose the gravel ride represented men, women, and LGBTQ. Encouragingly, it was led by women and Yoga Story is also a woman owned business.
After yoga, I quickly rode over to Mojo Rentals to drop off some helmets we’d borrowed. I had a couple of hours to eat lunch and head out to Fayetteville for the Critical Mass Summit group ride. This was open to the public and encouraged anyone of all skills and identities to come together as a community and ride through the streets of Fayetteville. This was a social community ride, no one would be left behind. Naturally, I brought the dogs. Koopa, as you all know, had style and attention as he sat on my back. My other dog, Guinan, calmly sat in her trailer behind me as I struggled to pedal her 95 lbs up the Fayetteville hills. The diversity on this ride was refreshing. To see how bikes can bring people of all backgrounds together, supporting each other and enjoying each other’s company was amazing. There were members of Trailblazers, Bike.POC, Latinas En Bici, Springdale Bike Club, and people of all races, sizes, ages, and genders.
I often think to myself, Mojo Cycling is doing well. We support women riders. We’ve got women working in the shop, Shawna being the Operations Manager. Our ambassadors are of all shapes, ages, and genders. Mojo is a big supporter of the deaf community and Dave just spent a weekend riding through the trails with adaptive riders. We’ve even got a trans guy, who came out while employed, and still has his job. We definitely work to support diversity and welcome it.
Time for the painful truth though, pretty much everyone is white. People of color, by our ignorance, naivety, and privilege have been left behind. It doesn’t matter if it was intentional, it’s time to face the truth. Having grown up as a white individual in a predominantly white community, I have had my eyes opened and apologize for my ignorance. The Summit left me humbled, educated, hopeful for change with ideas to bring to the shop to continue in being one that is diverse and welcoming to all.