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Guest Post: DC to NYC Bike Tour Honors 1928 Ride
This guest post comes from Hamzat Sani, a member of Red Bike and Green and a member of the League’s Equity Advisory Council.
There is a D.C. bicycle story that few know of.
But it’s this story that has inspired groups of cyclists around the country to challenge the notions of who bikes and why.
On an Easter weekend in 1928, Marylou Jackson, Velma Jackson, Ethyl Miller, Leolya Nelson and Constance White took a trip from New York to Washington D.C. — but unlike the many who make that journey via bus, train or plane these ‘Five Cyclists’ made the trip on their bikes. Over three days, these five black women made the 250-mile journey between the two cities in what was then a stunning pace.
(Photo of the Five Cyclists. Credit: Smithsonian Institution)
Nine years after women were granted the right to vote in the United States, these ‘5 Cyclists’ took to the bike to dispel of the dehumanizing notion that women were incapable of great feats of athleticism. Cycling in general was an activity seen as something done by young white males. While these five women were not the first to embark on such a journey, they put to the forefront that neither race nor gender would be an inhibitor to their drive and capacity to be full in their bodies. With this in mind these ‘5 Cyclists’ after completing their journey to D.C. laid out a challenge to others, especially women, to not only make the journey but to beat their time.
This month Red, Bike and Green — inspired by these black women — will use the power of their bodies to pedal them through 5 states. The Red, Bike and Green Tour: Ride to AfroPunk will honor the call of the the ‘Five Cyclists’ undertaking a six-day journey from DC to NYC, ending on the eve of the AfroPunk festival in Brooklyn on August 23.
The tour led by seasoned tour riders Zahra Alabanza, Paris Hatcher and Jewels Smith will focus less on the challenge of breaking the three-day mark set by the five women in 1928, and more on the cooperative community building experience of achieving an amazing feat with your body with a collective of new friends and cyclists.
“RBG has always been about encouraging more people to get on their bikes to engage with their bodies, their environment and their culture no matter whether they’re amateur racers or haven’t gotten on their bikes in years,” Alabanza said. “We wanted to do a tour with that idea in mind and show folks in our black communities that bike touring can be a viable means of travel and experiencing new aspects of themselves.”
Red, Bike and Green will be in D.C. this Thursday, August 15, with a ride around DC, meeting at Bicycle Space at 8 p.m. There will be an Official Sendoff from D.C.’s African American Civil War Memorial at 10:30 a.m. on August 17.
About Red, Bike and Green:
Red, Bike and Green is a community-building collective of Black urban cyclists seeking to improve the physical and mental health, economy and local environment of African Americans by creating a relevant and sustainable Black bike culture. Learn more at http://www.redbikeandgreen.com.