Black JoyRide is an expanding cycling community whose mission is to make biking more accessible for Black and brown folks. They can be found on Instagram @blackjoyride.
How did you get into riding?
Growing up, biking offered me my first taste of freedom. I learned to ride around age six. Being allowed to ride my bike from one granny’s house to another gave me a sense of independence. For me, biking has always been an integral part of community. Learning to ride not only expanded my physical environment, but also made it more accessible. My cousins and I would ride to the “Candy Lady’s” house, to local parks, and to each other’s homes, creating our personal network of movement. This movement is what ultimately inspired the Black JoyRide.
Why was the BJR necessary?
In 2020, just two months after lockdown, the world saw repeated images of George Floyd’s brutal murder. Exhausted by COVID-19 and anguished by the gross injustice of systemic racism, my community and I mobilized to respond—to begin a healing process for us. A joyride was in order. In just five short days, we organized the first annual Juneteenth Black JoyRide, calling folks to rise up just when we were feeling the most downtrodden. 300+ strong, we gathered at the Johnson Publishing Building and biked, bladed, and boarded down to the DuSable Museum of African American History, where we celebrated Jubilee Day in resistance to anti-Black violence, while creating haven for our mobility, amplifying our joy.
Considering the historical context of Black mobility in the U.S., having a Black body oftentimes limited one’s access to movement. From Africans’ very first arrival to the colonies, our bodies have been policed. Movement was a privilege only experienced by white people. In my lived experience, I still see this manifestation today.
When traveling throughout Chicago, I am always struck by how segregated the city is. Recognizing cycling as an indicator species, I can always spot a more affluent neighborhood from those that are not. These neighborhoods would typically consist of a higher volume of people walking, jogging, and cycling at any given time of the day. While the three activities mentioned may seem like simple elements of everyday life for some, they are not always accessible for others.
To walk, jog, and bike your way through the city, you must have time. This time is typically leisure for folks with more economic resources. I very rarely see dozens upon dozens of cyclists throughout the day when I’m on home turf in the south-side neighborhoods of the city; this is a frustrating problem for me. I believe my community deserves access to leisure time and activities for both the mental and physical benefits.
What is the BJR doing for the community today?
The Black JoyRide is a cycling community working to make biking safe and accessible for all Black and brown folks. It is our mission to get as many Black and brown folks as possible on bikes, promoting the physical and mental health benefits of biking, while also advocating for social and environmental justice in our neighborhoods. It is in riding in numbers that we are more powerful.