Freedom Rides: Black Kids on Bikes

By Yvonne Yen Liu Jun 27, 2009

Once a month, a movement courses through the streets of Los Angeles. Moving together, in solidarity, Black cyclists are spurred forward by the revolutions of their wheels. Each individual coming together to join the flood that takes over the streets. Their momentum stirs the air, setting in motion a gale that blows clear across the Internet to other locales like Brooklyn, New York. Biking will never be the same. Freedom Rides, as the organized bicycle rides for the Black community are known, was started by James Spooner. The rides draw about a dozen riders of varying ages and backgrounds; women outnumber the men. Controversy also flares around the ride, as members of L.A.’s fixed gear community attacked the “segregated bike rides” as “racist”, asking if “this ride is a joke”. James is no stranger to asking difficult questions about race and racial identity. “Race is a complex issue and you have to break some eggs”, he explained recently, over the phone.
He authored the documentary Afropunk about Blacks in the punk scene and a semi-autobiographical narrative, White Lies Black Sheep, about a Black youth in search of himself in the white rock and roll world. Both films explore the double consciousness people of color experience in a predominantly white subculture: The only Black or Brown person at a rock show. You sense that you are estranged, within yourself, from the language and culture you were raised in, as well as from your white peers, who consider you as their token friend of color. You are still the Other. White kids have a ride. So do women. Why can’t we? Join the fifth Freedom Ride this Sunday at 1pm. The starting point changes monthly so the riders can explore different parts of the city. This Sunday’s ride starts at the Vons parking lot at the corner of Fairfax and Pico, pays homage to Michael Jackson at the dead pop star’s house, and ends with a meal at a Black-owned restaurant. Check the Freedom Ride’s Facebook Group for details.

FREEDOM RIDES 2009 (Los Angeles) from Tara Conley on Vimeo.