I was excited to be able to attend the 10th Annual City Lites Inner City Sports and Wellness Fair this year. I had sat in on a few of the monthly event-planning meetings held in the run-up to last year’s fair and had been impressed by the number of services City Lites was able to bring together and the dedication of organizers and volunteers to creating a healthy and fun environment for kids and their parents. I also applaud the effort to make healthy activities — including a bike and walking tour — an integral part of the festivities.
I couldn’t be at the start of the 23-mile bike tour of South L.A. this year because of another event early that morning, so I figured I would wait for the riders to arrive at Jesse Owens park — the last pit stop before returning to Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park, the site of this year’s fair.
I arrived around 10:45, having just missed the group undertaking the 5-mile walk, according to one of the park workers. I did, however, catch a lone Real Ryda waiting for the rest of the cycling group to arrive. The chain on his low-rider had broken as they were leaving the parking lot, he said, and he didn’t have an extra link with him. So, he was stuck waiting for the group to come back to the park.
I think we were both glad for the company — it would be more than two hours until the bike riders finally rolled up to the park.
Among the many things we discussed during that time was his frustration at regularly being stopped by law enforcement while riding his low-rider.
He had been building and riding low-riders since he was a pre-teen and owned several. Because run-ins with the police and sheriffs had been such a constant for him as an African-American male, he said, he had registered all but the bike he had with him on Saturday. Given that the pretense under which he was frequently stopped was bike theft, registering them meant he could no longer be accused of having stolen his own bicycles.
It didn’t stop officers from ticketing him, however, he said.
When they realized the bike was actually his, he said, they would ticket him for not having a helmet, riding on the sidewalk, you name it. The latest ticket he had had was for not having lights on the bike, even though he was stopped in the middle of the day.
The judge just shook his head and dismissed the charge when the case came up in court, he said.
But he bought some lights just in case.
It is stories like his that help underscore the importance of recreational rides through South L.A.
The more familiar law enforcement is with seeing riders doing good in their communities, the less likely they may be to hassle them for no reason.
We can only hope.
We arrived at the fair to find it was a little less crowded than usual. A basketball tournament normally held there had been cancelled prior to the event, and the site had been moved to Magic Johnson Park from its usual home at Jesse Owens.
But the kids that turned up still had a great time.
Many were eager to show me their hula-hooping skills.
Some of the kids didn’t have time to play because they were too busy providing entertainment for the masses.
I could barely believe it when a bunch of elementary school kids, including a six-year-old drummer, broke into an impressive rendition of “Proud Mary.”
Both music stages inspired kids to dance and clap along.
Other kids took advantage of the play equipment.
Still others chilled with their parents, riding a train around the artificial lake in the park or strolling the grounds of the fair.
The draw of the event, for parents and community members, especially, were the health screenings and community-based organizations present to offer people assistance. People tend to be diligent about stopping at every booth to see what they can learn, be it the Boy Scouts, a health clinic, a single-parent support organization, or even the LACBC.
While I stood chatting with the LACBC’s Alek Bartrosouf, a woman wearing hijab came by to pick up the rules of the road for her husband. She wasn’t going to get on a bicycle any time soon, she said, but her husband rode all the time.
Hers was a typical response, according to Bartrosouf. Women stopped by the table throughout the day, but most proclaimed fear for their safety meant they wouldn’t be caught dead on a bike on the street.
Realizing lanes might help make the streets both safer and more hospitable to men and women, members of the Real Rydaz grabbed one of the petition forms from me and set about gathering signatures in support of a new bike lane along Central Ave.
“Oh, we’ll get it signed,” the told me. “Don’t you worry!”
All in all, it made for a lovely afternoon. I was somewhat sad to have to leave around 3 p.m. to head off to conduct interviews in Leimert Park.
I was sad, at least, until I saw this guy.
I don’t know if it was the neon-red feathered hair, the penchant for dressing like condiments, the eyebrows sitting halfway up his forehead, or the blank white face and sunglasses. But, it never worked for me.
Thankfully, I am apparently the minority in this or his stage show might have been very differently received by the adoring kids that crowded around the stage or asked to get their picture taken with him.