Several months ago, I sat down with Sean Deyoe, one of the masterminds behind the Passage Ride. He had asked about setting up a bike ride through South L.A. and if I would think about an interesting and informative route through the area.
Sure, I said. I could try…
HELL, NO, I thought to myself. Is he INSANE?
I ride almost every day, and I ride a lot — anywhere from 20 – 60 miles a day, depending on where I have to be — and have for almost 20 years.
So, it’s not like I don’t get around.
But I’m almost always riding alone.
The idea of organizing a ride so other people could see what I see, and be entertained, informed, and invigorated all at once strikes me as terrifying.
I don’t know why, really. Maybe it is the idea of imposing the way I ride and the odd things I like on other people? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, I never came up with that South L.A. route. (Sorry, Sean. I suck, I know.)
So, when I saw the organizing committee put out a call for volunteers to attend their sixth (6th!) planning meeting for the 2nd Annual Clitoral Mass ride spearheaded by the Ovarian Psycos, I wanted to sit in and hear how they were tackling the problem.
As you may have guessed, they’re struggling with it, too. Although for very different and far more awesome reasons.
For one, their first CM ride last year was incredibly successful.
More than 200 women showed up from around Southern California and beyond to ride nearly 30 miles in the first such event of its kind in L.A.
From the ceremony before the ride, to the welcome with drumming and wisdom from elders and other powerful women in Leimert Park, to the after-party east of downtown (see photos here), they have a lot to live up to this year. And they’re confident they can do it better.
Against the backdrop of a sunset over Mariachi Plaza and the soundtrack of the b-boys practicing their skills on the empty stage last night, a handful of women and a male ally from Comida no Bombas (Food Not Bombs), met talk about the route, logistics, fundraising, potential collaborations, and outreach.
They’ve been meeting regularly there and at Proyecto Jardin for the past several weeks to nail down details.
It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it was going to be just another bike ride. But they are hoping to create an experience for people. And since they’re expecting 300 women (or more) this year, having a tightly programmed event that plans for all possible contingencies as they move approximately 30 miles between Boyle Heights, Pasadena, and Watts is key.
That means thinking about everything from snack menus (sangria and churro cupcakes, anyone?) at one of the pit stops, to Aztec dancing at another stop, to where the best end point might be, given that the ride will probably end around midnight and the women will need a space where they can gather, participate in a closing ceremony to celebrate their accomplishment, use the restroom, and get home from safely.
Ova Alejandra Ocasio told me they had other goals, too, including defining the role of male allies more clearly and attracting even more young women. To those ends, the women have decided to take on the role of road captains and mechanics themselves this year, asking male allies that are interested in participating to help out at pit stops or follow the ride in a support car. To get the word out to younger women in their community, they’ve been visiting high school classrooms and talking to youth about what they do and what they hope to accomplish. They are also planning to make appearances on local radio programs and do more networking.
This weekend, they’ll be meeting again to finalize the route and will possibly be testing some of it out at their Sunday Luna Ride.
In short, they’ve put a lot of work into what promises to be another meaningful event that will build on their tradition of encouraging young women and women-identified people to be confident in who they are.
And while that was all very inspiring, perhaps the best thing about last night was watching the young daughter of one of the Ovas pick up a child’s bike and wobble around the plaza on it.
Her mother, Paulette, stopped speaking to turn and watch in wonder. The girl had just spotted the bike and decided she could do it on her own without any fanfare.
“It’s the first time she’s riding without training wheels!” an emotional Paulette said, clapping her hand to her chest.
We all stopped to watch as the girl rode joyfully in circles, haltingly at first, and then fluidly — even racing with the boys.
It was the best possible evidence of the impact their work that she and the other organizers could have hoped for: a young girl assuming that to be active, independent, and fearless is utterly and completely normal.