I won’t be able to be at the Ride4Love in Watts this weekend, and I am more than a little bummed out about it.
Timed to fall around Valentine’s Day, it is a special event that the ESRBC has long used to highlight both the strengths and challenges in their community.
Founding members John Jones III (president) and his brother Tony August-Jones, who grew up in the area, were taught to give back from a young age. Even while their own family had faced a number of struggles, their mother had always worked hard to offer the needy a place to find shelter or food, or both. It was not unusual for their four-bedroom house to have as many as fifteen people living in it at once, sometimes more.
Once the bike club was launched six years ago and Fred Buggs Sr., Ronnie Parker, and others were brought into the fold, giving back soon became a core part of the club’s activities. So much so that the founders’ children have all cited helping others as one of the things they like most about participating in the club.
In doing the work that they do, the ESRBC is well aware of the unfortunate stereotype that paints Watts as a dangerous place. Certainly, I haven’t been shy in dedicating pages to airing some of the deeper intransigent issues that plague the area and impact access to public space. But, even in acknowledging these realities, the ESRBC, as do I, want outsiders to understand that Watts is so much more — it is full of wonderful folks who care deeply about community.
They (and I) also want people — residents included — to understand that building community and reestablishing control over the public space in such a neighborhood is possible if you have home-grown activists that are committed to consistently being out and about, and setting a positive example for black and brown youth and adults alike.
In this way, the idea of “Riding for Love” became a way to publicize that larger mission while also putting out a call to action.
Javier “JP” Partida, president of the youth-focused Los Ryderz Bike Club heard that call two years ago and has actively collaborated with the ESRBC year-round on all kinds of community events, including unity rides, guiding city planners through the area, and establishing a kickball league to keep at-risk youth safe and active all summer long.
In 2012, they carted sandwiches and water for distribution to the homeless.
Last year, the ride was tied to their monthly Ride for Justice for Benjamin Torres — a victim of a vicious and, as yet, unsolved hit-and-run — to draw attention to the questions of safety for South L.A. riders and the lack of resources dedicated to resolving these horrific crimes.
The partnership couldn’t come at a better time.
For all the amazing community engagement work that the ESRBC and Los Ryderz have done over the years, they still struggle to get people from outside South L.A. to attend their rides. Partnering with a well-known and well-respected organization such as C.I.C.L.E. can help them get their message out to a wider audience and bring in folks that might otherwise have been reluctant to explore an area like Watts on their own.
It’s great for C.I.C.L.E., too.
They have been busy, via their sponsorship from Metro, putting together a number of exploratory rides around the Los Angeles area. In doing so, they have worked to partner with community organizations already active in those areas. The partnerships allow them to provide those groups with technical and material support as well as to put together a ride that helps build bridges between communities that are too often deeply divided by both physical and cultural barriers.
It’s work that Dan Dabek, the Director of C.I.C.L.E., says he really enjoys.
Being able to use cycling as a way to help people explore different communities and introduce them to advocacy groups including the ESRBC is one of the reasons he says he is so passionate about advocacy for bicycle transportation.
The sponsorship is incredibly helpful to groups like the ESRBC and Los Ryderz, who generally dig deep into their own pockets to buy and screen print t-shirts for their members and youth, buy and fix the clubs’ bicycles, feed the youth, or offer food and other forms of aid to the community.
The help the ESRBC got for the Ride4Love this year means that, instead of worrying about how to provide riders with custom-designed t-shirts or other giveaways, they can focus on creating an engaging tour. To wit, the route will explore the core of Watts and offer participants an introduction to the area’s history and the grassroots engagement efforts of folks involved in making the future site of a community garden (Mudtown Flats), area housing developments, and the Watts Towers sources of community strength.
If you’d like to explore Watts, build bridges, or just come out to support some great community activists, you are invited to meet up with the groups at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. (roll out at 10 sharp). It is located just blocks from the Watts Towers (103rd) Blue Line or Rosa Parks (Green Line) station and accessible by any of the following buses: 53, 55, 117, 120, 202, 355, or Dash Watts.
If you plan to ride your bike there from downtown or beyond, Main St. is a lovely ride. Or you can explore Central, which (fingers crossed) should be getting bike lanes in the near future.
When: Saturday, February 15, 2014
Time: Meet at 9:30 a.m., the ride will leave promptly at 10 a.m.
Where: Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC)
10950 S. Central Avenue, 90059