“The first [bike] ride I took Leah on was the Black-Brown Unity ride two years ago,” says Maryann Aguirre, member of the Ovarian Psyco-Cycles Bicycle Brigade, a cycling group comprised of women of color based in Boyle Heights, “and I was f*cking dying!”
Pedaling the 12 miles the route wound between Boyle Heights and Watts with a heavy trailer and her then-5-year-old daughter in tow had proven tougher than she had anticipated.
While she laughs at the memory of how hard it was, I have to smile at the fact that the first ride she chose to take her daughter on was one aimed at building better relations between African-Americans and Latinos by raising awareness about their shared experiences with police brutality.
It makes perfect sense, really.
Although only 24, Aguirre has long been deeply engaged in making her community a better place. She is well-grounded in the concerns of the underprivileged, active in protesting gentrification, passionate about justice for people (particularly women) of color and willing to show up to fight for it, and, more recently, working to bring cycling and pedestrian infrastructure that fits the needs of existing residents to the working-class Latino community of Boyle Heights.
When I ask how she wants me to describe her, however, she balks at the confinement she feels sometimes comes with labels like “organizer” and “activist.”
“This is just something that I do because of the conditions I/we/she live(s) in, because of my existence,” she says. “To me, there is no other choice.”
“You are a conscientious community member with a passion for justice…” I try.
“…in my ‘hood,” she finishes, laughing.
Most of Aguirre’s actively practiced conscientiousness – even that around livable streets — is oriented toward making the world a more welcoming space for her daughter, Leah Flores. Aguirre sees access to jobs and educational opportunities, affordable housing, a public space free of harassment from law enforcement or those carrying racial, gender, or other biases, and safe spaces for the expression of cultural and other identities as being integral to making a community and its streets healthier and, by extension, safer, more just, and more accessible for when Leah is ready to move through them on her own.
Which is probably the reason that, despite the fact that I am there to talk to Aguirre about the challenges of raising a child in a single-parent, car-lite household for Streetsblog’s #StreetsR4Families series, we spend the vast majority of our two-hour conversation on everything but her transit habits. Read more…