Three avid cyclists have described the “huge emphasis on joy” in their cycling collective after their second annual Black History Month bike ride.
The 22-mile ride through central London was organized by the team at Together We Ride (TWR), a black-led collective dedicated to empowering people through cycling, ‘uplifting’ one another and more to attract people to the sport.
Nevin Sunderji, Kamar Omar and Mona Musa-Gray all joined the group of over 60 who pedaled through the city on Sunday, stopping at 10 of the capital’s blue plaques and monuments commemorating black people to share their stories .
From London Bridge they led to Bob Marley’s home on Oakley Street in Chelsea, a bookseller who published the first work by a black female writer in English, Phillis Wheatley, in Aldgate, and the Gilt of Cain sculpture, which commemorates the Abolition of slaves commemorates trade in the city’s Fenhof.
“As a group, as black people visiting these memorials, it gives us a sense of belonging,” Ms Sunderji, a 56-year-old bicycle instructor and business travel consultant from Hounslow, told the PA news agency.
“To know they were there a long time, but that’s not what’s taught in our history classes here in the UK… We’re portrayed as if all Blacks are slaves – it’s very demeaning, it’s all sad and poor.
“And then no, it wasn’t like that. We’ve lived lives, we’ve had our riches, we’ve got doctors, neurologists, lots of people on high and it’s never really been celebrated in Britain.
“So it was very, very moving and joyful, some of it was a little bit sad … But it’s pride, huge pride.”
Ms. Musa-Gray works for Black Unity Bike Ride, a series of “activities” promoting well-being in the Black community made up of over 20 Black-run cycling groups.
She described the bike ride as “an important place” where black people come together, but also addressed the “sad reality” of the history behind many of the monuments.
“When we visit these different places and see the breadth of these different people, from artists, to politicians, to people who influence civil rights, to doctors … It was just such a wide variety of people and skills,” said the 38- year old said PA.
“At some point we have to try and honor what we can, but it definitely brings back that sense of belonging.
“And unfortunately I have to say it for myself too, it reminds me of the humiliation we have endured and endured and the denial of our freedom and denial of our excellence.”
Ms Musa-Gray also said the ride and affiliation with TWR allows the group to “spread the love”.
“It’s very important for us to have spaces where we can come together,” she said.
“We don’t exclude anyone, we have people of different backgrounds and shades of color joining us, but I think having black-run clubs or black-run clubs is very important for us to continue to be successful in cycling.
“And when you’re with a group of loud, boisterous people who just want to sing … you just do it and you don’t feel like, ‘Oh, they’re looking at me like I’m crazy.’
“It’s about keeping space for each other… It’s a cycling club, but there’s a big emphasis on joy.”
It was the first TWR cycle for Ms Omar, a 33-year-old teaching assistant at a primary school in Wandsworth, who said it was “amazing” to be part of the Black History Month cycle ride.
“I absolutely loved it, it just felt so inviting,” she said.
“And everyone seemed so happy.
“I just feel like Black History Month should be celebrated all year round.”
Ms Omar said it was “so interesting” for the group to learn “who these people were and what they went through”.
“They’ve been through a lot and not everyone knows the actual story,” she said.
“When some of the nice drivers who were with us read through the actual story it was so interesting.
“And it made me want to go back and learn a little bit more about our history.”
Ms Sunderji added that while the tour could have worked for runners or hikers, cycling was “a different feeling”.
“We’re a family that loves to be on two wheels, I think it just has that extra element of freedom,” she said.
“When I sit on my bike I feel so liberated.
“You’re up there and you just fly.”
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/black-history-month-bike-ride-offers-sense-of-belonging-42078189.html Black History Month bike ride offers ‘sense of belonging’