(Yolanda Davis-Overstreet is a cyclist in Los Angeles and the creator of the documentary RIDE: In Living Color.)
Fifteen years ago, I was transformed.
After doing the AIDS Ride in 1996 – my life changed. After this RIDE, I no longer just rode a bike; I understood what it meant to move on two wheels and experience the space and communities around me.
After this RIDE, I knew what it felt like to be in good shape and actually thought much clearer in my daily decision making. After this RIDE, I wanted and want to be on a bike to simply enjoy life and all the benefits that come along with it rolling on two wheels.
As a child, I road my bike almost every weekend with my sister and neighborhood friends. We grew up and went to school in an area that is now called South Central LA. Growing up in the sixties was a different time – as children, we were more free and able to explore much more than what our youth are able to do today.
Knowing that my life and lifestyle have been positively altered because I ride, it has become a mission of mine to find ways to incorporate this lifestyle and ways of thinking about a bike within my family and beyond.
Over the past year I have been on a mission to direct and produce my first documentary RIDE: In Living Color, which will be a documentary that drives a campaign to tell the stories of African American cyclists who are part of the fabric of life within diverse communities in California and beyond.
The film and campaign will provide an insiders’ perspective on how cycling in urban American communities is increasing in numbers and participation, both recreationally and professionally.
A few of the numerous cyclists, bike riders, and advocates I have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing are Olympic 2x medalist Giddeon Massie; first African American National woman cyclist Karla Bland; and noted biographer Andrew Ritchie, who chronicled the story of the first recognized African American competitive cyclist Major Taylor.
I’ve interviewed Tafarai Bayne of T.R.U.S.T. South LA (and CicLAvia board member) and John Jones III of the East Side Riders in Watts, who both are advocating for safer streets and programs that encourage young kids to get involved in the varied rides paired with empowerment events.
Not to mention, I’ve talked to cyclists about the wide range of health benefits bikes are having in our community in the areas of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and the like. I too have been educated and enlightened with real stories on how cyclists are changing their lives for the better!
In the end, however, while this film will offer more insight into our commonalities than our differences- my journey has shown me that the bike is being utilized as a tool to help us “find our own internal happiness” and can be used as a “vehicle for change in any community,” too.
May is National Bike Month and this year’s theme is One Ride, Many Reasons. To highlight and celebrate the many benefits of bicycling, throughout May we’ll bring you the personal reflections and inspirations of a diverse collection of bicyclists from coast to coast with our daily 31 Days, 31 Reasons blog feature.