An Opportunity To Become A Leader

Heroes come in many forms but the most known archetype is the reluctant hero. An ordinary person thrust into a situation that allows them to rise to the occasion. Well, this isn’t that kind of story. There were no people needing to be saved and no evil to be vanquished. But what it is though is a simple story of teacher and student and how that student was able to find a moment where they witnessed their own rise and became one with their new role.

Camilo

Camilo was new to Spoke’n Revolutions Youth Cycling, our youth summer bike touring program. He was a good friend of Fernando, a returning youth cyclist who has an outstanding character and positive outlook on life. With two tours under his belt, Fernando invited Camilo to what would be Fernando’s “swan song” tour. Fernando was graduating high school and would be leaving for college in the fall. Camilo heard stories from the two previous tours Fernando had participated in and wanted to join him. Being on the school varsity football team Camilo is very athletic. But he had never travelled across country on a bicycle.

The tour started off well but it was Camilo who was the first to be injured while following in line with the other cyclists. While we were winding our way along the bike path at UNC Wilmington he smashed his finger on the post designed to keep cars off the greenway. He was still getting used to the group dynamics of cycling but learned a valuable lesson in staying vigilant for one’s own safety.

It was early in the second week of the tour when, mechanic and coach, Tod Andrews and I recognized the leadership qualities that Camilo possessed. It was a simple thing that happened in a moment. A moment so quick that you knew what you saw, because it resonated with you. Camilo was leading the group along a bike lane when the bike lane diverged, as they do when they converge with a right turn lane, and he followed the bike path, stayed true when the path became ambiguous and resumed back onto the bike path. The youth behind them did exactly as he did, like little ducklings.

I turned to Tod. “Did you see that?”, I said, now coasting in amazement and joy. Tod smiled back and said, “Yea!, that was cool”.

Allow me to geek out for a moment. If you don’t ride bikes you might ask, what’s the big deal? He did what he was supposed to do. And technically, yea, he did.  But, as a cyclist, you know the ambiguities of road cycling and the minor adjustments or judgements you have to make while keeping yourself safe.  Add to that the fact that we’re riding with youth. What was so amazing about that moment was that while Camilo was leading, he was wholly aware of the safety needs of his and his fellow cyclists and they trusted him.

Camilo was not aware that he was being groomed to be a leader. We provided the opportunity for him to be up front, gain confidence and subsequently, the trust of his team.  During a recent Facebook chat with Camilo I explained what we were doing and when. He said at the time he didn’t think it was a big deal. He was doing the job he was given. And that’s what natural born leaders do, excel at the job they’re given.

Camilo in his words:

 

Along the journey I became accustomed to seeing road kill ranging from little pigs to armadillos. The smell was so bad it made me want to hold my breath! There were more pleasant sights, such as the major cities of Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.

It was in Charleston that just a few weeks prior a young white male took the life of nine African Americans church members at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church. When we arrived I was caught off guard when I was hit with a huge wave of emotion that I hadn’t experienced during any other part of the trip. I began to cry in front 
of the church. I couldn’t comprehend why 
someone would commit such a horrendous crime.

We were able to meet Dr. Herman Blake, 
who gave us some insight to the massacre. People usually visit places 
like this by car, so for us to ride up to this emotionally charged
place on bikes was surreal.

Throughout the tour I’ve felt many different emotions. Anguish being one of them when my legs and back would hurt after climbing a big hill, or when the summer heat of the south made cycling difficult. Despite the challenges I faced it was my determination that helped me push through.

During the beginning of the tour 
I kept back and watched how things were being done. But a few 
days after we visited Charleston, SC, something in me had 
changed. From that point I took on a leadership role that our 
group needed. For 15-20 miles each day, I would take on the
headwind in order for my team-mates to cycle easier. I made
sure we stayed in a straight line so that everyone rode
together and was safe.

At the time, I felt as if what I was doing something natural and not above average. I had figured it was just my role on the cycling team. In the article “Triangle Youth Tour Historic Coastal Corridor,” my coach, Kevin Hicks, describes a moment in which he felt I was a natural leader.

I did not realize this even happened, and didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I simply moved slightly to the left when the bike lane ended, and all my team-mates followed me.

However, at that moment my coach felt that we were in “synch with one another and led by the one person my team-mates trusted” (me).

I was not aware my coaches were grooming me to become a ride leader, but without much instruction I did what I was there to do. At times
the group would be slowing down and it was then that I realized that I needed to lead the group to pick up the pace.

Even though I was new to the cycling tour, I was able to fulfill a bigger role on my team by becoming someone who led my team-mates with humility, fearlessness, and selflessness. Participating in this tour made me more observing of the world around me and made me realize how some of the little things I do can have a big impact. I failed to realize how important I was to my team. That was, until the day I read those articles about the cycling tour.

Due to this experience I am now more aware of my ability to motivate others, and feel more confident in doing so.

A Geechee Kunda Experience

A lasting lession

One of the most enlightening, enriching and heartfelt moments of the Gullah Geechee “Path to Freedom tour” was our visit to Geechee Kunda in Riceboro, GA. It was discovered by Coach Atiba doing his reconnaissance mission planning the tour. Founded by Jim and Pat Bacote, the Kunda is a haven of peace and love just off the East Coast Greenway. A sanctuary to all who walk onto the property. Kunda has many definitions, several of them from India. But it was Jim’s definition that centered around the word meaning a compound. Meaning Geechee Kunda is a Geechee compound.

A select number of youth were lined up and given an object of their trade: rice, iron, milk, flour to name a few. One youth represented 100 in a community. A few other youth were given the task of being slave traders. As the slave traders conspired one by one the youth villagers were taken. Each time the impact on the community of villages and trade among them was explained. The skills of the people from one place were being plucked away to reluctantly start a new nation.

Jim and Pat Bacote

After a day’s ride the youth were welcomed by Jim and Pat at the pathway to the front door of their home. They built the Kunda around their spacious property which houses a museum and an interpretation center. After the interpretations, the youth enjoyed a drum sessions where they were able to delight in the beauty of music making and revelry.

A lesson on the Slave TradeThey were given a talk by one of the “elders” in the new Geechee community and the youth were enraptured by her stories. The full day ended with a low country boil dinner of crab, potatoes and shrimp, among other things. With the overnight stay and the loving conversation the name Geechee Kunda was imprinted on the hearts, minds and lips of every youth present. Our leaving the next morning was bittersweet, taking longer than it should have but as long as it needed.

I have taken words from the Geechee Kunda website as it explains the reason behind its origin and every word is the truth:

Geechee Kunda is one of the most impactful and meaningful cultural education facilities to be found anywhere, a true lifetime experience. Geechee Kunda is our way of dispelling the non-sense that ours is a dying, faltering culture, and to help insure that instead of being written out of history, be included in a true light. Included here are exhibit galleries, a gift shop, a family research center, and most importantly, an ongoing research and documentation effort.

Geechee Kunda was created as our means of contributing to efforts to preserve and perpetuate the knowledge of important elements of African Culture that exists in the United States. We are also interested in assisting in nurturing and perpetuating threatened cultural traditions elsewhere in the Americas and Africa itself.

For more information on the Geechee Kunda follow this link

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This Is The Beginning…

I woke up this morning not wanting ice water but NEEDING it. This had never happened before and at 2:40am to boot. But something was different. I walked out of my hotel room with ice bucket in hand and headed to the ice machine, filled it and headed  back to my room. Still unsure as to why because I’m tired. very tired.

In the room I picked up the plastic wrapped cup and was about to fill it with water but instead I filled the ice bucket. I needed a long drink. Now I’m realizing why I’m up in the middle of the night. I looked at the clock. I’m going to be up for awhile.

I was trying to make sense of the last two weeks of rising before dawn, cycling all day (at least five hours of the day) and going to bed after midnight. Youth Board Member, Joanna, and I knew that this tour would be different somehow. It had a weird feeling we couldn’t explain associated with it.  It certainly didn’t start off very well for my liking as it took me a couple of days to get into the rhythm of the tour. Each passing hour tried its best to keep me off the rhythm of the ride.  You can see it in the lack of posts I’ve made along the tour and video interviews of the youth in comparison to previous tours. I guess, in that regard, this tour was different. We had our usual share of mis-directions and wrong turns. Miscommunications and wrong words. Shouting at distances so the kids would remain safe and not make unnecessary hurry-jerky moves.  That’s all normal. But we went through the contents of the first First Aid and moved on to the other kits. yes, plural. Bandaid after bandaid was distributed for scrapes and cuts. There were more falls on this tour than I have ever experienced in the last FOUR tours COMBINED. Thankfully, nothing was anything to write home about aside from the fact that I’m telling you that it was a different experience.

East Coast GreenwayThis tour was historic in at least a couple of ways. First, it was the first time the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was cycled using paths designated by the East Coast Greenway Alliance. Secondly, it was completed by youth! This is the beginning of people using the East Coast Greenway to travel through a culturally rich region where you will be welcomed as FAMILY. I encourage everyone who cycles by bike or travel by car to make the journey to the region. Of course, I recommend travel by bicycle so you won’t miss ANYTHING along the way. Here are some highlights to help you plan your own trip.

Spoke'n Revolutions Catching Sunset

  • Leaving Durham our first stop was Erwin, NC and our hosts were the Erwin Fire and Rescue. The carpet could not have been more red as we were treated as dignitaries of the East Coast Greenway (a grand honor, I might add).
  • Next stop was Jones Lake State Park
  • We were welcomed in grand fashion, once more, in Wilmington, NC by members of St Mathew Lutheran Church who fed us dinner and breakfast. Before that we visited Moore’s Creek Battlefield that had a unique link to the Gullah Geechee corridor.
  • After a stopover in Sunset Beach we had a wonderful stay at Huntington Beach State Park and our first taste of the ocean
  • Bustling Charleston, SC was our next stop with a service learning project with Wings for Kids. In a somber point the youth visited Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston where history is still being made. Our normal tours are to places where the history and events are close to 100 yrs old.
  • The historical Penn Center was our home for two days as we took in its rich history
  • A highlight of the tour was our visit to Geechee Kunda Cultural Center where the youth were immersed in Geechee culture and tales of the pastFlagler College
  • A visit to Armstrong, FL treated us to dinner and friendly delights from its residents
  • Upon reaching St Augustine we visited Flagler College and the youth were provided a tour of this wonderful and enchanting “Harry Potter” like school

Phenomenal is the word of the day when I think of the last two weeks. Something that can only be known through the senses rather than through thought or intuition. A truly remarkable experience. I collect videos and stories for you because I want you to know and see with your own eyes (and ears) the fruit of your hard earned dollars . Seeing the in-kind gifts being put to good use in the development of youth. Seeing their transformation as I see it. When it happens and when I recognize it.

Hanging at the beachAs a parent I know that my children will develop long before I recognize it. Then one day I look at them differently and I see the change. I see myself in them and realize that through all the yakking and nagging they listened and understood. It’s no different here. In a way, these are my children and Iove them dearly; and I love watching them grow wiser and into young adults.

Let me tell you about these phenomenal youth who just cycled close to 700 miles (wrong turns and backtracks included) to learn about an American history that they will not hear about in their social studies class.

 

I’ll start from the ending and work my way back. Yesterday at dinner the youth were finally all together in one room with no lines between them. No BRAG Dream Team on this side and no Spoke’n Revolutions on that side. Each youth intermingled with the one person they made the most connection with and they were laughing and breaking bread together. Breaking bread in itself being a tradition of fellowship. Well before this moment on the final 15 miles of the tour I was told that there was going to be a youth party and adults were not invited. I laughed and agreed. They needed time to be themselves.

CamiloCamilo-A Natural Leader

Tod and I witnessed a very proud moment when we looked ahead and the 15 youth peloton was being lead by Camilo, a first time adventure youth cyclist whom we had been grooming to be a ride leader. As with most bike lanes the one they were traveling on ended abruptly at a segment of the road that had a right turn only lane. To the right of them it began. When the turn lane faded the bike lane to the left began again and it was beautiful to see him steer them back onto that path. They traveled like a flock of birds moving gracefully in line and in synch with one another led by the one person they trusted.  All I could do was glance back at Tod and ask if he had just witnessed what I had.  We could have ended the tour right then and would have been the happiest two me alive for a moment.

AbeoAbeo-Growth

Abeo complained on the second day that she didn’t like to be last and wondered why it was that she was in the back struggling to keep up? I explained to her that there were many factors, including that this was her first cross country tour. Much of it was simply that the bike she was riding was over 25 years old. Sure, it rode fine and was in great condition (due to expert mechanic work) but technology has changed and bikes can move more efficiently now. So when the BRAG Dream Team loaned her a bike from their stable of newer bikes she began riding with the lead group (fast group, in other words) and never looked back. She’s a natural at distance cycling.

Hla WinHla Win-Positive Surprises

She was one of the greatest and positive surprises from this tour. Hla Win showed eagerness and determination from the start. She started off as a shy high schooler but really opened up on this tour; laughing and smiling more. Due to family commitments she was unable to attend many of the training rides so she had to perform rides on her own around town and her neighborhood.That’s why we had concern about her level of physical preparedness.  But she was ready. By the middle of the first week she was riding with confidence and a steady pace of the middle cyclists. Great job, Hla Win!!

Ree ReeRee Ree-Ever Effervescent

Ree Ree is one of the Triangle Bikeworks Youth Board Members and she joined us two days into the tour due to familial commitments.  She also had to train away from the group by creating her own routes. She would cycle to the family farm in the mornings and cycle back in the afternoons after the work was done. She didn’t miss a beat (or pedal stroke) and performed well by staying with the middle group of cyclists.

JoannaJoanna-The Captain
Joanna is the team captain and Youth Board Member. I depended heavily on her to be my connection to the dynamics of the SnR group and, subsequently, the dynamic of both youth organizations were doing. It was she who pointed out at Huntington State Beach that the two groups had begun to form their bonds of friendship. That day the two teams had now started to become one.

KeAirKe’air-Full of Life

Ke’air is one of the youngest members of the BRAG Dream Team whom I met on last year’s tour. His return this year was met with lots of excitement because he was a favorite of Itza and Jeimy. Ke’air also turned 13 on this tour. He’s strong, has a great sense of humor and the perfect disposition for a long distance cycling tour.

CiennaCienna-Accepting the Challenge

Cienna was a member of the BRAG Dream Team from many years ago and returned for this historic tour. It was also a reunion of sorts because I knew her as a baby when I lived in Atlanta over 13 years ago. She put all she had into this tour and found that it was more challenging mentally than it was physically for her. She was able to conquer both challenges and come out smiling.

ZaidZaid-The Natural

Zaid was squirrelly on the bike. He rode with the pedals on his arches and his cadence was a pedal-pedal-coast, pedal-pedal-coast rhythm. It drove the other youth cyclists absolutely NUTS. He was also new to the BRAG Dream Team as it was his grandmother who brought him along as she was also on her first tour as SAG driver. It was hard to break thru to Zaid because he didn’t know anyone either from BRAG Dream Team or Spoke’n Revolutions. By the second week he was starting the “gel” with the SnR team and his cadence improved significantly (not because of it, just did). I remarked to him that I was in awe of his natural ability to cycle because he was going at a clip of 18mph in sandals! It wasn’t even making him break a sweat. I’m looking forward tp good things in the future coming from this young man in cycling and other activities.

MiccoFernando, Diallo and Micco – Mr.’s DependableFernando

There’s something to be said about being steady and dependable. The skill is under-rated but everyone depends on it. Fernando, Diallo and Micco are very dependable young men. When asked to get something done they’re on the job and I appreciate that. It could have been pulling a rider, riding in the middle enjoying the company or sweeping from the back to ensure no one is left behind. Their role was necessary.

Diallo

Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Tour Select Photos

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Health, heritage and culture – Paat Ta Freedum Tour

Fifteen-year-old Zack Locke admits he and his friends back in Rhode Island are not physically active.

So the fact that he’s biking 60 miles a day for two weeks in the middle of July along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and East Coast Greenway is not only a new experience for him but it shocks his friends.