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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Da Paat Ta Freedum Tour – Day 1

Day 1 was celebratory. We gathered at Herndon Park in Durham right off the East Coast Greenway. After a busy night of preparation seeing familiar faces from our friends in Atlanta brought a lot of comfort. Old friends of mine from the ECG like Dennis, Debbie, Vanessa and the Durham Bike Coop Rob became new friends of the youth riding this tour. There were also some new faces coming from our Spoke’n Revolutions team as well as the BRAG Dream Team having new members so for now each group of youth stick to their familiar.

After introductions, team stretches and a rules of the road talk we were on our way taking the back entrance onto the East Coast Greenway. At 8am we almost needed a traffic light to get on the path it was so busy. We are a bustling group of 21 youth and six adults making an impression as we winded our way on the Paat Ta Freedum.  It was good to see the smiles on faces of the people going by and the greetings of hello. One gentlemen suggested we get on the road.  Ha, we’ll be there soon enough.

The Kindness of Others

First tour day mishap took us past the Sharon Harris nuclear plan. With the change in road names and the additional ten miles we were now just over an hour off schedule. By the time we were 7 miles outside of Erwin, NC that mishap turned into good fortune as often things of this nature do. As “fate” would put it we ended up meeting the Cole family of Buies Creek at the intersection of US-421 N/E Cornelius Harnett Blvd and Old Johnson Farm Rd. They invited us to their home for water and a rest stop. Who could turn down such awesome hospitality?!  We were greeted with smiles, fresh watermelon (a great treat for ANY cyclist) and great conversation.

We arrived at the Erwin Volunteer Fire and Rescue in the heart of Erwin, NC. Their being in the heart of Erwin must be intentional because they also are the HEART of Erwin. The hospitality is overwhelmingly good and welcoming. We were treated as family visitors from out of town. Things could not be better. 

Forgive me for not having photos at this time (and this day in age – I’m pitiful) but I promise to be back to my old self by this afternoon with photos and comments to boot.  Psst, the kids get journals today, they don’t know it, yet.  Hehe

How Do You Teach to End InSensitivity?

My Sundays at 7 blog, unfortunately, became Monday.

Just yesterday I had my son listen to a podcast of “Stuff to Blow Your Mind” as they discussed the horrible numbers centering around the school to prison pipeline; it will blow your mind. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the layman’s explanation is that Black and Brown youth who come into the education system with, sometimes, a 2000 word deficit in their vocabulary are funneled indirectly to prison. They didn’t attend Montessori pre-K and, often not, regular pre-K but are expected to make up the gap (here’s where the Achievement Gap begins) in two to three years when testing starts.

That’s where they really start to have problems. Because in addition to the massive daily sugar intake that causes other distractions and behaviors, youth soon realize they aren’t doing as well in school as other students and begin to act out. Which leads to “time outs”, visits to the principal’s office, eventually in-school suspensions and yada, yada, yada.

This is an oversimplification of a huge problem boiled down so you can see the connections and how things are related. I wanted my son to listen to the podcast so that he could understand that even though he will get a very good education in this school district the deck is stacked against him in terms of education and punishment. All of this is coming to the forefront because of the recent headlines of youth dying at the hands of the police and citizens – Trayvon Martin, etc. (which is a totally different discussion but one that I had to have with my kids).

Punishment and the crime; or I should say “offense” because, for the most part, what most youth do is not criminal, just mischievous. But there is a disparity in the CHCCS district on what is being done when the youth become mischievous.

I saw a photo that was taken on one of the field trips designed to educate students about the Civil War. A war that tore apart our country and, frankly, that some are still fighting today. Within the district the incident is not a secret and teachers have spoken to their students about the inappropriateness of those actions. What concerns me is that high profile incidents like this continue to occur.  The last “big” incident was when students were caught drinking on a field trip while visiting another federal park. The school deftly handled this situation so that the student(s) involved wouldn’t face criminal charges but one of the students who were caught stabbed himself in desperation as it was his “final” infraction. As a result he was able to get help and turn his life around. But how many “bucks” had to have been passed for him to get to this point of desperation? Bucks that don’t seem to be passed when the youth is a person of color.

Mainstream dictionary definitions reduce racism to individual racial prejudice and the intentional actions that result

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Something needs to be done to level the playing field in regards to punishment and offense. I’m sure somehow, somewhere the girls in this photo are truly remorseful. Similar to the young man who chanted the fraternity song and apologized later. Maybe this is an opportunity for the girls to do the same?

A moment to challenge them on their “beliefs” or whatever caused them to be so insensitive. As these are the same young men and women who will continue on to stellar careers becoming managers, recruiters and executives that harbor attitudes such as what is seen in this photo. When the application of those attitudes meet the workplace you’ve come full circle into the national problem of a large percentage of the unemployment and prison overpopulation issue.

Update…

As with most issues that bring attention to a broader stage there is more to this story and it takes quite a while for the backend story to unfold. The class trip where this pic was taken was the followup to a competition where two teams assumed to roles of the northern and the southern armies. The southern team won, the post was in support of that win. Without context the photo misrepresents intention.

Innocently done, or not, the phrase “The South shall rise again” was used. A term considered by the Urban Dictionary as misinterpreted for being racist. People who use the phrase contend that the Civil War as not about the enslavement of people but the issue of state’s rights. But there is never talk about the fact that the Confederate states were fighting for the right to enslave people! What followed the post’s comment was horrendous and seeing the direction the post was taking it was immediately removed. The young ladies were caught in the crossfire of something bigger and older than they are by wading into an issue they seem to know very little about and paid dearly for it.

This leads to a broader concern with the systems of education that are teaching our children in school districts across the nation and, in particular, the CHCSSs. Could it be the intention of those who create the curriculum to continually dumb down the facts in an effort to not offend those who are of the group that benefitted from the enslavement of people? I don’t know the answer to that. But the facts remain that there was not enough thought put behind the Instagram post that caused such a furor. And what some may call the tepid responses from the school district officials only fanned the flames.

The issue of race relations is uncomfortable for most people to discuss, let alone difficult to constructively address. With most “bad news” the best approach is to deliver it and work through the acceptance of the facts. Because only then can you effectively work toward resolve.