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L.A.’s Freedom Ride: BKoB

On the fourth Sunday of every month, cyclists take over the streets of Los Angeles as part of the "Black Kids on Bikes" (BKoB) ride.  BKoB is part of a series of rides called the "Freedom Rides" aimed at getting more black Angelenos to enjoy the unique experience of a group cycle ride.  BKoB aims at providing a safe, fun venue for kids to ride the streets, but despite it's name - the ride is open to riders of all races and skill levels.

The ride is the brainchild of organizer James Spooner who wears many hats.  Some know him as a Bikerowave volunteer, others as a tattoo artist, and still others know him as the ground making film maker responsible for 2003's cult film "Afro-Punk."

Ivy writes:

Spooner, a recent transplant from the rainbow streets of New York City, walks and talks New York, but now calls Cali home.  James was cool enough to sit down with me despite of me, to tell me about how the ride came to be and what he personally gets out of the ride and cycling in general.

James Spooner: [0:05] I guess when I first moved out here and started using my bike for transportation, I got interested in learning how to build bikes and do repairs and stuff. I started going to the bike co-op, and through that I was invited to go on a group ride.

[0:22] But I had never been on a ride. I didn't know how it was organized or something anybody could come to. I just had never been invited. When I went to the co-op, I was invited. It was a pretty big ride, probably about two or three hundred people. And there was about three black people there. So I we just like, "Maybe black people aren't getting invited. Well, hey. I'm going to start a ride for black people."

[1:03] It's just another way for a community to get together.

[1:29] The first ride was eight people. The second ride was like 35. I was like, "All right, this is cool." I just felt like it would perpetuate itself. The awesome thing about doing a bike ride is that it could be four people, or 30 people, or 700 people. It just feels good to be on a bike.

[1:50] It's nice to do group activities with people who have the same life experience as you. And this is one of those activities. I personally don't go to church. I personally don't go to the barbershop. I don't have a lot of outlets for me to be in gatherings with black people because I'm into alternative stuff.

[2:11] Riding bikes through Beverley Hills, or a group of black people riding their bikes through South Central, it elicits different reactions. All reactions that are important, I think.

Man 2: [2:26] It's a beautiful thing, man. I like that. You know what I'm saying? Instead of seeing the usual riff raff running up and down here all the time, I like to see our people participate in some events some times. Even if it is just riding together, whatever. Just a little feeling just to see it.
James Spooner: [2:42] Cycling community is probably the most friendly I've ever been part of. Cyclists are so eager to get more cyclists involved. More people involved that it doesn't really matter what your race is or your gender. People just really want more people on bikes. To be in that environment, it's just good vibes for everybody.

[3:04] Go on a Facebook group and sign up. You'll get an email telling you where to start, and that's it. We'll ride every month.



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  • Anne

    This is a great piece... is it possible to increase the audio volume on the interview so we can hear what he's saying?

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/atom Adam Hartzell

    Excellent piece indeed. Spooner's initiative to create a space outside of the church or the barbershop for African-American's of alternative interests is compelling. I actually forwarded this link to the staff of The Michael Eric Dyson Radio Show thinking this would be an excellent topic for them to discuss on that show. I hope they take it up because I'd love to hear more from Spooner.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/lecola RC

    WTF... can't believe this dude made Afro Punk. LOVE, LOVE, Love that film as it speaks to me so much. He's actually the voice of a lot of black folks with alternative interests. I super appreciate this dudes honestly, and yeah it's nice to see another black face out there sometimes. Great piece! :-D

  • http://jamesspooner.wordpress.com james spooner

    great job Ivy! I sound really smart. lol.

    fyi everyone , its the last Sunday of every month, not necessarily the 4th one.

  • J.Swift

    City to City, Block to Block
    BLACK KIDS Pedal Power, Dont Stop!

    BLACK KIDS ON BIKES

  • http://archisense.com Qa’id

    Nice piece.

    Brooklyn, where you at?
    Who's down?