Bikes Are a Key Part of Sunday’s “Blackstone Summer” Youth Empowerment Teach-in

Sunday's block party at Experimental Station includes Youth for Black Lives, Blackstone Bicycle Works, and more

Young mechanics at the Blackstone Bicycle Works. Photo: BBW
Young mechanics at the Blackstone Bicycle Works. Photo: BBW

This Sunday, August 12, in Woodlawn there will be a block party and youth-led teach-in with the goal of empowering young people of color, and bike mechanics will be a key part of the curriculum. The festival is called Blackstone Summer, and it takes place from noon to 5 p.m. at Experimental Station, a community projects incubator at 6100 South Blackstone. It’s being hosted by Youth for Black Lives, a teen femme-led organization associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, along with Blackstone Bike Works (the nonprofit bike shop at Experimental Station), event planner Porscha James and her Back To School Project, and Fortune Management.

According to the organizers, Blackstone Summer is a chance for young women and gender-nonconforming people to lead workshops for other youth on a variety of topics. Past workshops have covered bike mechanics basics, environmental racism, “the criminalization of domestic violence survivors,” and “poetry as healing,” plus other subjects. “The teach-in topics are chosen because they are relevant to the day-to-day lives of young people of color, shaping their capacities for artistic expression, self-love, and advocating for themselves and their community,” the organizers stated.

Students from Blackstone Bike Works’ youth programs will be teaching a seminar on bike maintenance and repair, including the “ABC Quick Check” (making sure your tires have enough air, the brakes are working, and the chaining is lubed, and checking for loose parts, according to head mechanic Charlie Rifenburg. The shop will also be offering minor bike adjustments and repairs during the event, as well as raffling off a bike.

Blackstone Summer will also feature musical performances by local soul singers Christian Jalon, Aaliyah Allah, and Kari. There will also be free food, information and services provided by other organizations, including free school supplies, plus other fun activities like a bouncy house.

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Maxine Aguilar from Youth for Black Lives provided more info about what to expect at Blackstone Summer. “The street fair is an extended version of the teach-in project that we do,” she said. ”We host events where women of color volunteer to lead workshops, for the purpose of centering them in learning spaces.” Youth For Black Lives has held two prior events at Experimental Station, including a public meeting with Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson and another youth teach-in.

Porscha James started the Back To School Project in June with the goal of helping to ease kids’ return to classes in the fall by providing free supplies and resources. “I’m big on education,” she said. “I know what education can get you and how far it can lead you.” She said she wants to make sure that the inability to purchase school supplies doesn’t present a barrier for kids who want to learn.

Aguilar and James said the goal of Blackstone Summer is to unite the Woodlawn community, although all are welcome to attend. With youth empowerment, creative expression, and bikes in the mix, this teach-in should be a great event for the neighborhood’s young people.

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