The Street Love Ride drew hundreds of cyclists to promote peace in North Lawndale

Derek Brown, Center, leads the Street Love Ride. Photo: Norvell Tolbert, Norvell's Photography
Derek Brown, Center, leads the Street Love Ride. Photo: Norvell Tolbert, Norvell's Photography

On Saturday the North Lawndale-based youth boxing program Boxing Out Negativity teamed up with the mobility justice advocacy organization Equiticity (whose fundraising campaign relaunched today) to host the Street Love Ride: Rolling Deep for Peace in North Lawndale.

“This is more than a demonstration of peace,” the event website stated. “This ride is to show those on the streets some love – that there is a community ready to embrace them and healthy alternatives available. We represent a positive community on two wheels, rolling through North Lawndale to share peace, love, and light.” Accordingly, the ride was a joyous celebration of unity that drew hundreds of participants.

Gathering before the ride. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Gathering before the ride. Photo: Cameron Bolton

The Street Love Ride was the most prominent of a series of weekly community bike excursions led by Boxing Out Negativity coach Derek Brown. “It was important to him to do a ride to reduce violence in North Lawndale,” said Equiticity leader Oboi Reed. “So his point was, how do we use bikes to inspire brothers that are on the street? To show them that the community is welcome to them and open to them and is willing to embrace them should they be ready to make that move. That was the impetus for him for this ride, and I feel like we certainly moved in that direction.” Along with Julie Globokar, the chair of Boxing Out Negativity’s board, Reed helped plan the event.

A Census promotion team at the ride. Norvell Tolbert, Norvell's Photography
A Census promotion team at the ride. Norvell Tolbert, Norvell’s Photography

Reed explained that the many people on the ride wearing orange shirts were “Squad” members, a group of ride marshals he trained and divided into three groups. There was the cork team, which was in charge of blocking motor vehicle traffic at intersections to keep riders safe. The sweep team rode on the left side of the ride in order to keep people pushed to the right so that the corkers could get back to the front. And the support and gear (SAG) team helped riders with emergencies like flat tires.

While Chicago has seen several politically-charged bike rides during the recent Black Lives Matter demonstration, Reed said the Street Love Ride ride was intended not as a protest, but as an event to promote peace in the neighborhood. However, participant Anita Davis, a West Side native who rides bicycles frequently argued that a large gathering of Black people on bikes is inherently political. “We have to keep making ourselves visible.”

Ayla Ellenbogen, who learned about the ride from her  roommate being a member of Squad member roommate said, “This seems like it’s a really supportive and wonderful community here.”

The event included raffling off nine bicycles, DJed music, and resource tables from several community organizations. A local clown also provided balloons to decorate children’s bikes.

Ride participants. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Ride participants. Photo: Cameron Bolton

Before everyone got on their bikes and took off, Reed and Brown talked about the ride’s rules and purpose. There was also a live performance from Example Setters, a spoken word group led by Sir Taylor, a close friend of Brown.

“One thing we noticed when we ride down the streets [on the weekly rides] is every time we ride past somebody, they just give us love,” Brown said. “Everywhere, in all parts of the community, all different blocks, families come out the doors and just come out, start recording, taking pictures, just giving us love. So we decided to call our event the Street Love Ride.”

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