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Hundreds, including Mayor Lightfoot, showed up for the Roll N Peace unity ride

Lightfoot talks with ride organizer Maurice “Pha’Tal” Perkins, left. Photo: Igor Studenkov

Last Friday several hundred people, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, showed up to Englewood's Ogden Park to promote public safety, wellness, and community unity at the sixth Roll N Peace bike ride.

Before the group rolled out, ride co-organizer and Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council community representative Maurice “Pha'Tal” Perkins proudly stated that during every ride, violent crime in the 7th Chicago Police District has dropped to zero incidents. He added that the the events create positive vibes, both for participants and bystanders. In fact, most of the attendees I spoke to said they were participating because they wanted to support the community, because they enjoyed the previous ride so much they wanted to come back.

Roll N Peace is organized by Think Outside da Block, a community organization with a goal of nurturing local youth by providing safe spaces where they can pursue their interests. The rides have a similar goal, to make residents feel safe in their neighborhood, and make people from outside the community realize that there’s more to Englewood than the headlines suggest.

“First of all, here in Englewood, there’s been a perception of Englewood being the worst community in Chicago,” Perkins said. “Some parents don’t even allow their kids off the porch on their own. [We want to] get everybody to feel safe to ride through the community that a lot of people feel is a violent community. [Roll N Peace] makes people feel safe.”

Residents get ready for the ride. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Residents get ready for the ride. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Residents get ready for the ride. Photo: Igor Studenkov

The question of what it takes to reduce violence, and what role, if any, the police should play, has come to a head this summer. Perkins serves as a project coordinator for This Is My Englewood (TIME) 21:36, a U.S, Department of Justice-funded initiative that aims to reduce violence by improving the relationship between the community and the police. “I’m working with the 7th District to just underscore how important it is [for officers] to just show up  and interact with the community members in ways that are respectful and dignified,” he said.

Perkins said that he was pleased that the attendance on the Roll N Peace rides has been growing from 200 at the first event to over a thousand that came to this year’s Juneteenth ride. Last Friday's event was subtitled “All in Phavor" – a tribute to Perkins’ daughter, who passed away earlier this year.

The event kicked off at with a community resource fair at 4 p.m. on the plaza in front of the Ogden Park fieldhouse, with several community organizations and area businesses promoting products and services, four hours before the bike ride rolled out. Attendees who didn’t have their bikes could use donated bikes or loaners from Divvy.

Divvy bikes at the Roll N Peace ride. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Divvy bikes at the Roll N Peace ride. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Divvy bikes at the Roll N Peace ride. Photo: Igor Studenkov

Rebecca Moore, of Teamwork Englewood’s Women’s Initiative, noted that transportation inequity has been an issue in Englewood, pointing to the fact that the Racine/63rd Green Line ‘L’ station, which is located near Ogden Park, has been closed since 1994. Bicycles and dockless electric scooters can help address that, she said, by providing a "first/last mile” connection to and from stations, which is why she was happy to see Divvy expand into the community, and she's pleased that the 2020 e-scooter pilot includes Englewood. “Now, people are able to come out of their house, maybe walk over a block and get on a bike,” Moore said. Roll N Peace, she said, encourages more residents to bike, and she appreciates the fact that it promotes physical fitness.

Mayor Lightfoot showed up at around 5:20 PM. She didn’t give any statements, and city officials on site were quite adamant that she wouldn’t be taking any media questions. She simply let Perkins show her around the plaza, talked to residents and vendors and, towards the end of her visit, thanked the volunteers running the registration table. “[Organizing] this evening is never easy, so thank you for doing this,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot speaks with a young participant. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Lightfoot speaks with a young participant. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Lightfoot speaks with a young participant. Photo: Igor Studenkov

Perkins said that, while getting the mayor’s attention was never the goal, he was glad to have it. “It was dope,” he said. “It’s a good feeling, that people are recognizing our efforts.”

Alderman David Moore (17th), whose ward includes Ogden Park and parts of southern Englewood, said that he has been taking part in Roll N Peace rides since the beginning, both because he supported the mission and because he wanted to support Perkins as a fellow Simeon High School alumnus. He said he was pleased to see so many people attend, and he was particularly happy to see kids cruising around on bikes. “[Roll N Peace] increases bike ridership,” Moore said. “Most importantly, people who never meet one another meet one another, and they work together to build the community.”

Tynetta Williams lives in the Austin neighborhood, but she still considers Englewood, where she grew up, her home. She said that she wanted to take part in something that would challenge the popular image of Englewood, which ignores “a lot of positive Black people who live in Englewood."

We have to share it,” Williams said. “The name they give to Englewood – I was born and raised in Englewood, and we don’t deserve it. We want to be treated equally.” She took part in this year’s Juneteenth Roll n Ride, and it made her want to come back for more. "[The Juneteenth ride] was a beautiful experience that brought tears to my eyes. It was a dope, dope event.”

#bikechi #englewood #chicago @bikelaneuprise @WorkingBikes rolling pic.twitter.com/EQn5rgGdGR

— Critical Mass (@ChiCritMass) September 19, 2020

Crandon Miller grew up in Englewood and currently lives in Bronzeville. He said that he found out about the ride on Facebook, and he was happy to participate in something that brings peace to the community and supports the kids. “I love it,” he said. “There needs to be more of this, every week.”

Crandon Miller. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Crandon Miller. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Crandon Miller. Photo: Igor Studenkov

Hariett Davis recently moved to Chicago, and she wanted to get involved with the city’s cycling community. She found out about the event thanks to Bike Lake Uprising, and she was eager to participate. “So far, it’s nice,” she said about half an hour before the start times. “I like seeing people on bikes, I like seeing kids zip around on their bikes. It’s so cool.”

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