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Black United Fund, Equiticity team up for a bike ride to promote cooperative economics

Riders at the lakefront. Photo: Mia Park

Last Saturday, the South Shore-based based nonprofit The Black United Fund of Illinois, teamed up with the mobility justice advocacy organization Equiticity to host a ride entitled BUFI Bikes the Shore for Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). According to its mission statement, The Black United Fund of Illinois' aim is "to improve the quality of life for African Americans through reliance on self-help at the local community level."

The ride webpage explained that the purpose of the eight-mile, two-hour community tour was "to symbolize economic unity within the South Shore community and Chicagoland area. This is not simply a demonstration of unity; It is designed to inspire the community, while embracing the human spirit with empowerment and resources.” According to Equiticity leader Oboi Reed, ujamaa, the fourth principal of the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa, means "local people cooperating with each other to provide for the essentials of living" and "to build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.”

Carolyn Day. Photo: Mia Park
Carolyn Day. Photo: Mia Park
Carolyn Day. Photo: Mia Park

Carolyn Day, executive director of BUFI, explained that biking became an important community development tool for the organization as an initial response to last year's civil unrest in the wake of the wake of the George Floyd police murder. “People had unused energy that wasn’t productive.” She felt that if people rode bikes, they would get physical activity, increase their oxygen intake, and be healthier. Day also noted that biking highlights respiratory health challenges in a community that has been heavily impacted by COVID-19.

Day added that the BUFI partnership with Equiticity also helps raise awareness of mobility justice issues in South Side communities. “If we bike, walk, or ride public transportation, we can always attach economic development in the neighborhood.”

The ride leaves the BUFI headquarters. Photo: Mia Park
The ride leaves the BUFI headquarters. Photo: Mia Park
The ride leaves the BUFI headquarters. Photo: Mia Park

The Bike the Shore ride also highlighted BUFI’s fundraising campaign. The organization hopes to connect with philanthropy-minded people who want to invest social capital, financial capital, and other forms of support. In addition, the event served as the formal kick off for BUFI's workplace giving campaign, which encourages resident to donate to the nonprofit via payroll deductions.

Reed explained that Bike the Shore connects to economic equality because academic research shows that the more people bike or shop "hyper-locally," the more people want to stay in their neighborhoods. The more people stay in their neighborhoods, the more retail and jobs are created. Hyper-local biking, he says, brings vibrancy to a neighborhood and deters violence, which builds trust. With trust, residents will become more engaged economically with their neighborhood. "Community mobility rituals" such as Bike the Shore are intended to promote this.

Biking the Shore this past Saturday - what a beautiful day in South Shore and beyond. Thank you to @BUFIorg and @equiticity for hosting the ride. pic.twitter.com/xlToaEcjky

— Erick (@EJ_Jacobs) September 29, 2021

The ride began on a perfect autumn day at the BUFI headquarters, 1809 E. 71st Street, with stretches and refreshments. About 30 riders biked north on the Lakefront Trail to Promontory Point using personal bicycles and bike-share cycles provided by Divvy. Most riders displayed the tricolor Pan-African flag on their bicycles, and the banners waved in the gentle breeze. Most riders paused for a group photo on the lakefront and then quickly continued the ride, promoting ujamaa along the way.

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