B.I.K.E.

I wanted to share something as we close out the month of May.

Many of you know that May is Bike Month. When I was at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, this meant that every single day was full of back-to-back events. We always ended the month with the amazing LA River Ride (there is still time to go to this year’s River Ride taking place this weekend on June 3, 2018!).

By June, I was completely exhausted, but also completely in love with my job. The month gave me a chance to connect and spend time with so many of our members and people in our larger bicycle community. It was also an important reminder of how much promise our movement has — and how much we are still falling short. To truly make transformational change for all people who bike, we have to go beyond a month. We also have to get beyond the narrative that the only people who bike, and are therefore worthy of our advocacy and celebration, are those who (too often self-righteously) make a lifestyle decision to do so. We have to get past a narrative that centers cisgender white maleness. We have to get past a narrative of exclusion. Once as a bicycle community we are able to get past these things, we will finally be to the heart of celebrating what Bike Month should truly be about. That’s what celebrating every single day on a bike should be about.

I carried this opinion into every room, every speech, and every action I took as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. This made me unpopular with some members of the bike coalition, some board members, and some people outside of LA who constantly critiqued that I was not talking enough about bikes. Talking about things like gender, queerness, race, and white supremacy scares people. It makes them uncomfortable. It makes them question your intelligence. Unfortunately, it rarely makes these same people dig deep and push beyond those questions towards understanding, compassion, confronting their own need to change, and equity. Because of that, I became rather used to the hate I received in various venues and formats.

So on March 21, 2018 when Streetsblog LA honored me during their 10th Anniversary celebration, I have to admit, I was a bit surprised. I was so used to being excluded by mainstream parts of the community, that deciding whether to be honored was tough. What if many of the genderqueer, low-income, folx of color that I was in community with thought I was selling out? What if this was just another case of tokenization? What if I didn’t feel free to say what was truly on my mind? Okay, I didn’t worry about that last one. That’s never a problem. But the other stuff truly worried me.

Ultimately, after chatting with my wife and my brain trust of women of color (heeeeey Biscuit Society), I decided I deserved the award. I decided I wouldn’t let people have the satisfaction of pushing me out of a community that I belonged to. A community that was better with me in it. A community that is bigger than one month or a few Bike Bros or Jealous Beckys. I decided to take the award.

To accept the award, I wrote a poem. If you’ve seen me speak before, you know I never write my speeches. But I didn’t want to get this wrong. So I wrote, B.I.K.E. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Bike Month!

B.I.K.E.

(Baby, I’m Keeping Everything)

I was a bit unclear if I should be here today

Folks who know me, know I’m never at a loss for what to say

Yet, I took the time to actually write this out

I wanted to make sure I didn’t just get up and rant and shout

I’m working on my yelling and overuse of the word fuck

I’m trading it in for swaddles, bedtime stories, and yellow bath ducks

See, come July, I’ll have a kid with my beautiful wife

And even though many of the people in this room have cut me without ever wielding a knife

I wanted to be here because I really freakin love bikes

Almost as much ya’ll love Scandinavian shit and I love dykes

But even more than that, I want my baby boy to know

That I’m here for him, not just this white folk self-congratulation show

Bike is an acronym on this rainy day of spring

It means: B(aby) I(m) K(eeping) E(verything)

I want my baby to know that being black is magic

I want my baby to know that the world is lying when they say it’s tragic

I want my baby to know that for their benefit, from you they will take

Then they disregard you, steal your ideas, and minimize your contributions and pain for their sake

They won’t see the hours you put in behind the scene

They won’t see the toll of emotional labor, the tears — they are way too mean

If they can get a bike lane on a public street, their cover is blown

They’ll have to admit they don’t care that you can be shot in your own backyard for holding your phone

Nonetheless, they’ll smile to your face

Blah blah blah. Equity. Pretend to care about race.

Then something pivotal will happen and they’ll have a chance

You tell them to step up and they get uncomfortable because they like it better when we dance

When we have opinions and actually think

They wonder why we can’t ignore racism, our lived experiences, and why we have to cause a stink

In reality the only thing that smells bad

Is an epic inability to see themselves fail, they get so sad

So when someone said, “you going to accept that award?”

I thought, yeah, I’m keeping it and I’m about to hoard

Put me on that A&E show where people keep it all and cling

Because Baby, I’m Keeping Everything

I’m keeping the doubt about all the local bike progress I’ve done

Because guess what? This award still says I won

I’m keeping the jealousy, hate and envy of the insecure delicate ones

I didn’t do this work for them, I can no longer console mediocrity. I’m done

I have to live in this body, in this space, in this country every single day

So I’m keeping their hate to fuel me as I continue to slay

I’m keeping the whispers and gossip that happen behind my back

Because I know it’s hard to completely appreciate my awesomeness when you’re afraid of black

I’m keeping my people who I do this for at the center of the work

I don’t have time for the Joes, the Marcs, and other generic jerks

I’m keeping the love for the folks of color who held it down way before me

That fact that they aren’t standing up here being praised shows me everything I need to see

I’m keeping the connections I made: Michelle, Naomi, Stephanie, Megan — my crew

I can’t forget the MCMs, the TRUSTs, the APIOPAs, the Untokenings, the BikeSGVs, the LACBC staff and all the folks of color, you know who you are, you know I see you

I’m keeping the knowledge that for many I’m a token

Because I know my purpose is to leave those folks awoken

Instead I just hear tiny violins about the white folks I’ve broken

But what about what they’ve done to me and all the POCs they’ve silenced for the truths we’ve spoken?

The thing is I’m keeping all of these things for my baby boy

I want him to know I wasn’t pushed out of this transpo world, I’m still here finding joy

I want him to know that his blackness is his gift

Creating change, staying strong, and enduring is not a process swift

There will be days he faces hate and isn’t sure he can make it

And that’s why when you have a chance to celebrate and be honored, you take that shit

I love my wife, I love this work, I love the promise of this city

And I almost let some bike bros and transpo chicks have me lose it all in the darkness of self-pity

I want to thank Streetsblog, Sahra, and the other honorees

But more than that I want to thank me

My son will be black, so he’ll go through this stuff too

And I want him to know, despite what they say there is nothing he can’t do

In fact, he’ll probably do it with swag and a bowtie (or dress) and be better in every way

He’ll do it at two times the risk and half as much pay

I want him to know his moms are fighters and we got thru it all for him

That’s right, WE are being honored, Kelly without you, I don’t know what I would have done with all the “thems”

Look, despite their best attempts, I’m here, I made it

Steetsblog LA at 10 years in, I’m going to celebrate every bit

But make no mistake, I’m standing here for one person, my son

Baby, we’re keeping everything — it kills um to see we’ve won