On Monday, Active Trans was out in support of Slow Roll Chicago’s second annual Big Marsh Freedom Ride, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The event was intened to pay homage to King by riding proudly for physical, mental and spiritual freedom.
But due to the wind chill advisory and temperatures in the single digits, the bike ride and stewardship activity were cancelled. The change to the scheduled activities did not diminish the energy and support for the Slow Roll Chicago community.
Joining with partners, community organizations and supporters, Slow Roll Chicago founders Jamal Julien and Oboi Reed gathered at the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum to celebrate King’s legacy and reflect on what that means to the Slow Roll Chicago movement and the greater community.
We listened and meditated on King’s “I have a Dream” speech and the inspiring remix by Bakermat, “One Day.”
Oboi Reed shared with the audience Slow Roll Chicago's dream and its connection to Dr. King’s vision.
As Reed explained, Slow Roll Chicago aims to dismantle the perception of bicycling as a luxury recreational activity and instead using it as a tool to improve neighborhoods, improve quality of life, reduce violence, increase economic opportunities, connect communities and create an affordable form of transportation.
Slow Roll Chicago inherently believes that mobility is a civil right and that all communities in Chicago should be walkable, bikeable and offer quality public transit.
In essence, Slow Roll Chicago is using bicycling as a vehicle for social justice.
Hosting the event at the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter museum was very fitting. The museum is named after the founder, organizer and leader of the first black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Randolph was a mentor to King and other civil rights activists, and is considered by many the father of the civil rights movement.
King's ties to Chicago are something we must remember.
He stayed in Chicago during the summer of 1966 and was part of the Chicago Freedom Movement. The movement protested and demanded the need to improve the quality of life -- housing access, education and job opportunity -- for African-Americans living in Chicago.
The dreams shared by Slow Roll Chicago are a continuation of what Randolph and King fought for.
Following our program at the museum, the group caravanned to the nearby developing eco-recreation park at Big Marsh for a quick tour.
Lauren Umek, Project Manager at Chicago Park District, gave us insight into current developments, as well as scheduled stewardship activities and expected completion dates. We toured the park, spotting a small group of deer, and freshly applied dirt and the park's new hills.
As discussed in a past blog post, there are legitimate concerns that Big Marsh will not be accessible to surrounding communities or people who lack a car.
Collaborating with community partners like Slow Roll Chicago, Active Trans is working to make sure Big Marsh is accessible.
As part of the Bikeways for All Campaign, Active Trans is looking to construct a seamless system of accessible low-stress bikeways throughout the city.
Big Marsh will be part of this improved Chicago bike network, giving residents a safe and low-stress method of accessing the park. Active Trans understands the need for bike equity -- so that everyone has better access to the power of bicycling.
Biking improves the local economy, cuts carbon emissions, reduces household budgets and makes riders healthier.
Upon returning from Big Marsh, we enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by REI and continued our discussions. Thanks to Slow Roll Chicago and community partners for hosting such a wonderful event and providing a space for us to honor and reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and what that means for us and Slow Roll Chicago.
We look forward to continuing our work to advocate for safe access to the exciting new park development at the Big Marsh site.
By Active Trans Advocacy Intern Viva Yeboah.