With a background in planning and architecture, LaKeisha Henderson noticed something problematic in the way communities with under-represented and minority populations were being talked about, particularly in the media.
Stories about violence and drugs often dominate narratives at the expense of focusing on the lived experiences of the people and culture of communities, she said.
“At the root of it, I just felt like a lot of communities had a lot of undiscovered gems or even history that people who live in the communities knew about, but that other people who did not have any connection, tie, or even experience … that they were not aware of,” she said.
“I wanted to have the tour be a way to informally … highlight the legacy, history and culture of communities and spaces, specifically historically black communities and spaces,” she said.
On Saturday morning, a group of about 10 people hopped on bikes at an RVA Bike Share station on Grace Street and set out for what would be about a 10-mile journey through Richmond, with stops at Highland Park and Jackson Ward, among other locations.
Henderson led the group, which was joined by Richmond artist Hamilton Glass. Throughout the tour, he spoke about his murals and the work of others in the local arts community.
“I remember when I first painted this,” Glass said, standing in front of a mural near the intersection of Meadowbridge Road and Craigie Avenue in Highland Park that depicts a dove and a pigeon with crowns over their heads.
“People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Man, that is beautiful, but it’s going to be tagged up as soon as you leave’ — and here it is like four years later and it’s still pristine,” he said. “I think that speaks a lot to what it brings to the community and how they protect it.”
A bit later, at Battery Park, Glass spoke about the history of a mural project in a tunnel dedicated to famed tennis player Arthur Ashe, who was from Richmond. The mural was unveiled last year.
“If you can believe it or not, we had 60 volunteers in this tunnel painting it,” said Glass, speaking to the group on a hill overlooking the park. “It’s painted from floor to ceiling.”
The mural highlights major dates and milestones in Ashe’s career, as well as a depiction of Ashe himself and quotes from the tennis champion, who died in 1993.
“The awesome part about this is while painting this, there were a lot of community members who came down and talked about Arthur Ashe because they knew him,” Glass said.
The U.N.I.T.Y. Street Project — which Glass is part of — helped lead the creation of the Ashe mural. The initiative’s name stands for Upholding, Networking and Inspiring Togetherness in celebration of Yesterday.
“It’s supposed to be used as a platform to help gain traction on a lot more of these community-based projects that specifically talk to the community where the murals are being displayed,” Glass said.
Crystal Wolverton and Duane Smith attended Saturday’s tour after finding out about it on Instagram. They also said they had been looking for a social cycling community.
Smith said he appreciated hearing Glass’ perspective.
“This was a viewpoint of someone who has been involved in and understood the system [and] educated us on that,” Smith said following the postride meal at Maya Mexican Grill and Tequila Lounge. “You could really tell that not only did he truly care about the work itself. It’s way bigger than that — he cares about the community, he cares about the artists, he cares about the city.”
Clifford Chambliss III, who drove down from Washington to visit his family in Richmond and go on the tour, said he follows Glass on Instagram and had seen a post about the bike tour.
“There was a very communal feel to the experience,” he said. “Being a native of Richmond, Richmond has always been my family — and this just seemed like part of weaving into the fabric of that family and being a part of Richmond.”
After the tour, Henderson said a takeaway for her was building relationships with community members like Glass. She said she wants to find people whose work the tours can amplify, and who can, in turn, amplify the aims of the tours.
Henderson currently runs regular Bike and Brunch tours in Baltimore, and said she would like to see monthly tours offered in Richmond. She has also set her sights on trying to offer some tours in Charlotte, N.C.
To Henderson, the tours aren’t a formal occasion. The focus is on the communities.
“I tell people that when we roll off, we are going to visit communities,” she said. “Treat them as if you are entering someone’s home, and that you’re a guest who has been welcomed into someone’s home — then extend that courtesy that you would accordingly.”
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Original Article: https://www.richmond.com/news/local/city-of-richmond/bike-and-brunch-tour-offers-a-new-experience-of-richmond/article_050160d5-070a-535b-a9f8-7874938cd649.html