Brook Negussie on the University of Washington campus. Photos courtesy Brook Negussie.
This year’s national Youth Bike Summit kicked off with short, TED Talk-esq presentations by advocates, industry execs, a former Olympic track racer and others. After the polished professional speakers had given their spiels, a young man named Brook Negussie stepped up to the podium to share his own powerful story. A 19-year old freshman at University of Washington, Negussie has immigrated to SeaTac, Washington from Ethiopia when he was 9. When he was in high school he got involved with the Major Taylor Project, a program run by Cascade Bicycle Club that brings bike clubs to under-served schools in the Seattle area. The kids in Major Taylor learn bike repair skills, go on after school rides, participate in bigger ride events and races, and more. [Read The Bicycle Story’s interview with Major Taylor Project founder Ed Ewing.]
Speaking to the crowd of youth and adult advocates at the Summit, Negussie credited the Major Taylor Project for giving him the skills and motivation necessary to tackle any challenge. I sat down with Negussie at a coffee shop near the UW campus to learn more about his experience immigrating to the U.S., the role bikes have played in his life, Major Taylor’s impact and more.
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Photo Courtesy of Cascade Bicycle Club.Â
Cycling has a reputation for being a white manâ€™s sport, hobby, and transportation. Itâ€™s an image rooted in truthâ€”white people accounted for about 80 percent of the cycling population in the US as of 2009â€”but itâ€™s far from a complete picture. From 2001-2009, the rates of cycling among African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians grew far more than among whites. Ed Ewing is working hard to keep that trend going. He is Cascade Bicycle Clubâ€™s Director of Diversity and Inclusion and co-founder of the Major Taylor Project, a program that uses cycling to empower underserved youths in the Seattle-area.
I sat down with Ed at his office to talk about his work with the Major Taylor Project, how it got started, his history in racing, racism heâ€™s experienced as an African American cyclist, the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in cycling and bike advocacy, and much more. Through the course of our conversation, Ed dove deep. He discusses the systemic issues of race and discrimination, policies like neighborhood redlining, and poverty that shape the lives of the students he works with and explains how cycling is connected to all of it. As he says in the interview, itâ€™s always about more than just getting kids on bikes.
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Posted in Advocacy, Interviews, Racing
Tagged cascade bike club, diversity, ed ewing, equity, major taylor project, nelson vails, poverty, race and cycling, seattle, youth empowerment