Better requires work: Remarks from Stephanie Puello, co-organizer of the Denver Solidarity Rides
The Denver Solidarity Rides are hosted by a collective of bicyclists in the Mile High City. We use the bicycle as a vehicle to protest and call attention to the violence disproportionately affecting Black people and people of color at the hands of police in America. We ride for racial justice, equity, and solidarity. So far, the group has hosted five bike rides in the Denver area, the first took place in June and the latest took place on Sunday, August 30.
Stephanie Puello, one of the co-organizers, has been involved with planning and speaking at these rides and is also the founder and co-leader of the Denver chapter of Black Girls Do Bike.
In her address to Sunday’s participants, she shares what the Black Lives Matter movement means to her and how she believes we can all be more meaningfully engaged in the struggle for racial and social justice.
Bicycle Colorado was proud to play a supporting role in these peaceful rides. We know that acknowledging the importance of equity is not enough; we must actively work toward it. Offering our time and support was a small gesture in that effort.
Please read on for Stephanie’s full speech at the latest Denver Solidarity Ride.
Thank you all for riding with us. This was our fifth ride this summer, so I’m starting to recognize some returning faces and appreciate your continued support. My name is Stephanie and among other things I co-lead the Denver chapter of Black Girls Do Bike.
I’m here today because I am justifiably angry and honestly demoralized by the constant violence Black people continue to face in the US and globally. The words often fail me when trying to describe the pain caused by the traumatic conditions and bullshit Black people have to deal with everyday. I become consumed with frustration, wrath, fear, guilt and hopelessness. And the only thing that helps me cope is my somewhat irrational belief that things can and will get better if people commit themselves to doing better.
But better requires work. It requires critical self-reflection, it requires engagement and reckoning with our own oppressive practices, and in doing that, maybe, we can find new opportunities for radical transformation and formative action.
No matter who you are, what you do for a living, or how nice or non-racist you think you may be, we all have to actively commit to dismantling anti-Blackness and all contours of oppression. And I am here because I am committed to that mission. I am personally committed to political education and development, and to building greater consciousness and community.
Our collective freedom is contingent on our staunch commitment to ending our complicity in structures that continue to kill, oppress, brutalize, and dehumanize Black people—seemingly with no consequence.
This isn’t just about cops. This isn’t just about a few aberrant individuals. This is about systemic injustice, this is about exploitation, this is about neocolonialism, this is about neoliberalism, this is about racial capitalism, this is about imperialism, this is about legislated hate. This is about how these notions bind together to deny us the right to live free, meaningful and actualized lives.
The same forces that allow killer cops off the hook, are the same forces that shape and maintain disparities in education, health care, income, employment, food security, shelter, environmental health, and political power.
This is not a coincidence or an accident. The over surveillance of Black neighborhoods is not an accident. Neither are redlining practices, neither is gentrification, neither is mass incarceration, neither is gerrymandering, neither are stop-and-frisk laws, neither is housing segregation, neither are predatory loans, neither is cash bail, nor the fact that coronavirus is currently disproportionately killing people of color in the US. This is not by accident.
Enough is enough. At this point, there is no middle ground. We cannot wrestle concessions, we need to demand justice. And if we don’t get it, we’ll shut it down.
So long as justice is denied, we’ll shut it down.
So long as institutional agendas don’t reflect or prioritize our needs, we’ll shut it down.
So long as they keep getting away with murder, we’ll shut it down.
We can’t merely believe that systems have to change, we have to rise with indignation and demand it. We wield the ultimate power. We cannot allow systems of oppression to continue hindering our pursuit of change and liberation.
My ask of you is that you all continue committing to concrete actions and engaging in these conversations. Do not let this movement flare and fade.
First: Have these discussions among your families, with your children, at work, at church, at the thanksgiving table, in your cycling groups, everywhere. Keep learning, unlearning and relearning. On our Facebook page, Denver Solidarity Rides, there’s a listing with a number of organizations to donate to and get involved with. There are books to read, podcasts to listen to, and Instagram pages to follow.
Second: Distribute your wealth, land, and power. As a gentle reminder, no matter how hard you may work, much of those resources and opportunities you have access to today were seized from or denied to Black and Indigenous people.
Third: Call your representatives and demand that they redirect funds to social programs and community safety.
Fourth: Hold each other accountable and confront racism. Don’t hold back because you think your mom means well, or because your grandparents paid your tuition, or because you want to keep the peace, or because it’s uncomfortable. You cannot afford to be silent. Our collective freedom requires collective courage.
And finally, take care of yourselves and each other. I’m a big believer in collectivism. We have to build people power to promote understanding and healing, and to ultimately challenge and dismantle structural racism. And please remember that Black lives matter and the struggle continues long after the hashtag stops trending.
Stephanie Puello pictured in our Why I Ride photo series in 2019. Photo courtesy Jenn Piccolo.
You can learn more about and support Black Girls Do Bike by clicking here, and you can learn about what the Denver chapter is up to by visiting their Facebook Page.
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