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We Ride Juntos!

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“We Ride Juntos”, the Greater Lawndale ‘s 3rd annual community bike ride, brought together over 100 participants this past Labor Day for about eight miles of cross-cultural fun.  Such an event was the outcome of a pool of bike enthusiasts from Slow Roll Chicago, Lawndale Christian Fitness Center, Working Bikes, Esperanza Health Centers, Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Divvy, Boxing Out Negativity, Violence Prevention Collaborative, Acting-Up and Universidad Popular.

La Villita Park was the starting and ending point, after passing through various neighborhoods in North and South Lawndale (including Universidad Popular’s community center, Manuel Perez Plaza, 26th Street Commercial Corridor, Lawndale Christian Fitness Center and Health Center, the Douglas Boulevard and  Park, and La Villita Park, among others. This bike ride brought North and South Lawndale community members together, including city wide cyclists who participate in bike riding events to promote safe neighborhoods and family bike riding.

North and South Lawndale should share more than their names. The daring bike riders typically find themselves navigating through many complex barriers splitting these two communities. Some of these barriers are physical (such as unlit viaducts, neglected thoroughfares, not to mention wide state roads such as Ogden Ave.) while others are more dynamic or movable such as gang boundaries, their colors, graffiti and ethnicity: Race, color, nationality, ethnicity – these fixtures continue to build barriers on top of the physical barriers that separate our neighborhoods. For this reason, we strengthened our ability to break these obstacles at least for one day in hopes that it will encourage our community members to grab a bicycle to a ride without the overbearing fear of risking their lives.

This year’s success was due to strong participation not only from locals but also from visiting riders from far-away places such as Hinsdale in Du Page County. The barriers are a reality embedded in the resident’s daily life; nevertheless, our bike ride did not only address this daily struggle but it bridged both communities’ assets and identities while creating a safe space for our youth to interact with one another, and enjoy what these two communities have to offer.

This event allowed us to focus outdoor travel along two communities segregated by broken lights, potholes and unwelcoming BNSF (METRA) Railway overpasses. On this day, we rode through neighborhoods with pride and joy waving at our neighbors and fellow community residents. This ride engaged self-reflection while community residents set their eyes on a bicycle parade of multicultural encumbrance that sits heavily on stereotypical thoughts that plague our communities.

Yearly, on this day, We Ride “Juntos” unites to show our youth, family and friends that we can live in peace one street at a time and tell a story of two community brought together in a unified safe space-OUR STREETS.