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Water Stories #4: The Black Liberation Ride

Blog Post
The Black Liberation Ride centers Black joy and cycling on the streets of Portland.

The Black Liberation Ride gathered hundreds of Portlanders of color together to celebrate Juneteenth in Northeast Portland. Ride co-organizer Stephen Marea says the checklist to participate in the ride was pretty short; they were looking for riders who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color and have a bike, a helmet, and a water bottle. “We want to make sure they stay hydrated because it’s an incredibly hot day today and we want to make sure everyone has water,” Marea said. (Story continues below video.)

Free reusable bottles, full of Portland tap water, were available to participants before the ride started. The Black Liberation Ride is in its fifth year. Ride organizers welcomed the Portland Water Bureau to feature the ride in its “Portland Water Stories” series, which looks to elevate the voices from marginalized communities and show how they relate to water. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Marea says he wanted the annual ride to continue. Then after weeks of protesting, both locally and nationally, over the death of George Floyd from a Minneapolis police officer, Marea knew the ride had to happen.

“This ride is already way bigger than the ride was last year,” Marea said as he glanced over the crowd of hundreds, compared to a few dozen the year before. “There’s a lot of protesting going on, but we want the ride to focus on Black joy.” Ride organizers teamed up with Portland’s bikeshare company BIKETOWN to provide access to interested riders who didn’t have a bike.

The nonprofit Community Cycling Center set up a maintenance booth to take care of rider’s bikes before they rolled out. “We tried to make it accessible. There were plenty of people on the Facebook page that were offering and trying to connect people with bikes,” said ride co-organizer Jené Eldridge. “There’s power in numbers, so this ride is for us, by us