A Story on Public Space
On Monday, July 15 I went to a 6:30 p.m. peace ride/rally in honor of Trayvon Martin that started in Ladera Heights and was to end at Inglewood City Hall. The ride was put on by Jeremiah Hardwell of Elite Ambitions. Elite Ambitions is a service cycling club. A cycling club with a purpose.
When I got to the starting point of the ride outside the TGI Fridays in Ladera Heights I was greeted by Harold Clark. He had on a #peace t-shirt, then Hardwell, with the same shirt, rides up with his mom and older brother falling him in their white four door sedan.
“That’s my mom,” stated Hardwell as he smiled and pointed. His mother waved back enthusiastically.
I thought it was the most adorable thing for Hardwell to bring his mom. It is so Inglewood.
“This is a peace ride for Travyon Martin, but it doesn’t stop here. We’re going to ride from Inglewood to New York Times’ Square and volunteer at homeless shelters along the way and bring awareness to what needs support, like the Inglewood Unified School District,” said Hardwell.
Hardwell and Clark are from Inglewood.
I went to this ride instead of Leimert Park’s event, because I wanted to support political activism in my hometown. Owing to many oppressive policies in Inglewood you rarely see any political action. You don’t see even really calm ones where people invite their mother to follow them along and honk.
This seemed like a very calm and safe way to honor Travyon’s memory and to support young people from Inglewoodland being awesome and moving forward with an actual plan.
They took off on time at 6:30 p.m. with Hardwell’s mother Ms. Josephine honking, smiling and following them.
Two other cyclists from Black Kids On Bikes (BKOB) Samuel James Bankhead III and Michael McDonald rode up. They waited for the straggler cyclists since more members of BKOB where on their way to support.
When I got to Inglewood City Hall I ran into Andrea Edwards, a supporter of Elite Ambitions, setting up candles at the World War II Memorial on the front lawn of Inglewood City Hall. Edwards is a pre-med student at Charles Drew University.
“I can’t believe I’m back here. I went to school right over there, “ she said looking back with a smile at Inglewood High School.
Edwards is from Florida. She moved to Inglewood as a 16-year-old and she was not surprised at the Zimmerman verdict. “That is how it is down there,” she said in a lowered tone.
As I helped Edwards set up the candles and keep an eye out for other cyclists. I wondered where Clark and Hardwell were. I had followed their cycling route.
“They are probably making circles around the neighborhood,” said Edwards.
As the BKOB rolled up we all talked about race, the USA and the south and how it needed to get itself together.
“My parents were grown when Jim Crow got overturned. Were they surprised [at the verdict]? Actually, they were, they thought it would be a reduced charge. Then my mom pointed out according to the ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ law, it takes away the possibility of excessive force,” said Tahra Chatard a member of BKOB who came to L.A. from Seattle via Atlanta after graduating from Spelman College.
As a person from Inglewood who understands how the Inglewood Police Department works in the back of my mind I kept thinking something is wrong. I knew it was taking way too long for two young, fast cyclists to get to City Hall. Their mother was following them in the car and it was getting dark.
My suspicion was soon confirmed.
“[They] got arrested. They took Jeremiah and Harold in, but Jeremiah is very adamant about us continuing with this [peace rally]. He was very adamant about us continuing to do what we set out to do,” said Avan Hardwell, Jeremiah’s brother who witnessed the arrest.
I wanted to cry. I just didn’t understand. Why can’t we be treated like human beings in our own city. I wanted to storm the police station, but the black men in the group with very calm demeanors gave me, maybe not body gestures…I guess they knew how to deal with this kind of thing. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. I knew the black men would get hurt first, so I composed myself and stood there and was a reporter.
We all sat in circle and his bowed our head while Ms Josephine gave a prayer, though I’m agnostic, I prayed too.
“He is my youngest son. We were encouraging him in his [peace ride]. This boy has courage and boldness,” said Ms Josephine in talking about her baby boy.
I couldn’t believe they went to jail for impeding traffic during a peace ride when their mother was following them in the car.
No news crews.
No, for Inglewood and more particularly, for black men there are no “allowed to be wacky” moments.
You’re not allowed to ride your bike on the freeway.
You’re not allowed to make DIY sharrows.
You are only allowed to go to work and come home, unless you like jail.
In Inglewood the public streets aren’t for us, the black and brown people who are from and live in Inglewood.
A gang injunction that covers the entire city by our legal department and signed off on by our city council, an oppressive mayor and cops that dance to his tune make sure of that.
In Inglewood we’re left to fend for ourselves. How do you convince the D.A. that a black mayor is racist?
IPD held Clark and Hardwell overnight. I spoke to Hardwell when he got out the next day. He was in good spirits. He wasn’t angry.
“The police said I should have called them and told them ahead of time. I gave the mayor the press release, so I thought it was OK, but next I will call the Inglewood Police Department,” said Hardwell.
Inglewood PD training young black men to think they need to inform the authorities before a two person peace rally bike ride on a not so crowded street.
“I thank Trayvon for this experience. I’m going to do something. I’m going to make a difference,” said Hardwell.
And that folks is how it is in Inglewood.
Morningside Park Chronicle
Friday, 19 July 2013