A picture is not worth 1,000 words, it only has meaning in the company of words.
Words, on the other hand, need no pictures because they generate them in your mind the moment you read them.
So, to recap: words > pictures.
Still, there are times that pictures do things that words can’t. One of those times was yesterday, and another one of those times was in July, when Yasuko and I joined the monthly Feed the Hungry Ride put on by John Jones and his East Side Riders Bicycle Club in Watts.
Although it’s called Feed the Hungry, the hungry aren’t necessarily the people who receive the food. The hungry are also the people handing out the food, and we’re hungry for the humanity that comes from connecting, even for a few seconds, with other people.
The other people who are hungry are the parents in Watts who see the difficulties and dangers faced by their children, and who want alternatives to the well-worn paths of drugs, violence, and disrupted education. Feed the Hungry rides exist so that kids can participate in something meaningful and fun.
Bikes can transport you to other places than the supermarket. They can transport you to a better life as well. When you see a kid interface naturally with a stranger, handing out a sack lunch and water, you understand that if the world you’re trying to build doesn’t incorporate children, you’ve lost the game before you’ve even begun.
And just when you start to get downhearted at the sight of so much poverty, you get uplifted when you see what relentless organizing and advocacy can achieve. In a few short years, groups like John’s have brought significant redevelopment to some of the poorest parts of Watts. New low income and market-rate housing is being built along Century in conjunction with the kind of businesses that attract growth.
None of these changes happened overnight, and most of the people who advocated for these changes were simultaneously operating on the micro-level of individual assistance as well: the churches and non-profits feeding the homeless, fighting addiction and homelessness, were the same groups politicking for structural changes in their corner of the city. Through the small picture, the big picture takes shape.
But the biking?
Although not a beatdown in the traditional cycling sense, these rides are a total beatdown. It’s hot, the pace is slow, and you continually start, stop, dismount, remount, watch for traffic, talk with people, keep a razor sharp lookout, and crawl along the blazing asphalt. Nor are the rides quickly over. Expect to drink a lot of water and spend a solid three hours on your bike. If you aren’t beat to hell at the end … well, don’t worry. You will be.
There’s a lot I could say about participating in these rides. But you know what? I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.
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