“I wanted this kit to serve as a reminder that we aren't, never have been, and won't ever truly be alone because our collective experience IS our connection.” - Andrew Harris - Interview with the designers
Past, Present and Future. For each of us these words have resonance. In some way or another, they represent moments and experiences, lineage and legacy, hopes and fears. Our stories are different and diverse, but together they create a tapestry, we call humanity.
However, amidst the shared experience, the narrative is not always the same. There is a reason we take time each February to pause and remember Black History: it has been neglected. The same systemic oppression that created this history, suppressed it. There was and in many instances still is a gaping hole in our collective memory of the past. So in the present, we reflect. We celebrate. We honor.
“Taylor decided that the racism against him would become his motivation to win, not just for himself but also for the wider cause of equality for his race. That was a turning point in Taylor’s life…Major Taylor belongs among the pantheon of civil rights figures. He became a national and world champion a dozen years before Jack Johnson and a half-century before Jackie Robinson; he paved the way. ” - Michael Kranish - Major Taylor: The World's Fastest Man - Peloton Magazine
In cycling’s not so distant past, space had been reserved only for those in power, with wealth, and who were white. Men like Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor defied this, demanding a place in the annals of cycling history. He with many others paved the way for the present. A present where Major Taylor Iron Rider’s club successfully brings minority cyclists into the sport. In the case of Joshua Hartman, not simply into the sport, but to the top of it.
Read the article in VeloNews to learn more about Josh's story: Josh Hartman is cycling's comeback kid - “Joshua Hartman overcomes severe injuries and cycling's socioeconomic hurdles to become one of America’s next best track sprinters.”
Together, as we listen, as we learn, as we choose to celebrate and amplify, we emulate the legacy of leaders like Major Taylor, like Major Taylor Iron Riders, like Joshua Hartman.
“We've come from somewhere, we are here, and we're going someplace. This kit was always meant to be a celebration - of us, of Black culture and contribution, of the diaspora - of Black History.” - Andrew Harris - Interview with the designers
Complex, complicated and painful is our history in America. And at the same time, it is full of beauty. Beauty worth celebrating.
“I would love for this design to be largely embraced as a successful contribution to the many celebrations of Black History Month. As Black designers we're acutely aware that there is no singular "right" or "better" design when attempting this kind of project. What's significant for us personally is that this is another great example of something that is Black, celebrates Black, and designed by Black. Unification and togetherness was what we hoped to convey and I guess, achieve more of. And as always, we're interested in making a statement and designing something that people are proud to wear and feel empowered while wearing it - but also something that's just fire. These kits are fire.” - Andrew Harris - Interview with the designers
One of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month is to listen and learn. Here are a few more resources to help you along the way:
VeloNews Podcast - How Major Taylor Iron Riders Nurtures New Cyclists
Major Taylor Iron Riders - A Cycling Club that Carries a Proud Black Legacy on We Love Cycling
Read the book Desire Discrimination Determination – Black Champions in Cycling by Dr. Marlon Moncrieffe. Read the article from Dr. Moncrieffe on Bicycling: This Is the First Book About Black Bike Racers—by a Black Bike Racer—in 100 Years
“The same questions could be asked in the United States. The track sprint sensation Nelson Vails comes to my memory for the fact that he was an African American cyclist winning at home in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. But that was close to 40 years ago. Before Vails, the Black cycling superstar was Major Taylor. His feats are more than 100 years in the past; yet today, the same black-and-white photos of Taylor continue to pop up in reverential social media tributes. Taylor was phenomenal, and his story should be told and remembered. But this should not be the only narrative to represent Black desire and excellence in cycling.
If you are African American, at least there is an icon or two in the sport of cycling as reference points. Today, the Williams brothers, Justin and Cory of L39ion, are shifting people’s focus to a new narrative of Black excellence in professional cycling. However, if you are a Black British cycling athlete looking to find a mirror of inspiration from the past, there is no one obvious. On the other hand, young white cyclists who are looking into the mirror of inspiration as a reference point have a full chronology of representative champions in the sport.” - Dr. Marlon Moncrieffe
American Cycling Has a Racism Problem - How Racism has Shaped the History and Present of Bicycle Use by Nathan Cardon, associate professor of U.S. History and the co-director of the Centre for the Study of North America at the University of Birmingham, England
Poor and Black ‘Invisible Cyclists’ Need to be Part of Post-Pandemic Transport Planning too by Julian Agyeman, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University
- Major Taylor Journal: The Evolution of an Ally by Drew Lee
- Learn about the Adinkra Symbols that inspired these designs: