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An Invitation to People Serious About Equity: Founder and CEO of Black Leaders Detroit, Dwan Dandridge, Reflects on the Ride for Equity and Mackinac Policy Conference

Less than one month ago, Sept. 12-18, Dwan Dandridge, founder and chief executive officer of Black Leaders Detroit, rode his bike from Marygrove College in Detroit to Mackinac City.  

In an interview with the Detroit Regional Chamber, Dandridge shared that the Ride for Equity was originally supposed to launch from one of the two Black-owned marinas in Detroit and continue for 52 miles across the city. When the group’s special events approval took longer than anticipated, Dandridge decided to postpone that event and ride 377 miles to Mackinac City instead. 

His goal? To raise money for Black Leaders Detroit’s mission and raise awareness of the need for equal access to capital for Black entrepreneurs.  

When asked why he chose to ride a bike to achieve these goals, Dandridge said it’s because of two things: he likes to ride his bike, and many of the people he rides with “have the heart of an activist.” 

“Many of the people that ride, they’re passionate about something, and they look to use some of the energy and their influence to problem solve. So, it seemed like a good fit…something they’re already connected to,” Dandridge said. 

Fifteen riders joined him on day one of the Ride for Equity. New riders and supporters joined on subsequent days, including people who only heard about the bike ride as the group rode through their town. Dandridge said this support, especially from certain communities, surprised him. 

 “We’re still coming down from a very polarizing election, and just seeing people take a hard position on what side they’re on, you can’t help but start to align yourself with a side and view people that you think may vote different than you as being on the other side,” Dandridge said, “As we rode through different cities and different communities, the reception we received from the people we interacted with was so warm. We had people, when they found out why we’re riding, they signed up to donate. I’m talking about white people. And it just really started to challenge and combat the narrative I have in my mind about how some people would receive me or Detroit or Black Leaders Detroit.” 

Ride for Equity raised between $113,000 to $120,000, according to Dandridge. Although the ride did not meet its $250,000 goal, Dandridge still views it as a success, especially since it was such a last-minute fundraiser. 

In addition to raising money towards Black Leaders Detroit’s mission to raise $1 million a week, the Ride for Equity also allowed Dandridge to connect with political, philanthropic, and business leaders face-to-face at the Mackinac Policy Conference.  

“We feel like that’s really our approach to problem-solving—an invitation to everyone that’s serious about the work—working on it with us. Us, seeing what other people are doing and how we can support their efforts. Those conversations have gone well,” Dandridge said. 

Although the conversations at the Conference went well, Dandridge said he and Black Leaders Detroit are more focused on the actions that come away from the talks.

“I don’t get moved by speeches; I get moved by action. One of the things we want people to know is we’re serious enough to do a symbolic ride. It actually put myself at risk because I have a pacemaker because of a heart condition I have, but that’s how serious we are at Black Leaders Detroit about creating equal opportunity and equal access to capital. We hope that as a community and as a state we’re all serious about it and that we really walk away with some solutions,” Dandridge said.  

For people interested in supporting Black Leaders Detroit and its mission, Dandridge encourages signing up to donate $1 a week or $52 a year at blackleadersdetroit.org. 

He also said they need help figuring out how to build transparency with the work and planning being done by both his organization and others striving to be equitable in their work.  

“I don’t believe in asking people to trust me or this as an organization. I’d rather invite people to watch us. If we are who we say we are, we should be comfortable with people watching us and asking really difficult, hard questions, and we should be able to respond to those. It would be helpful for us to embrace that from across the board,” Dandridge said. “Let’s welcome people to ask the questions that make us uncomfortable, that really hold our feet to the fire if we say that we’re about equity so that if we’re not doing the right thing, it can be caught as quick as possible so we can pivot and make sure we are doing things in an equitable way.”