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Black Leaders Detroit Challenges Michiganders to “Speak for Themselves” During Annual Bike Trip to Mackinac Policy Conference

Most Mackinac Policy Conference attendees travel to the Conference by car. Others travel by airplane. But a growing number of attendees are opting to travel by bike in the name of exercise and equity, now with even more welcoming opportunities for frank and critical conversations.

Ride for Equity is a seven-day bike ride from Detroit to Mackinaw City that brings awareness to the importance of equitable funding practices and raises money for Black Leaders Detroit, which awards grants and no-interest loans to black-led businesses and organizations in Detroit.

It is a now-annual tradition that started just before the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference, led by Dwan Dandridge, founder and chief executive officer of Black Leaders Detroit.

What is an impressive stride in itself is immediately followed by concerns for safety, especially for the participants of color, like Dandridge, who train and travel for the event by themselves in sometimes rural areas in Michigan.

“When you’re training for something like this, you ride, have a thought like ‘I should probably be armed riding through here, right?’ and then you keep riding,” Dandridge said. “And you have another thought like ‘…suppose you have a confrontation with someone…and then what?’ And then you keep riding on.”

This “sequence of thoughts” is a reality for many people of color and other minorities when they travel, especially alone, or are the only person like themselves in the room. However, during that same ride, Dandridge realized his own biases, which sparked the idea of adding Speak for Yourself forums to this year’s ride.

“It dawned on me that these people are not thinking about me. And even when I went for the ride with my team, everyone we encountered was welcoming with no exceptions,” Dandridge said. “It combated the narrative that I have in my mind about what I should expect when I’m in these spaces. And that sparked the idea to host conversations in some of the places where we will be staying overnight.”

Hosted in cities like Lapeer, Cadillac, and Petoskey, Speak for Yourself will give all people an opportunity to tell their stories and address issues dealing with equity and inclusion. During these forums, Dandridge will encourage attendees to come with open, frank questions that they would be “uncomfortable with asking under normal circumstances” or would not “have had the opportunity to ask” otherwise.

“We’ll give one another grace to ask and answer those questions that might even feel a little bit embarrassing,” Dandridge explained. “It’s an opportunity to really get to know each other and start a dialogue that hopefully will lead to some relationships.”

There are simple and effective ways to continue equitable business building in Detroit, even for those who are not so confident in their biking endurance. Dandridge suggests “donating a dollar a week” to equitable funds like Black Leaders Detroit, which has awarded over $568,000 in no-interest loans to businesses such as Good Cookies, Ton Development, and Detroit Regional Chamber member Danielle North of Kidz Kingdom.

For more information on joining a Speak for Yourself event and Black Leader Detroit, visit blackleadersdetroit.org.


Related:

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