Community Leader Highlight: Shawnee Dez

Chicago is known as being one of the best cities for bicycling. We owe it to our cycling communities for sharing the joy of getting around on two wheels. We're highlighting community leaders who are making positive changes in their communities.

Meet Shawnee, organizer of Black Joy Ride. Black Joy Ride is a yearly mass bike ride with a mission of getting BIPOC folks on bikes.

What community (and or) organization are you representing?

My name is Shawnee Dez and I am the founder of the Black JoyRide. The Black JoyRide is a yearly mass bike ride organized to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday. Taking place on the South Side of Chicago, the BJR is a direct response to the violence and segregation experienced by Black communities, focused on amplifying the visibility of Black joy. In addition to our annual celebration, we host small community rides giving folks the opportunity to expand their personal communities and find new cycling buddies.

What hidden gems are hidden within your community?

Genuine support! Folks that come out to ride have a genuine desire to share space and be in a relationship with the community. This energy is powerful.

Who taught you how to ride a bike?

If my memory serves me correctly, my cousin Parrysh. She's just a year and some change older than I and I remember her helping me up when I'd fall, always cheering me on!

What's your earliest cycling memory?

My earliest cycling memory is riding my bike from my grannys' (Granny Rochelle) house to my great aunt's (granny's sister "Grandma Willetta") house. These two lived just a few blocks away but I remember the ride feeling like a leap out of my comfort zone, which consisted of riding just around the block. The freedom of being old enough and trusted enough to ride alone for several blocks was empowering.

What's your favorite cycling memory?

My favorite cycling memory would have to be the 1st annual Juneteenth Black Joy Ride. Riding in a group of some 200/ 300+ cyclists was the most wonderful, liberating, powerful feeling I've experienced on a bike. To take up so much space and to be in celebration of our community here and those before us was a beautiful moment.