By Allison Schroeder and Lauren LeClaire
The women of Levine Law Group Racing not only tear it up in professional American criterium racing, they also excel as biomedical engineers, nurses, law students, non-profit workers, and more. After celebrating their first year as a standalone domestic women’s crit team in 2019, the LLG Racing ladies were ready to take on the national race calendar in 2020 and chase the top step of the podium in their signature Eliel pink race kits. But while the dominance of #pinkwatts has been put on pause due to COVID, these women united in support of a powerful cause, and now join us here today to share the story of their Coast to Coast for NAACP effort.
The tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 inspired an influx of protests and outrage, focused not only on this specific and unjust use of police brutality, but the thousands that have come before.
As women in the sport of cycling, we are oftentimes considered a part of the minority among mostly white males. We are, at times, afforded less opportunities, less income, less prize money and even sometimes, less credibility. It can be a frustrating, uphill battle towards equality.
That said, in the midst of the protests in the first few weeks of June, the women of the Levine Law Group team understood that we couldn’t possibly imagine what Black Americans were going through, or had gone through in this country. Seeing protests marching down our streets, a social media movement fighting police brutality, and the day of silence on June 2nd, we felt we needed to contribute to the racial injustice movement.
We felt we had a duty to stand up for what is right – to use our voice and our platform to help move the world forward.
During the same time, in the first few weeks of June, we were also learning of new cancellations of our racing events. Some of us were experiencing dwindling motivation to train with each announcement, and paired with the isolation caused by the global pandemic, and now the events and impacts of police brutality, it was a lot to process. After discussions as a team, we drummed up the idea of doing some sort of riding challenge to raise money for racial justice, while helping us regain the motivation to ride, and also being able to help highlight our sponsors as they stood with us during this challenge.
Suddenly, there was a light in the midst of the darkness of these times. We had something to organize, to plan, to execute to help do our part to make the world a better place and keep ourselves doing the activity that we love the most, riding.
With our riders living all across the country, and even in Canada, we came up with the idea of riding “Coast to Coast” and telling the stories of victims of police brutality that had occurred in each region that we would be virtually passing through. We researched various organizations which help fight racial injustice and settled on the NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund, a group that fits well with our title sponsor, Levine Law Group, and a group whose mission we felt was extremely important and relevant as they seek structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society which fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans.
Beyond the miles, the organization, and the stories of police brutality, we wanted to focus on a statistic people would remember. To represent the statistic that Black women are 2.8 times as likely to be arrested by police than white women¹, we found it fitting that our coast to coast challenge would take us approximately 2,800 miles.
So that became our goal: to help educate our followers on statistics on police brutality, not only of men, but also of women.
So we rode.
For 12 days, our riders pushed their limits in mileage volume, riding in rainstorms and up mountain passes, doing whatever it took to get our team from coast to coast.
Our sponsors – Eliel Cycling, Levine Law Group, Lazer, Ryder’s Eyewear, and Maurten – stood next to us throughout each one of those 12 days, supporting our efforts and offering up raffle prizes as incentives for our followers to donate to our fund.
We raised over $5,000 dollars for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and rode over 4,000 miles. We’re proud of our team, the miles we rode, the money raised for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the attention we brought with our stories on racial injustice. You can read the stories we shared and learn more about each day of the challenge on our website, pinkwatts.com
Even though the challenge ride is over, we hope to continue to look at what actions we can take, individually and collectively, to reshape our institutions to include Black and other BIPOC folks. We need to continue to fight racism as hard as we ride, and we need to rise to this challenge collectively as a team, as female cyclists, and as the larger cycling community.
Black lives matter.