A crowd of bikers gathered near the Government Center Metrorail station Saturday morning. At 10 a.m., the group of more than 100 people mounted their bicycles and kicked off for a group ride through the streets of Miami.
Celebrate Diversity Miami (CDM) is an organization created by UM alumna Naomi Ross. The group organized the 13-mile group bicycle ride on Saturday, Oct. 11, to raise awareness about community-development projects and expose participants to different parts of Miami.
“This is a large-scale community engagement event that will change the minds of people about certain areas in Miami,” Ross said. “Just because you hear something in the media, it’s not everything communities are made of.”
The bike ride consisted of three strategic stops that taught participants about development projects in Historic Overtown, Liberty City and Little Haiti. With speakers from URGENT Inc., Miami Children’s Initiative and the Little Haiti Cultural Center, the group ride attempted to change people’s perspectives about the visited areas.
“Most people think of crime and poverty when they think of those areas,” said Brian Lemmerman, Naomi’s husband and a CDM representative. “What they hear about from other people or see on TV are only the negative aspects recorded in the media, and we’re aiming to split that perspective on its head.”
The group bike ride was organized in collaboration with Emerge Miami, a group of advocates that promotes community-building projects throughout South Florida. One of their regular projects include putting together monthly bike rides to support local events and show people around Miami. The group was celebrating its 100th bike ride.
“Showcasing the strength of cultural heritage and the pride communities take in promoting their neighborhood work is a fascinating experience to partake in and an exciting opportunity to learn,” said Adam Schachner, one of Emerge’s organizers. “I think all Miamians, including UM students, could learn tremendously from their neighbors and neighborhoods.”
While the event was open to all, UM’s own cycling club, UBike, took this as an opportunity to show students around Miami and bond as a group.
“UM students come from all over the place and a lot of the time they just hang out in that little bubble in Coral Gables and they don’t leave to see where they really moved to,” said Athena Jones, chair of UBike. “Otherwise you are just moving to a university. You’re not living in Miami unless you see what’s around you. You’re not a member of the community.”
This was CDM’s kickoff event, but the organization’s ultimate project will consist of a photograph exposition next April in Museum Park. The idea is to make an exhibit with pictures taken by people in those communities, reflecting life as they know it, and not as large media outlets do portray it.
While developing CDM took work and effort, Ross assured that there are easy and accessible ways to start becoming a more active citizen.
“I volunteered a lot, so I think just really going out there and getting experience is great,” Ross said. “UM events are great but they can be a one-time thing. Developing your service curriculum is key. I would encourage students to stretch out, take different classes outside of the classroom, engage people on a long-term basis and with that, discover things about yourself.”
To find out more about CDM and how to get involved visit celebratediversitymiami.org or contact the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.