Major Taylor is amazing, but he is not the end. He was merely the beginning.

Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor was an American cyclist who won the world 1-mile track cycling championship in 1899 after setting numerous world records and overcoming racial discrimination.

Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor was an American cyclist who won the world 1-mile track cycling championship in 1899 after setting numerous world records and overcoming racial discrimination.

I don't think there is any reason for this journey to become the first African-American female pro road cyclist more important for me than representation. I strongly believe that representation is absolutely positively necessary, and I know without a doubt that cycling does not have the representation of diversity that it should. It's black history month so several folks have been sending me the same article about Major Taylor from 2012 referencing something that happened 100 years ago. This is on par for black history month of course. We have always taken this month to look into the past for notable achievements from black Americans. 

No shade to you folks, you're doing what any logical human would do, share information with me about the thing I'm interested in. Major Taylor is the predominate go-to example for black folks on bikes and for many, he's the only example. While I know that's not true - Nelson Vails, for example was a black silver medalists in the more recent 1984 Olympics for Christ sake - but most of the time when I mention a black cyclist of another name I get the (confused) Scooby Doo noise from folks.

Nelson Beasley Vails is a retired road and track cyclist from the United States. He rode as a professional from 1988 to 1995 representing the USA at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, where he won the silver medal in the sprint.

Nelson Beasley Vails is a retired road and track cyclist from the United States. He rode as a professional from 1988 to 1995 representing the USA at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, where he won the silver medal in the sprint.

Let's play a game: 

  1. Name 5 pro road cyclists from America, domestic or international, of any gender, past or present. 
  2. Success? Now name 5 pro black road cyclists from America, domestic or international, of any gender, past or present. 
  3. Still going strong? Aiight.. Now name 5 current pro black road cyclists from America, domestic or international? Gon' head? I'll wait...

To be honest, I can't even do that. And I want to. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to. And I want humans far and wide to be able to do the same. 

THIS is why this is a problem. When I was growing up, I had Serena, and Dominique Dawes, and the whole damn Joyner-Kersee clan, and even dudes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Emmet Smith. Beyond sports I was able to vote for a black president TWICE, watch as a black woman astronaut went into freaking space, and Oprah. I'm alive at the same time as Oprah (I promise you that counts for something).  These folks are all examples of current representation for me. They helped me see that black folks could be anywhere and do anything. Now, in this time, while i'm alive. 

Rahsaan Bahati is an American racing cyclist who currently rides for his own cycling team, Bahati Foundation Elite Team. He previously raced for the SKLZ-Pista Palace cycling team.

Rahsaan Bahati is an American racing cyclist who currently rides for his own cycling team, Bahati Foundation Elite Team. He previously raced for the SKLZ-Pista Palace cycling team.

Major Taylor died over 50 years before I was even born. While I appreciate his legacy, and the path that he created for me and folks like me, there is a need for a new class of folks to look up to. Why aren't we pumped about Nelson, or Rahsaan, or the even the Williams brothers. (If you are, that's good, I'm not talking about you). These folks are living, and breathing, and still creating a legacy that we can look up to and be inspired by. 

Nissy Cobb

Nissy Cobb

There are women out here doing things too, especially on the track! Nissy Cobb is around my age, and she's been pouring her heart into the track for a while now. A killer athelete for sure. And I would be remiss if I did not mention Lisa Nutter, the first Lady of Philadelphia. She is an accomplished track athlete as well who uses her power and position to fight for equal prizes for the Philadelphia Cycling classic!  (A race that has been cancelled this season... womp. SIGN THE PETITION). 

Lisa Nutter

Lisa Nutter

Either way our beloved Major Taylor quit cycling because of the rampant racism at the time, he died a very poor man. There is no good reason for that trend to continue. 

Left to right in celebration: Corey and Justin Willams

Left to right in celebration: Corey and Justin Willams

That's why I'm doing this. Because maybe someone will see me and say to themselves, "I can do that" and then do it! Then folks alive at the same time as them will see them and do the same. I am forever grateful to Major Taylor and everything he sacrificed in pursuit of his passion. He opened a door that folks have been trying to pry open even wider ever since. With that being said it is important to note that representation is not fulfilled by a somebody who did something 100 years ago. He started us off, and it's up to us to continuously uplift new generations of folks. To use our resources to inspire as many folks as we can. Naturally, this is not exclusive to cycling. It's really easy to ignore one person, or two, or five. I want there to be so much representation that it won't be so simple to pretend black folks aren't out here doing things now.

It is our responsibility to support our folks, by nurturing them, by encouraging them, and by inspiring them. It also doesn't hurt to throw dollars at them when we can. That is what I want to do. That is why I'm doing this. There is power in numbers, and our community has a lot of numbers. We can make sure there are no more gaps in representation where we have to wait fifty years before the next black american wears the stars stripes like Nelson Vails. There is a current and future generation of developing cyclists that would benefit from someone to relate too, and it is up to us to make sure they know who's out there. 

White folks have had a constant stream of representatives in EVERYTHING since forever. Hell, I can name at least 5 living breathing white rap artists without trying too hard. Go ahead and name 5 black country singers. DO IT!!!!!!! 

Do you see my point? 

 

For more info and to support: 

http://nissycobb.yolasite.com

http://nelsonvails.com/

http://www.bahatifoundation.org/

http://www.williamsracingdevo.com/

http://www.aquickbrownfox.com/   <---- Oh Hey, that's me!!!!

 

 

Ayesha McGowan3 Comments