For Katia Celifie Aime, cycling means community. The sport has the power to heal, unify and empower people, especially women of color. Katia runs the Long Island chapter of a group called Black Girls Do Bike. As a “Shero,” a local leader in the group, Katia has created a safe space for women of color in her community to gather together and share their joy of movement and biking. Now, the group is setting its sights on Empire State Ride Long Island.
Black Girls Do Bike Long Island
Black Girls Do Bike is a national organization with more than 100 chapters across the United States, plus a chapter in Antigua. The group welcomes people of all genders and races who share a common goal of advancing the health and wellbeing of women of color.
On Long Island, Black Girls Do Bike meets twice weekly during the summertime, offering options for everyone from advanced to beginner cyclists. They also offer workshops on riding fundamentals and bike maintenance and repair.
When Katia founded the local chapter a couple years back, she sought to break ground. As someone who loves cycling and has been riding for more than a decade, she was often discouraged by how few women of color were involved in the sport.
“Women of color historically have not been cycling so much,” Katia says. “Now, we’ve created a place where we can come to and say, ‘I am welcome here.’ But everyone else who wants to support us is welcome, as well.”
Thanks to Katia’s hard work and dedication, the group now has close to 300 members who gather together to stay healthy while inspiring and uplifting one another. Now, Katia and her team have decided to set their sights on tackling a health issue that hits close to home: cancer. Specifically, breast cancer.
“Empire State Ride came in right on time, because we’re seeing a lot of our cyclists — a lot of our females — being diagnosed [with cancer]. We’re getting this kind of news constantly,” Katia says. “When I heard about the Empire State Ride Long Island, which is a beautiful, beautiful cycling event, I said, ‘It’s a win-win.’ We’re raising awareness. We’re showing the world that we’re cycling women of color, and we’re here, too. We are battling and fighting for a cure while empowering women to cycle for their health.”
Black Girls Do Bike Across the Nation
Monica Garrison, the founder and executive director of Black Girls Do Bike nationally, says each chapter has naturally been drawn to different health causes, and she’s proud to see the Long Island chapter taking a stand against cancer.
“I think we all know that getting on the bike and cycling regularly can help stave off diseases and conditions that affect our community and people of color disproportionately,” Monica says. “It’s almost a no-brainer to want to do something to get in the fight and help these causes.”
For Monica, cycling also helps with mental health, allowing her time to think and process the busyness of day-to-day life. As the founder of this national effort, Monica oversees the photography, design work and other creative concepts for the organization. She often comes up with some of her best ideas while in the saddle. For that reason, and many more, Monica wants to see more women taking up the sport.
“Just get on your bike and go. The rest will follow,” she says. “If there’s a Black Girls Do Bike chapter within 10 or 20 miles of you, then seek it out. We want to open up a new world to women and women of color.”
Getting ready for the ride
Katia will cover the 62-mile route this July in Oyster Bay with her fellow Black Girls Do Bike Long Island “Co-Shero,” as well as her husband. Katia hopes to motivate more people in her group to get involved in the cause while enjoying an activity that she describes as pure magic. She’s already started to get her nine-year-old granddaughter, Bella, involved in the sport. She’s doing everything she can to bring together her love of biking and helping others.
“In life, we have to put our best foot forward. We have to try to make a difference, and it’s my belief that exercise can cure everything. So, if I can help you to exercise to get you through this, and I’m raising money for the research, I’m doing my part.”