25 May
2017

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Ovarian Psycos Reflections: When white people tell BIPOC stories

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on May 25, 2017   comments 0

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Back in 2012, I organized a National Women's Bicycling Summit in Long Beach, CA — and I'm embarrassed to recall how narrow and harmful my vision was.

White savior talking about bringing bikes to Africa. A bike fashion show that was... beyond words. Even I cringed through half of the program.  

Still, despite the fact that I invited them to be on an equity panel (Yep! Did that, too!), three young leaders from the Ovarian Psycos graciously accepted an invitation to speak. Representing their women-of-color led group which actively confronts injustice and builds radical community, they blew sh*t up with their rejection of the cartoonish but prevailing image of women biking in the advocacy community: compliant, skirt-wearing, white ladies riding Dutch bikes.

Just this month, I got schooled by the Ovas again, as founder Xela de la X came to Minneapolis for our screening of the Ovarian Psycos documentary. Not only did she make me consider my own role in perpetuating white supremacy as a communicator and cyclist — but she also addressed criticism that the Ovas' language is unwelcoming to trans, non-binary and disabled folx.

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Xela at the Grease Rag screening, photo by Monica Bryand

One of the most important moments for me came before the film, as Xela explained the deeply problematic nature of white filmmakers telling the stories of women of color. That had a special sting. I was a reporter for many years, telling stories of powerful people, like Xela, in ways that were likely tokenizing and superficial. In my current job, I do communications around an issue that disproportionately impacts communities of color — that's also an issue I've never personally experienced.

It was uncomfortable, but necessary, to hear Xela talk about how that "white gaze" romanticizes and flattens fights against oppression, often leaving unexamined the role of white folx in creating and perpetuating the racist systems — and then discovering or "lifting up the stories" of people acting for their liberation. Not to mention minimizing or omiting community-driven solutions because they threaten the current paradigm.

OP16_Xela_and_Ovas.jpgPhoto courtesy of filmmakers

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24 May
2017

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PHOTOS: Ovarian Psycos screening and fundraiser!

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on May 24, 2017   comments 0

Earlier this month, Grease Rag hosted a screening of Ovarian Psycos — a documentary featuring the radical work and leaders of the women of color bike brigade in Los Angeles. We were honored to welcome Xela de la X, one of the organization's founders (wearing the Feminist Militant shirt in the photos below), who shared her thoughts on the film and the Ovas efforts to confront injustice and create community.

Thanks to our community, we raised more than $1,100 for the Ova's creation of a healing space in LA and to support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) leaders in Grease Rag.

We were also privileged to have the talented Monica Bryand taking pictures. Check out some images of the event below and stay tuned for more reflections!

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29 Apr
2017

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May 6: Ovarian Psycos screening

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on April 29, 2017   comments 0

OP16_Xela_and_Ovas.jpgMaintain a brave space by and for marginalized womxn of color.

Encourage militant, autonomous, models of community organizing and actions to address oppressive power structures.

Center our political analysis and community action to align with current struggles towards liberation.

These are just some of the radical principles of the Ovarian Psycos bike brigade in Los Angeles.  

Rooted in “feminist ideals with indigena understanding and an urban/hood mentality,” the Ovarian Psycos bike brigade unapologetically confronts injustice and creates community for Latinx riders in Los Angeles. On May 6, Grease Rag is hosting a local screening of the recently released Ovarian Psycos documentary to stand in solidarity with our xisters in Los Angeles, and build community locally.


Our goal is to raise at least $2,000 to donate to the Ovarian Psycos’ creation of a healing space in LA — and resource Grease Rag’s work to center and support BIPOC+ (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) WTF leadership here in the Twin Cities. Funds will also support our venue, CTUL, which is organizing workers for better labor conditions.

Will you join us?

  • Date: Saturday, May 6
  • Location: CTUL, 3715 Chicago Ave, MPLS
  • Time: Doors at 6 p.m., program at 6:30 p.m. After the screening there will be time to connect and discuss the film with your community.
  • Suggested donation: $20 CA$H ONLY, no one turned away for lack of funds!
  • Food: There will be snacks and refreshments!

Can you help?

Important note from Grease Rag

Grease Rag contacted the Ovarian Psycos before we decided to screen this film, to check in about the best way to share their story. Fetishsizing POC who organize their communities effectively is a form of white supremacy — and Grease Rag will not exploit the pain and struggle of these womxn for our own gain.

We determined that a joint benefit between the Ovarian Psycos and Grease Rag was a good way to support both of our organizations' goals. After the film, we'll be sharing some discussion questions that center the individuals instead of tokenizing as a means to honor their stories.

"Para todxs todo o nada para nadien."

Statement from Ovarian Psycos on the film

"We the Ovarian Psycos have been very very busy, so busy that even tonight we had to meet to do our seasonal criticisms / self criticism for our current core collective members (no time for popcorn and chill). The success of the Ovarian Psycos documentary is definitely accredited to the filmmakers’ skills and our labor of love, but in this documentary you will not find our daily work and struggles to defend our communities and you will not find our resistance! The resistance comes from our direct action in the streets and not on the screen. We are still currently and unapologetically sustaining an autonomous community space located in Boyle Heights La Conxa and have been doing so since 2014 without any federal, state, or local funding/grants and mainly through the community’s ability to come together and make shit happen organically. We also continue to support the anti gentrification movement in BH and throughout the city and are keeping our pedals firmly planted on the front line to keep that work alive.

The Ovas have been justifiably Angry/Psyco throughout the 6 years of organizing and specifically NOW more than ever we are infuriated , frustrated, and bitter with the way we as Woc, Poc, and Qtpoc are being disposed of. Whether it’s the LAPD gunning down our Brown and Black brothers and sisters, the city (sometimes our own people) selling out our neighborhood to the highest bidder, or the 64,000 black women who are currently missing, the struggle and work continues. Women are still being found dead in our community. Our working class neighbors are being pushed out of their community. We have our undocumented family living in a state of fear…..SO PLEASE DON'T COME AT US WITH THE 3rd Wave Feminism questions and CO-Ops…. We are coming from 500 years of colonization and we are never on the front lines on some photo opportunity/activism career. We are out here for our community and the 7 generations to come after. We do this for the seeds. Tlazo."

01 Mar
2017

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28 Days of Loving MN Winter 2017

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on March 1, 2017   comments 0

In 2014, Low created a project to get them through the brutal Minnesota winter. For 29 days they posted stories and pictures and poems about riding through the difficult month of February. In 2015 and 2016 it grew into a beautiful collective effort, with dozens of WTFs sharing what makes them #LoveMNWinter. 

This year — my first full winter in Minnesota — I had the privilege of wrangling stories, reflections, poems and photo collections that gave me life in these dark days (on so many levels).

For so many of us, we love winter not only for the beauty we see outside but for the vitality it inspires in ourselves. MN winter makes us feel powerful and soft, determined and patient, fierce and playful. It takes us out of comfort zones and reminds us to slow down. It proves that we are brave and capable — and supported by an amazing community of fellow WTF riders.

Here's a recap of some of my favorite phrases and thoughts from #LoveMNWinter 2017!

 

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Connor, Day 28: She is still in about 40 pieces because I did that thing where you don’t bother to take a picture of how everything fits back together before you take it apart so whatever thing it is (in this case, my bike) sits there sadly staring at you like, “Why did you do this to me?” and all you can say is, “I’M SORRY I WAS TRYING TO MAKE IT BETTER!”

Clark, Day 27: Wheels crunch through the snow | Quintron line keeps me moving | She is badass

Low, Day 26: Resist that shit. We're beautiful.

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Monica, Day 25: In February it’s the nuthatches, chick-a-dees and woodpeckers that keep me smiling along with the cardinals and robins that are already starting their spring calls.

Yasmiene, Day 24: There’s a spot by my house that was as smooth as a fresh skating rink. I feel so playful when I’m sliding on the ice to watch the water underneath move.

Teresa, Day 23: I love the idea that during this time when life slows down, and we are all forced indoors to stay warm, that essential knowledge is shared in a communal way.

Amanda, Day 22: Not everywhere gets winter, so it’s special. It’s fleeting. I want more winter, more snow, more layers, more hot chocolate with marshmallows. More winter bike rides that rejoice in the cold and snow that makes our state special.

Lucy, Day 21: One evening during the very first significant snowstorm, I was biking home and must have looked ridiculous sliding around the bike lane on 26 and Bloomington all by myself. A woman in her mini-van rolled down the window to ask if I was interested in taking a ride from her... Even though it was snowy, icy and cold outside, I’ll never forget how warm I felt after that interaction.

Sarah, Day 20: false brown spring from froze | happy fat tires ride smooth | on snow forest slush

Casey, Day 19: There is a soft, stillness to winter on the plains/prairie/lake country where humans get to hibernate inside of fluffy blankets and frosty balaclavas. Silently biking through a fresh, sparkling blanket of snow on a clear night feels like a secret.

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Heidi, Day 18: Moving to Minnesota has meant learning about, among other things, neck gaiters, meat raffles, ice houses on frozen lakes, booya, and sundogs. For some reason it took me until my fourth Minnesotan winter to actually see sundogs.

Melody, Day 17: A lightbulb went off in my head. If I want people to give me space on the road out in Coon Rapids, it is best for me to smile and share a positive story.

Colleen, Day 15: Biking in the winter is an awesome, exhilarating, sometimes unpredictable experience.

Kadence, Day 14: I want to share with you my not-so-special-secret for How to Be a Bike Babe Badass, so that you, too, will become the Bike Babe Badass That You’ve Always Wanted to Be.

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JJ, Day 13: As a survivor, cycling plays a key role in my healing. I can feel the power of my body. As far as winter biking is concerned, it’s all just part of the adventure. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I love riding in winter.

Anna, Day 12: Sometimes community means getting a lot of help to do something really stupid. For me, this year, that was finishing my first-ever fat bike race.

Joy, Day 11: I feel powerful when I pass another powerful winter cyclist and we give each other the all-knowing nod. To me the nod says, "I see you. We're doing great. It's damn cold."

Judy, Day 10: As evening descended upon the town, we churned through the brown squashy streets back to the hotel and stowed the bikes... We’d survived another adventure and lived to ride another day.

BrieAnna, Day 9: I love how quiet and in your own world you can feel on a winter's night.

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Bri, Day 8: My favorite is crossing the Mississippi River — it's never the same — roiling, rambling, rushing, freezing, thawing, but always moving forward.

Tina, Day 7: Often, as city-dwellers, we get wrapped up in what we do here, and our world shrinks down to the borders of what we can immediately see. This weekend, the universe conspired to break us out of that loop, a chance to experience and appreciate the warmth and wonder of rural Minnesota.

Dana, Day 6: This year’s great discovery has been the wool circle skirt. Even in below zero temperatures, I am cozy and stylish in heavy wool with a pair or two of fleece leggings underneath.

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Holly, Day 5: This winter, I’ve been “hunkering down” as an opportunity to find my way out of a personal shitstorm of burn out and avoidance. I'm starting by catching up on some reading, ready to strategize a new route forward and it starts by sticking to the work of WTFs and POC authors in my #lovemnwinter reading list...

Lauren, Day 4: I love MN winter. But love does not always look like excitement or appreciation. Sometimes love looks like patience.

Anneka, Day 3: I love the Midwest winter because, more than ever, this is how I want to be: fierce, unpredictable in my tactics, disrupting the system so that there is space and fertile ground for new seeds to grow come spring.

Hilary, Day 2: I love wearing all my layers not only because they keep me warm, but because they remind me of all the friends and family that helped me be the badass I am today.

Carolyn, Day 1: I don't know if it's moving through the world as a woman that makes me feel subconsciously exposed at all times, but I like wearing sweaters and mittens and two pairs of pants. Maybe the layers make me feel bigger in a world that often makes me feel small — or more protected from the hurled insults we all defend against daily when we ride.

HUGE thanks to everyone who contributed!

28 Feb
2017

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Day 28 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 28, 2017   comments 0

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love that we’re one day closer to real spring.

By Connor Phelan

Well friends, we made it! It is officially the last day of February (can I get an Amen?), even if the temperature has been feeling much more like spring.

I’m new to Minneapolis as of August 2016 and this is my first year tackling winter biking. Can I really even say that I’ve been trying winter biking, though, when we’ve had, like, three days of snow? Meh.

But what an adventure it has been. This February has taught me more about how to layer than basically any month ever (or at least since I’ve been bike commuting). I’ve learned that you may be wearing your fleece and windbreaker on your way to work in the morning, but by the time you leave the office, you’re trying to remove as many layers as possible while maintaining an acceptable level of non-nudity in public (and if you’re me, the instant you get home you rip off your shirt because even after stripping down, you’re STILL a hot mess).

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Me, after my freezing (literally, it was -6 degrees that day) ride to the office.

February also taught me that when the snow melts and it becomes that kind of gross slush, the roads become littered with all of the sand and salt that was used to de-ice the roads a month ago. Totally fine for cars — but where does said salt all end up after a few days of snow-free roads? The bike lanes, of course! I discovered this quickly (and unpleasantly) after a day or so when I pulled my beloved Hot Tamale road bike back out of hiding and rode it to work and home. It felt great to be back on my favorite bike and I remembered all over again why I love biking so much.

And then, that dreaded sound hit. The sound of your chain squeaking and grinding all of that gritty sand with each pedal rotation. At first, I was just straight up confused — it was a new chain and I took super good care of my bike! But then one day I got smart and pulled the chain off to wipe it down. And what did I find? All of that glorious sand stuck in every little nook and cranny of my freewheel. Whyyyyyy??!!

Good thing we were still in a full-swing global warming week so it was warm enough to wash the Hot Tamale outside on the back porch. She is still in about 40 pieces because I did that thing where you don’t bother to take a picture of how everything fits back together before you take it apart so whatever thing it is (in this case, my bike) sits there sadly staring at you like, “Why did you do this to me?” and all you can say is, “I’M SORRY I WAS TRYING TO MAKE IT BETTER!” And then you just can’t look at your sad bike anymore so you turn the other way and go get yourself a glass of kombucha. Or whatever kale-loving people are drinking these days.

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The beloved Hot Tamale’s pieces, after being scrubbed clean, now lay out to dry.

Anyway, I realize this is now getting way off topic from what I learned about biking in MN winter and why I love winter biking so much. So, I will leave you with this: Winter biking has taught me a lot about dressing for whatever temperature Mother Nature decides to throw at us, the importance of cleaning out your chain frequently, and that you should smile at other bikers you pass on your way to wherever you’re going because no matter why you bike, we are the people that make the biking community beautiful.

Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February of 2016. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

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