By Adam Schachner, Emerge Miami
Miami is a city renowned for its cultural diversity and infamous for its fragmentation and lack of togetherness. Despite these differences, one popular year-round activity unites South Floridians of all backgrounds: bicycling.
We are a bicycling city. The traffic may be contentious and the roads may be busy, but bicyclists come together on our streets and find their way to each other’s neighborhoods, share a commute, and overlook cultural boundaries to enjoy an active and engaging lifestyle. From early morning cycling groups to enthusiastic Critical Mass rides, Miamians set aside their partitioned neighborhood associations to become one cultural group as a bicycle community.
On September 14, bicycle riders, representing a broad spectrum of cultural backgrounds, came together for Divercycles.
They pedaled in support of community, diversity, and the recognition that all people are immigrants. The ACLU of Florida and Emerge Miami made this possible, as the group rode through iconic Miami - from Little Havana to Little Haiti, all in appreciation for this city’s multicultural beauty.
Emerge Miami’s Second Saturday Critical Mass Rides are monthly bicycling events geared toward encouraging safe ridership and exploration of the many exciting attractions Miami has to offer. These rides are usually thematic, embracing ideas ranging from support for local businesses to celebrations of the arts. A collaboration with ACLU of Florida was a natural decision for Emerge, whose broader purpose is to bring organizations and individuals together to engage in community-building activities and to use creative methods for achieving communal goals.
Divercycles encompassed a broad range of positive and progressive engagement; the arts, cultural affairs, immigration issues, and alternative transportation. Starting at the Vizcaya Metrorail Station, the group rode 15 miles, past culturally significant locations and art installations. Decorated with flags and clothes representing their home countries, riders traversed Miami’s streets with positive energy, discussing the theme of the day and singing.
Along the route were three iconic attractions. First stop - Little Havana’s Maximo Gomez Domino Park, a landmark gathering place for the popular Cuban pastime. The ride continued along Calle Ocho and through a series of Little Havana streets.
Next was the inspiring #IAmHere mural in Wynwood by Ruben Ubiera, a work commissioned by the ACLU. This vibrant and interactive display showcases the extent of South Florida’s cultural diversity, featuring the portraits of locals who share an immigrant’s experience. As an emblem of mankind’s unity, this mural encourages all viewers to place their hand at its center and demonstrate that all of us are immigrants. Among the riders was Jose Machado, whose portrait is on the mural. Machado spoke passionately about the need for comprehensive immigration reform, sharing a dramatic personal account of how his mother was taken from his family as they endured the effects of troubling national policy. As a series of speakers spoke of their personal immigrant experiences and called for social awareness, ACLU staff passed petitions calling for immigration reform.
Many riders took turns placing their hand on Ubiera’s mural, signing the call to action and representing their cultural individuality while celebrating a unified humanity.
The ride’s final stop was the Little Haiti Cultural Center, a community facility which includes galleries, theater space, classrooms, and educational programming throughout the week. The Cultural Center opened its doors to riders, allowing them to explore its installations and partake in local cuisine. While riders took a break from the bright sunny day, representatives from the center discussed its vital role in bringing the community together, and education. Among the concerns illustrated was the pending renaming of Little Haiti, and the appeal to riders to ask their representatives to let the area keep its significant identity.
While riders cooled off, cast members from the Front Yard Theatre Collective entertained with improv skits and sketch comedy related to immigration issues and cultural identity. Witty and tastefully hilarious, the energetic group encouraged audience participation, inviting Jose Machado to hop up in front of the crowd again, this time to show the lighter side of this heavy issue.
The ride home was sunny and hot, but cyclists fared the summer weather enthusiastically as they discussed the day’s experience. A successful celebration of many forms of culture, Divercycles was a remarkable opportunity to promote and engage in an aspect of South Florida’s identity that locals consistently embrace: in Miami, we are all immigrants.
Emerge Miami meets every Tuesday, at 7 PM at Sweat Records (5505 NE 2nd Avenue- 786-693-9309) to plan community-building activities, discuss important issues affecting South Florida, and to assist local organizations in promotion and collaboration. All are welcome to join!