MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In a time where racial equality is at the forefront of our country, one Mid-South group has proved it doesn’t matter what color you are, we can all find something in common and build a strong community. Thanks to the work for social justice more than 100 years ago by a man known as Major Taylor, a Memphis cycling group can promote equality and a healthy lifestyle.
Five years ago, Darren Dandridge was living in Detroit when he noticed a disparity among the Black community.
“I saw how many dialysis centers that were popping up just like McDonalds,” he said.
He was concerned by how many African Americans were living an unhealthy lifestyle and wanted to open the door to promote a change
Three years ago, Dandridge moved to Memphis and decided to start a Major Taylor Chapter in the Bluff City. “What I wanted to do was to bring together a group of cyclists where it doesn’t make a different what color you are or what background you came from, come be with us,” he said.
What started as a group of seven has grown to more than 100 members. Blacks and whites who have formed a community. This group has been around for three years, but Major Taylor was in Memphis in the late 90s. Anthony Brown and Ed Reid were involved in the group 20 years ago.
“It looked like it was all professionals,” Anthony Brown remembered. “Doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, CPAs. It wasn’t exclusive to professionals but pretty much that’s who was drawn to the group.”
It got to be about 20 people before it fizzled out. The two kept cycling as a hobby and were quick to join back again a couple years ago.
“I’m the oldest Major Taylor member and I’m 72. My resting heart rate is under 55,” Ed Reid said when he was asked why he rides.
The group is open to anyone and everyone joins for a different reason.
“Early part of 2017 I couldn’t even walk to the end of my driveway,” Brown said. “It just took months and years just to get back to where I am.”
Walter Banks said, “About three years ago I had a weight problem. I was about to move to another size. My pants and belt were tight so I started eating better and I bought a bike.”
Even newer members like Maria Brown have found a group they look forward to seeing every week. “I have been a recreational cyclist for years and I had yet to find a group that I feel really comfortable riding with. This group I mean you can be an average cyclist, you don’t get dropped. They help you they encourage you they stay with you, they teach you to be better,” she said.
Another main focus of the group is social justice. With recent protests across the country, it held a social justice ride. A group of 53 cyclists stopped at the I Am A Man Plaza and took a knee for 8:46 at the Lorraine Motel in honor of George Floyd.
According to Major Taylor Memphis president Tom Jackson, “It was a really good opportunity for us to get our message out and let people see what the minority community can come together and do. And we don’t limit ourselves to minorities. We don’t care race, color, creed, orientation whatever you want. Our main thing is to increase awareness, physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle.”
“I’m hoping that this transpires into the community or to the United States,” Vice President Darren Dandridge added. “That we can bring everyone together. Cycling has been dominated by the white. Now Blacks are starting to buy into it and what we want to do is try and promote that into our community, get people on bikes, get healthy eat right and lets live a different lifestyle.”
Major Taylor Memphis has several different rides each week at different paces and distances. There are 30 chapters across the country.