Meet the Staff #7: The virtues of bookkeeping and bicycling

By: Halla Dontje Lindell

The names Betsy Raasch-Gilman (she/her) or Merritt McCollum (he/him) might not ring a bell, but these bookkeepers are a fundamental part of what keeps the Cycles for Change (C4C) operation running smoothly. Weekdays find the two of them intently working on side-by-side computers to track the expenses and income of the organization and generate reports that are used for grant writing and tax purposes. As Betsy says, “a nonprofit needs to have the bookkeeping clearly, well, and honestly cared for,” and Betsy and Merritt provide that service for Cycles for Change.

Betsy, a lifelong St. Paulite, keeps the books because of her passion for social change.

“I’ve always worked in social change in one way or another, and I decided some years ago there were at least three things that I was good at,” Betsy recalled. “I’m a good trainer; I can teach people social change skills and I can do it well. I’m also a good organizer; I can organize events and I can also organize people to participate in movements. Finally, I’m a good bookkeeper.

“And I realized that I know lots of good trainers who are not good bookkeepers, and I know lots of good organizers who are not good bookkeepers. That made me think, ‘Ok, well maybe my niche is bookkeeping in order to support social change.’ So that was the point at which I decided that this is what I want to do.”

When Betsy learned bookkeeping, it still actually involved books instead of computers. She performed calculations on large, long pieces of paper with columns, a ten key adding machine, and a pencil. For her, bookkeeping has an appeal that many may not see.

“I’m kind of addicted to murder mysteries,” she says. “And it’s the same kind of thing—looking for little clues that lead to another clue that leads to a big ‘aha.’ Bookkeeping is very much like that; it is a kind of mystery solving.”

Betsy doesn’t limit her sleuthing work to just one social justice organization. Her work at C4C is part-time, and she does bookkeeping for five other major nonprofit clients. She is additionally involved with Showing Up for Racial Justice Minnesota (SURJ MN), another demonstration of her commitment to social change.

“I sometimes joke that if an organization puts “for change” in the title, I’ll work for it because I’ve worked for Appetite for Change, Training for Change, and now Cycles for Change,” she laughed.

She also advocates for the young people involved with C4C to seek out bookkeeping skills.

“It is not only a real skill, but a way to demystify numbers. It allows getting beyond the idea that we can’t afford stuff, but rather that we can afford stuff but simply need to look carefully at our priorities… Practicing those skills and understanding how to approach them in a way that underlines the options, power, and possibilities that organizations have with the resources they have is a piece of understanding the whole picture that makes social change happen.”

For Merritt, it is bikes, rather than books, that thread together his vocational history. He moved to Minnesota from Pennsylvania on a whim 16 years ago because he needed a place to live and had a friend living in Minneapolis. He crashed on his friend’s couch until he found work at the Hub Bicycle Co-op. In his usual wry manner, he explained he “ended up liking it here well enough,” so he stayed.

During his seven years at the Hub, he met Jason Partridge (now C4C’s Executive Director), where they worked together for a few summer seasons. He ran into Jason again in 2016 while volunteering for Tamales y Bicicletas (another local bicycling-related nonprofit), and Jason suggested he apply to an open position at C4C.

Merritt got the job and expressed the practically of the transition away from mechanics.

“I was getting to a point where I felt like I was aging. With bicycle mechanics, you bend over all day long, because no matter how much effort you put into it, you never get the part that you are working on at the proper height… That was hurting, and I was getting arthritis in the wrist and hands. Looking at the long-term future, I was thinking that I needed to move into something that could afford me a roof over my head and I didn’t think bicycle mechanics was going to do that.”

So, Merritt found a middle ground. He puts his mechanic experience to use by assisting with the C4C retail operation when he’s not entering data into Microsoft Excel or Quickbooks. In his free time, he enjoys playing the card game Magic.

Unsurprisingly, Betsy and Merritt both agree on the virtues of bicycling. For Betsy, it’s a choice that leads to greater awareness and physical well-being.

“I am a commuter and very seldom do I ride my bike just for pleasure. But I notice different things when I am bicycling. I notice more about the neighborhoods that I am going through and I just notice more in general. When I have bicycled, my hips feel better for the rest of the day, as I do have trouble with arthritis. Bicycling really directly benefits my health; I can feel that day by day. And although I am a walker and a bus rider, bicycling satisfies me more in that it gives me more flexibility. I’m not tied to the schedules and the routes of the bus.”

For Merritt, it’s a habit that keeps him and others safe.

“I first started off biking because I disliked cars, but eventually I was forced into driving, and I started to enjoy driving. Then when I moved to Minneapolis, I was broke and couldn’t afford to keep the car, so I got back into biking—the exercise, getting the adrenaline up, seeing the world from that more open point of view.

“It’s just something that I’ve done since high school, so it’s more of a habit for me than driving is for most people in the U.S. It feels safer for me. I’m not in charge of a 4,000-pound vehicle that could kill anybody if I daydream. And I am a daydreamer, so it is safer for other people for me to be on a bicycle than behind the wheel of a vehicle. What do I daydream about? I daydream about a world not like this one.”

And with their skills and passion for social change, Betsy and Merritt are a part of creating a new world for tomorrow.

Meet the Staff #6: Where we come from, where we’re going

By: Halla Dontje Lindell

Magdalena Kaluza (she/her), Youth Programs Manager at Cycles for Change, spoke an impromptu poem with a lilting voice when asked where she is from.

“I was born and raised in Phillips, South Minneapolis,” Magdalena said. “My mom grew up in Columbia Heights, and before that her family is from Kansas and the Iron Range, and before that they’re from French Canada, and Quebec Quay, and Poland.

“My dad’s family is from Guatemala and Honduras, Maya Quiche territory in the Highlands, and plantations in Santa Rosa Copan.

“I’m from my mom’s womb, I’m from gardens, and a house that got broken into a lot as a kid. I’m from activist parents, a political refugee, and an artist.”

After listening to Magdalena, Monica Bryand (she/her), Special Projects Manager at Cycles for Change, said that she might be simpler, or maybe more complicated.

“I was born and raised in St. Paul and lived mostly on the West Side of St. Paul,” Monica explained. “I don’t know a lot about my dad, but my mom’s parents were from Mexico City and her grandpa was from Spain.”

Magdalena and Monica are rooted in their cultural backgrounds and share experiences as social change makers.

When Magdalena was young, her mom did anti-apartheid, South African solidarity work and took Magdalena to anti-war rallies. Her dad did urban organizing on the guerrilla side of the Guatemalan civil war, wrote political songs, listened to Trova (Latin American political music), and regularly attended organizing meetings. Because of these experiences, a natural topic choice for one of Magdalena’s middle school research projects was social movements.

“I got to learn about all sorts of civil rights-era organizations, from the Black Panthers to the American Indian Movement to the Symbionese Liberation Army and other radical organizations,” she said. “And I used to fantasize about living in that era because it felt like they were closer to change in that era. They were on the cusp of something. I have since stopped romanticizing it, but have done some human rights work, labor rights work, and counter recruitment work because they used to recruit for the military in my high school.”

Monica’s activism bloomed while she was working as an accountant within corporate America, back when only about ten companies in Minnesota offered domestic partner benefits.

“I became an organizer for LGBT issues when I heard Pat Buchanan spewing hate about gays and lesbians,” she said. “I had to ask myself what I was doing about it. So I started organizing within corporate America, and we actually brought together over 100 different companies and got domestic partner benefits. We didn’t think way back then that [same-sex] marriage would ever be a possibility. But I feel like the work we did 20 years ago had an impact on getting [same-sex] marriage passed.”

Since then, her organizing work has expanded to include the Transition Town movement and countering fossil fuel dependency. Additionally, Monica is a birder who loves to spend time outdoors and has worked with Audubon Minnesota to document Minnesota birds threatened or endangered by climate change in Minnesota.

Fast forward to the present, where both Magdalena and Monica are working hard to carry out Cycles for Change’s mission of building a diverse and self-empowered community of bicyclists. For Magdalena, that means direct contact with the youth apprentices hired by Cycles for Change—a job that contains joys and struggles alike.

“I think youth can bring a bluntness to our work that I really like,” she said. “They demand honesty, truth, and authenticity. Kids are great bullshit detectors, right? And they don’t have a filter sometimes. What I value about that is that it keeps us on our toes and it keeps us reevaluating, so we don’t get stagnant or beat around the bush. There’s so much value in telling it how it is, and I think the youth contribute that to Cycles for Change.

“What can be hard is complicated lives. They’re in high school, have hormonal changes, have family things going on, want or need money, sometimes have different communication styles than I do, have limited access to internet or printers, or don’t have the best organizational skills. It can be hard to coordinate everything.”

Her current community work is centered around art and personal healing.

“I have come to find that I carry a lot of patterns based on the trauma that was passed down to me from my parents. My dad regularly carries weapons because he grew up during the [Guatemalan] civil war and couldn’t trust anyone. Your neighbor might turn you over to the military. People were killed and people disappeared left and right. And fear is something that can hold me back. Fear, pain, and wounds can hold a lot of people back if we don’t recognize them. So lately I have been doing cultural work—art and sharing meals with people. I’m a poet and have been doing puppetry—performing, putting myself out there, being vulnerable.”

For Monica, fulfilling Cycles for Change’s mission means making sure that Magdalena and other staff members have the financial support they need to carry out their programming. After working as an accountant, Monica spent over 20 years working for Headwaters Foundation for Justice, distributing money through grants—the “other side” of the nonprofit world. When she transitioned to Cycles for Change, she discovered what it was like to be a grant writer, instead of a grant reader.

“I’ve served on nonprofit boards for forever, and I know that part of being on a board is fundraising, which I did,” Monica said. “But I had never been on the staff of a nonprofit. The first thing I learned was that it’s really hard to write grants. It’s hard to succinctly convey everything that [the organization] is doing. And I think that relationships matter when you are doing individual fundraising, so I think that’s one of the things that I brought to Cycles for Change. I love events; I think they are fun. They can engage people, so that’s one thing I like to work on when I am helping to fundraise for Cycles for Change.”

Monica also appreciates her current work because it allows her to be present in her own neighborhood.

“One of the things that I realized as I was working on transition stuff was that I had to go back to my own community. I had been organizing in greater Minnesota; I would leave my West Side home and didn’t come back until late at night. So I started saying, ‘What can I do to impact the West Side?’ That was when I came back, started working with my community, and I’m still here working on environmental and economic justice issues. I’ll continue to organize. But I also know I want to create spaces for the new voices that are coming in—sharing what I might know but also listening to what they have to say and just being really open to that.”

The past and present leave Magdalena and Monica imagining future possibilities.

“I don’t work with youth directly,” Monica said, “but being exposed to them and the complications that they have in life, knowing where I came from as someone who was poor and didn’t have a lot of resources, and seeing that this is a safe space for them is something that I want to continue to grow. I want to keep making a safe space for not only the people who work here and the youth, but for community that comes in.”

Magdalena adds upon Monica’s vision of a safe space, and emphasizes the inclusivity that Cycles for Change strives toward.

“I believe in a world where people are exercising, laughing, and moving their bodies— bikes lend themselves to that,” Magdalena said. “Cycles for Change is strategically poised to bring outdoor education and environmental justice education to communities that are traditionally left out of that sphere. We have a long way to go in being as effective as we could be, but C4C is poised in an interesting space, and I really think there is no time to waste. We need to cherish this earth if we want any of this human species to survive… I want the best for our children, and our children’s children.”

What’s new with you(th)?

 

Meet our Summer 2017 cohort of youth apprentices: Abdi, Joseph, Abdirahman, Ramiro, Josue, Deqo, Esmerelda, and Mainou (pictured above at Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) with Youth Program assistants). They kicked off their summer training program at the end of June, and the eight high schoolers are spending three days a week engaged in a variety of learning opportunities. Here’s a peek into their summer apprenticeship experience.

 

What has been your favorite activity so far?

“Slow Roll, because you get to interact with all different people.” – Abdi

 

Where’s the best place you’ve visited during your apprenticeship?

“Probably the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center. It was just a lively place. There was food, celebrating, and I got to see what was going on in people’s communities.” – Joseph

 

What does community mean to you?

“Everybody coming together.”  – Abdirahman

 

What is Cycles for Change for you?

“A program that builds on bikes and gets me ready for a career.” – Ramiro

 

Have you made any friends?

“All the youth apprentices are my friends, and the staff, too, definitely.” – Josue

 

What have you learned about bikes?

“They keep your heart going faster. And when your heart goes faster, your heart pumps more blood and it makes you feel better.” – Deqo

 

What’s something you’ve learned that doesn’t have anything to do with bikes?

“It doesn’t matter who you are, you are going to get accepted here [at Cycles for Change].” – Esmerelda

 

What’s something you’re looking forward to?

“I am looking forward to leading our own Slow Roll.” – Mainou

 

Meet the Staff #5: Not their first time around the block

 

By: Halla Dontje Lindell

“Stories are important,” said Sheldon Mains (he/him), Special Projects Adviser for Cycles for Change. As one of the original Learn to Ride instructors, the first director of what is now Cycles for Change’s Minneapolis Shop, and an electrical-engineer-turned-nonprofit-adviser, Sheldon has stories aplenty. Additionally, Jason Partridge (he/him), Executive Director of Cycles for Change, has his own wealth of adventures and experiences from his almost 12 years in a leadership position at Cycles for Change.

Sheldon has lived in Minneapolis nearly his entire life. He earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and has worked in energy conservation.

“I liked working with people more than electrons,” Sheldon confessed, so he went back to school to get a master’s degree in public policy from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Since then, he’s worked with a variety of organizations—particularly nonprofits—including the Twin Cities Daily Planet, the Minneapolis Public Library Board, and the Cable Access Center in Minneapolis. His current role at Cycles for Change is adviser for the upcoming Minneapolis shop move.

Jason attended Macalester College in St. Paul, where he spent time “hunting for sweet bikes” in the dumpsters of Express Bikes and other nearby shops, along with studying Geography. He is a co-founder of the campus bike club, Mac Bike, and started a bike share program and open shop program out of a dorm basement. (The student organization is still going strong to this day.) The summer after his junior year of college, he took a two month, 2500-mile bike tour with another student he met through Mac Bikes. Since graduating, he’s been a consistent presence at Cycles for Change. Jason writes grants, program evaluation plans, budgets, and scenario projections; meets with funders, community members, and employees of other nonprofits; and fits in annual bike tours during the winter off-season.

These long-timers may have been around for a while, but their sincere enthusiasm for pure bicycling hasn’t dwindled.

“I’m a sports dork,” Jason said. “I play in a wood bat baseball league as a pitcher, and I also play in a recreational basketball league. I’ve always been a physically-embodied person. My world isn’t as good when I’m sitting at a table or a desk the whole time. For me as a young person, being able to go anywhere I wanted on the power of my own two legs, or to be a able to cross a continent on the power of my body… I don’t know. It’s just a viscerally enjoyable experience.”

For Sheldon, the attraction of bicycling has more to do with the opportunity to spend time outdoors and the practical aspect of using a bike to commute.

“I’m not a sports dork,” Sheldon said. “I have really bad hand-eye coordination, so any ball sports are totally out. But I love being outside, and I just love recreational and commuting bicycling.”

Sheldon has cycled through a variety of work commutes.

“From third grade on, I bicycled to my elementary school, which was a mile away, but I didn’t bike to my junior high or high school, even though they were within bicycling distance—because that wasn’t cool. While working for an engineering corporation, I had a five minute ride to work because it was all downhill, and I got to work and wasn’t sweaty. And then it was a 40 minute ride home, and I got my exercise because it was all uphill. It was perfect. When I worked in Hopkins, before there were any trails, I would bicycle the 12 miles from Seward [neighborhood in Minneapolis] and I had to use Excelsior Boulevard, which was scary. That was the only route. I’ve always liked biking. My favorite bike—the bike I ride the most—is probably older than most people at [Cycles for Change], a 1988 Trek road bike.”

Since both Jason and Sheldon have been involved with the organization, they have sought to find the intersection of bicycling with justice, equity, and access through the way they do their work and check their own identities.

“I feel a sense of ownership over this work,” Jason said. “I don’t mean that in a way that takes ownership away from anyone else, but that I feel personally responsible for forwarding the mission of Cycles for Change to deepen our integration with this neighborhood and our depth of commitment and execution towards being a justice organization that uses bicycles as a tool to change our society. I believe there is a place for white people, for privileged white men in this movement. I’m doing a ton of learning about what that place actually is, and how I, as a leader in this organization, need to change the way I do my work and how I need to grow… I’m trying to build those relationships of accountability with other white dudes; I’m trying to build relationships with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), WTF (Women, Trans, Femme) leadership of this organization, and to step back and allow [them to lead] the direction and vision of this organization.

“And what I feel like I have been uniquely successful in doing is bringing resources—particularly financial resources—to help grow the voice of this organization. If there’s a way that I’ve been able to use my privilege as a writer with a fancy education, I think that’s a very specific place.”

Sheldon is grateful for those who have helped him find his place.

“As a 60-some-year-old white male, I have to be conscious of my identity,” he said. “I’m not always great at leaving room for people. I try, I make mistakes, I ask people for help… It’s important to leave space for others to make decisions, have roles, and express their opinions, and I want to make sure people are comfortable enough to talk to me when I make mistakes. And I can’t list the number of people who have helped me; there have been so many.”

As Sheldon and Jason continue to learn alongside us all, they also bring wisdom to share. Sheldon wants to encourage confidence and vision in others, particularly the youth apprentices that work at Cycles for Change.

“In general, if you have something that you want to do, or you think is a great idea, don’t worry about the bureaucracy,” he said. “Ask forgiveness, not permission. Go ahead and do it. And if someone is on your case for doing it, say ‘whoops, sorry,’ and move on. But be brave.”

Jason encourages consideration of the ‘how’ question in the bicycling movement.

“I think movement builders need to do a better job of being specific,” he offered. “We can get into these plotted ideals, of ‘we want to build community, we want to change systems.’ But what does that mean? How do you do that? What does it take to change the infrastructure of how a city looks? We can’t just talk about nice things. We have to be able to tell a compelling story and get organized. But I love, love this work—I love the community of people that are in this space, I love the youth, I love the adults, I love the people that drop in, and I love the neighborhoods that we’re in. It’s been amazing to see where we were ten years ago or even five years ago compared to where we are now—and to think about where we are going to be in five years excites me and opens my heart.”

 

Thank you, volunteers!

Thank you to the dozens of volunteers who helped us build, saw, paint, and move on July 22! We have more help than we expected and got so much accomplished! Special shoutout to the team of designers at Yeah Maybe Gallery for their thoughtful guidance in helping us create this new space!

Photos by Monica Bryand.

Learn to Ride Season Update

 

It’s August and we’re already starting our fourth session of Learn to Ride bike classes for adults and teenagers. And we’ve had a wonderful group of students so far this season. They come for all sorts of reasons―a personal challenge to learn something new, a desire to go on rides with their kids or partners, a new way to be healthy and happy in their bodies, and more. Although motivations for learning to ride a bicycle may be different among folks, everyone shares a dedication and passion to learn. We instructors never cease to be amazed at our students―whether they pick up balancing, gliding, and pedaling in one class or four―their laughter, smiles, and hard work of learning to ride motivates us all to challenge ourselves in new ways. Check out some of the great photos from our classes and rides by clicking the link below. If you’d like to learn more about Learn to Ride classes or to be involved as a volunteer in the future, please email Anneka at [email protected].

Send C4C Youth 2 DC!

 

Donate now!

Last year, Cycles for Change hosted the Youth Bike Summit in St. Paul, MN. This year, we are traveling to Washington, DC / Arlington, VA to attend the Summit! Help us get 8 youth and 2 adults to this 3-day, annual, national conference! The Youth Bike Summit includes keynote speakers, workshops, networking, and bike rides, all while learning, discussing, and building game plans around how youth are our future’s movement builders and how bikes are catalysts for social change. In April, you helped C4C raise half of the funds needed for this trip at the Youth Apprenticeship Silent Auction. Now, we need you to help us raise the other half of the funds.

YBS costs $650 per person.

Funding goes towards purchasing plane tickets ($300 each), Youth Bike Summit registration tickets ($35 each), hotel rooms ($100 a night), food, public transit, and educational sightseeing adventures including a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian.

Help us raise $3,325 by September 1, 2017!

If you want to see our youth apprentices in action, stop by our tent at Open Streets Franklin Ave on August 27 (we’ll be set up outside our new Minneapolis shop at Franklin and 26th). Our apprentices will be teaching you how to fix a flat and running a bike tune-up station. You can donate to the fundraiser there as well.

Levels of giving:
Move: $25 – Pays for public transit for one person (x10)
Engage: $50 – Pays for a YBS ticket for one person (x10)
Sleep: $100 – Pays for one hotel room for one night (x3x3)
Eat: $200 – Pays for meals for one person (x10)
Air: $300 – Pays for one round-trip ticket for one person (x10)

Donate now!

Learn more about Cycles for Change’s Youth Apprenticeship Program here.

Our Minneapolis Shop is Moving!

Cycles for Change’s Minneapolis location is moving to 2010 26th Avenue (corner of Franklin and 26th Avenue). The new space will be large enough to include a full retail shop (like the St. Paul location) selling a large selection of used bikes and accessories. We’ll also provide bike repair services, a great open shop area, and a public community space. This new space will be more flexible, easier to find, and will allow us to better serve our Minneapolis community. We’re working with a great group of volunteer designers from Yeah Maybe Gallery, just down the street from our new space. Together, we’ve spent the past two months visioning and designing, and we’re set to create a fantastic space.

The move will happen Mid-July to Mid-August. Open Shop and Grease Rag will not be held at Cycles for Change Minneapolis from Monday, July 17 to Tuesday, August 15 during the move.

We will officially re-open at the new space on Wednesday, August 16!

 

Meet the Staff Series #4

By: Halla Dontje Lindell

Cycles for Change is not simply a bike shop, but rather a community bike shop. In fact, some might say the organization is as much of an expert in fostering community as it is an expert in upcycling bicycles. Two artists in particular have contributed to the creation of the strong community that characterizes Cycles for Change.

Stephanie Schultz (she/her), Development and Communications Coordinator, hails from St. Paul, although she has lived in southwestern Minnesota and rural South Dakota as well. She describes her work as “design, communications, fundraising, and marketing…creating opportunities, assisting people in learning, and helping people find our classes and events.”

Skye Vang (they/them), Slow Roll St. Paul Organizer, grew up moving around so much that they attended nine different schools from kindergarten to high school, but currently considers South Minneapolis home. Skye joined the Cycles for Change team not entirely convinced that bicycling was a passion of theirs, but nevertheless they found their fit.

“I’ve always been about doing things that are a little bit slower, things you can take your time with, things that are a little more accessible to people,” Skye explained.

Their life philosophy aligns with Cycles for Change’s Slow Roll St. Paul program, which Skye coordinates. Slow Roll St. Paul occurs every other Wednesday evening from the beginning of June to the end of September, and is a no-drop ride for bikers of all abilities.

Stephanie is also grounded in the philosophy of slowing down and intentionally working to create things that increase accessibility to the public. She studied creative writing, graphic design, and art throughout undergraduate and graduate school. Afterwards, she tried out communications and design work in traditional environments, and found it wasn’t for her.

“I spent time working in both university and agency settings, and I disliked the way it was set up, the way the work was doled out to me, and the way I was micromanaged,” Stephanie explained. “I didn’t like making products that didn’t mean anything to me, or ones that were only seen by a small select group of people.”

Once Stephanie knew she wanted to find a different setting in which to contribute her skills, she applied to an AmeriCorps program called VISTA, a program specific to indirect service and capacity building in local nonprofits. Stephanie was part of a cohort of 20 other VISTA members, who were placed in different organizations throughout the city of St. Paul.

Stephanie finished off her first year with AmeriCorps VISTA and Cycles for Change, and liked it enough that she stayed for a second year. When her second VISTA term is over, she will transition to a full-time staff member in August to continue doing the work she’s done the past two years.

“I love this work. I love who I work with. I love getting to see all the different aspects of what we do,” Stephanie stated emphatically. “I go into Open Shop and a youth apprentice helps me, and I learn something about my bike that I never knew before. I’ve been volunteering with the Learn to Ride program, and even on day one some of them start pedaling. It’s amazing how fast it happens. Last month there was a participant who asked my name, and then said ‘Stephanie, I’ll always remember you when I ride my bike.’ Things like that help me know that this work really matters, even if it’s just that one person that said something to me. That’s why I want to stay here. I’m not always doing direct service stuff; it’s mostly sitting at a desk. But I’m doing that desk work so the participants can have awesome experiences.”

Skye, on the other hand, applied to an opening at Cycles for Change when they found out the organization was specifically seeking Queer/Trans and People of Color for an open position due to the trend of overarchingly white demographics within bicycle nonprofits. Skye brings previous experience working in the nonprofit world and appreciates working somewhere dedicated to “bringing on more people on who have those different voices and perspectives that can make our work better and more well-rounded.”

Skye works directly with community members, local businesses, and artists and arts organizations to create a specific feel, vision, and space for Slow Roll.

“Slow Roll is a space for people who don’t generally have space in larger society,” Skye said. “We’re unapologetic and explicit about that. That’s what I really like about Slow Roll—that we can make it as accessible, inclusive, and welcoming as we can. If people come into this space and are mad that we are trying to be inclusive, I can talk to them and say, ‘Hey, you can probably go to any other ride in the Twin Cities and feel like you fit in.’ I’m not here to make you feel better about that, and this is one space that a lot of people get to come to and not feel like they are being mistreated or the subjects of microaggressions or bigotry.”

Skye further acknowledges that Slow Roll is a small piece of a larger shift.

“This is one space, but I want it to be part of something bigger,” they said. “We’re not doing something that’s brand new. Grease Rag [a Woman/Trans/Femme bicycling collective] is doing things that we can only aspire to do. But every space can be better, more inclusive, and radical in ways where we aren’t doing things that are harmful to other communities.”

Stephanie and Skye continue to create in platforms outside of Cycles for Change, too. Stephanie does creative writing and poetry alongside her work at Cycles for Change.

“It’s a way for me to process the world and try to make sense of things,” she said. “It’s just everyday things that happen, it’s wondering about all these the things that go on in our lives, it’s writing about place and how I fit in here, how we all fit in here, and what it all means.”

As for Skye, choosing one medium is impossible.

“I’ve always been a person who’s fond of all sorts of expression. I’m into music. I’m not a performer in any way, but I’m into music production. I’m into all sorts of visual arts, cinematography and film, sculpture, pottery, painting, photography, fashion. My dream job is to be a fashion stylist, and just style people to look cool… Well, that’s one of my dream jobs… I just love all things that you get to make your own, that you put a little of yourself into, or you show a little bit of other people and their souls.”

Stephanie and Skye both agree that fashion is an important part of their lives and personal expression. Stephanie is an avid garage-saler and thrift store shopper.

“I think for someone like me who’s introverted and quiet, my treasure-hunting is an artform. It’s the way I express myself, through my clothes, and I don’t have to say something to do that.”

For Skye, fashion allows them to exist outside of socially-imposed parameters of how a person can or should be.

“Clothes have no gender and you can wear whatever you want to wear,” Skye said. “When you allow yourself to take gender out of clothes, makeup, or hair, you allow yourself to show up authentically more in real and cool ways that a lot of people don’t allow themselves to do because they are so confined by these parameters or cookie-cutter molds of how people should show up. When we allow ourselves to shop at thrift stores and wear floral or lace and cut our hair however, it expands expression. That in itself is an artform—living and breathing and doing these things.”

Showing up authentically is important to Skye, particularly when interacting with the youth apprentices at Cycles for Change.

“As a queer and trans Asian person, I exist a little differently than most people in the queer/trans community and I exist a little differently than most people in the Hmong community,” they said. “I show up in the world, and I try to be authentic. That is both hard and dangerous. I’m going to be 25 next week, so it took a long time to be able to do that. I feel like the youth apprentices who are working here, especially the queer and/or trans Hmong youth, are fond of me because they are like me and I am older than them. That is really amazing to me, because I feel like if I was their age, 18 years and younger, and I had someone like me who existed in an authentic way and loved doing that, that that would have been so life changing for me. I think about the folks that I met when I was older than 18 who changed my life, shaped my leadership, and impacted me so much, and I can only hope to do that for the [youth apprentices]. I think that it is really telling what it looks like to have folks in an organization that really reflect your community and for youth to have people to look up to, talk to, and ask questions of without fearing that they will be judged or misunderstood.”

Stephanie and Skye, and the skills and experiences they bring to Cycles for Change, are invaluable. Stephanie’s fundraising and communications work is pivotal in creating opportunities for others. By coordinating Slow Roll St. Paul rides, Skye can show up authentically and be a role model for young people in the community. In whatever creative form—fashion, creative writing, or community organizing—both will continue to bring art into their work.