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ABC OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — Oakland’s chief of police says his city has seen 20 shootings in just the past week and the department is reaching out to the community for help. One West Oakland group is answering that call and trying to break the pattern of violence with pedal power.
“Bikes4Life” is celebrating two years serving the West Oakland community. It is the only bike shop in the area and it is also a place where at-risk young men and women learn to do hands-on work. The shop is also the home of a non-profit called “One Fam,” short for “family.”
“We like to try to reach the young folks, build a community, build dialog, and also teach them conflict resolution skills. There are better ways to handle these conflicts,” Tony Coleman says. He founded One Fam in 2000. The bike shop has been around for only two years. All the bikes are used, bought at auctions or donated. After some repairs, they are sold. It is a way to gain employment skills while incorporating the anti-violence message. “We were in the community and we were doing a lot of events, and biking was an event that folks were taking on as a subculture. So, we moved with the community,” Coleman explains.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
West Oakland’s Bikes 4 Life re-opening
with rides for all
A mural outside West Oakland’s Bikes 4 Life pays homage to
Marshall “Major” Taylor, the first great African American
“It keeps me occupied, not doing trouble in the summer, and after I’m gone it’s going to
leave me with some experience,” says Lamar, a 16-year-old who works at Bikes 4 Life  in
the West Oakland community bike shop’s promotional video. After the completion of its
remodels, the shop is re-opening tomorrow, Sat/11, and will be handing out free rides to
the neighborhood kids.
The shop opened in 2009. It was a direct response to the spate of crime that was taking
West Oakland’s youth away from creative, productive pursuits and into Juvenile Hall.
Bikes 4 Life welcomes the neighborhood’s kids in for lessons in bike repair and
maintenance — skills that have the added bonus of providing kids with the tools for gainful
employment down the road.
Making a difference, one spoke at a time. Tomorrow, Bikes 4 Life celebrates the changes
to its workshop with an event during which it will give away 20 bikes to neighborhood kids,
and get some of its program participants up on their soap box to talk about how the
program has made a difference in their lives.
Nonprofit shop Bikes 4 Life will celebrate its grand-reopening Saturday by raffling off 20 bikes for local youths.
Celebrations will begin at noon and will include food, drinks, and guest speakers who will talk about how Bikes 4 Life has helped better their community.
The event is free to attend but raffle tickets for bikes and other prizes will be $1.
Bikes 4 Life is located at 1600 7th St. in West Oakland
The shop uses biking, art and technology to empower young people by teaching them business skills as well as a sense of community pride and responsibility.
EAST BAY EXPRESS
Bikes 4 Life’s Revolution Ride
Cycling for a cause in West Oakland.
By Ellen Cushing
Call it Critical Mass, West Oakland edition. On Saturday, July 24,
Oaklanders will take to the streets for the third-annual Bikes 4 Life Peace
Ride, a sort of bicycle-bound block party intended to promote healthy living
and strong community.
Like previous rides, this year’s is being organized by Tony Coleman, a
longtime organizer and Oakland resident who has made community-building
in the Bay Area his life’s work. The way Coleman tells it, the mission of both
the Bikes 4 Life ride and its eponymous nonprofit bike shop, which opened
late last year, is to empower young people to “think about their communities,
to strategize on ways to better our community and our relationships with
each other, and to build that community around biking.” More specifically,
Coleman and his organization aims to decrease violence, foster community,
and encourage physical activity — not to mention promoting green living in a
neighborhood that, Coleman said, is often left out of the conversation about
environmental sustainability. “There are not a lot of urban folks going green,”
he said. “This is also a way for us to think about helping the planet.”
If all this sounds ambitious and high-minded, it’s because it is. But Coleman
has been organizing around issues like police brutality and criminal justice
and working with youth at risk of incarceration for more than a decade. If
anyone knows how to marry lofty social justice concepts with something kids
can get behind, it’s him. Coleman works from the inside out and the ground
up — that is, by inspiring folks to “better their communities in their own
ways, in their own flavor,” in a way that feels organic and not forced. “This
isn’t something that’s thought up in some back room or some corporate
nonprofit office,” Coleman explained. His movement is driven by the
community it serves, not the other way around.
SF Bayview Newspaper
West Oakland’s Bike Man: an interview wit Bikes 4 Life owner Tony Coleman
July 22, 2010
Bikes 4 Life Annual Peace Ride on Saturday, July 24, begins at Lake Merritt, 468 Perkins St., at 7:30 p.m., and rides to Revolution Café, 1610 Seventh St., West Oakland, for a movie at 8:30 p.m. Join hundreds of riders coming together in unity!
by Minister of Information JR
Tony Coleman Jr. and his GT dyno prepare for a Bikes4Life neighborhood ride in West Oakland.
Bikes 4 Life is on the cutting edge of the earth conscious movement that has to take place in this country if the human race is to survive. From the naked eye, it is a used bike shop that repairs and sells used bikes. In reality, it is one of the community anchors in West Oakland where people go to socialize and congregate and discuss community issues, including bikes.
The founder of One Fam and Bikes 4 Life is a veteran non-profit organizer operating in the Lower Bottoms of West Oakland, with over a decade of experience under his belt. From the depths of the hellish conditions of street life, to a stint in prison, to being seen as expendable by one of the white left’s Black mascots after his face and work were used as a front for social and political opportunists to advance, Tony Coleman has seen the intestines of the beast. Let’s see what he has to say …
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us what made you start Bikes 4 Life? Where is it located?
Tony Coleman: I started Bikes 4 Life as a project of One Fam in West Oakland, because my kids and I have lived here for a decade and I feel it’s important for local residents to own and run businesses right where we live, to build our economy and strengthen the community. What inspired me to open a bicycle shop was the success One Fam and I had organizing annual bike peace rides from Lake Merritt to West Oakland’s DeFremery Park (Lil’ Bobby Hutton Park).
Hundreds of riders traveling together through the streets of Oakland show that unity is the way and the bicycle is the vehicle of the future. Join them for the annual Peace Ride Saturday, July 24, beginning at Lake Merritt, 468 Perkins St., at 7:30 p.m.
Seeing over 300 bike riders – mostly youth of color but very diverse – as a community organizer, I thought to myself that opening a bike shop will not only be good for business but will help to build and unite the community. One Fam had already been planning to establish a social enterprise in order to become less dependent on grants and more self-sustainable in our operations. So the timing could not have been better.
M.O.I. JR: What has the impact of Bikes 4 Life been in the West Oakland community?
Tony Coleman: The Bikes 4 Life Bicycle Shop has had a tremendous impact. The full spectrum enjoys the space from your typical artist “Hipsters,” mostly white, that enjoy road bikes and fixies and stop in to utilize the free bike kitchen to work on their bikes, to turf hustlers that come and have their GT bmx bikes worked on. Chrome 24-inch GTs have become so popular in West Oakland that Bikes 4 Life inspired some regulars to start a GT bike club and they’re planning to be in full force at the annual peace ride.
Bikes 4 Life founder Tony Coleman leads a tour of the neighborhood.
The original GTs are no longer made by GT, making them hard to find, thus adding to the hype and attraction. This new phenomenon is largely due to Bikes 4 Life being in the neighborhood, as in the “Field of Dreams,” “You build it; they will come.” But it also matters who builds it.
M.O.I. JR: What kind of activities is Bikes 4 Life involved in?
Tony Coleman: Bikes 4 Life organized a neighborhood bike ride that was also a historic tour of the neighborhood, complete with historians and guides informing the riders of the rich history, including as the birthplace of the Black Panthers and the Pullman Porters and the 100-year history of DeFremery Park (Lil Bobby Hutton Park). A member of the historical society of DeFremery Park gave a presentation. The bike ride attracted over 75 local diverse residents, many of whom might have never met if not for the ride.
Another activity that B4L is planning is the bicycle repair skills competitions. The goal of the competitions is to highlight bicycle mechanic skills. When I was a kid, we used to all get together and fix on bikes without any formal training, just by trial and error – which is good, but now bikes are expensive and we could’ve benefited from having the proper tools and information that we have now, with all the bikes we ruined with vice-grips as our all-in-one tool. When you have the right tools and know how to use them, it’s actually fun and rewarding. B4L has become that resource that organizes fun bike activities and competitions, striving to inspire the mechanic in us all.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us about the Bikes 4 Life event in July coming up?
Tony Coleman: We’re super excited about our annual event July 24. The Bikes 4 Life Annual Peace Ride brings people together from all over Oakland and the Bay Area to take part in a collective healthy activity and calling for more peace in the streets. There is something special about seeing 300 riders coming together to ride around Lake Merritt and through the inner city of Oakland in unity. The B4L ride is one of the most diverse rides in the Bay Area, attracting people from many different backgrounds, and you can see from the looks on bystanders’ faces as they pass that it’s special. Even along the ride folks are riding and meeting each other, some for the first time, and there seems to be no better feeling.
About halfway through last year’s Peace Ride, four riders stop for a breather in Mosswood Park in a show of Black-Brown unity.
This year is going to be special because for the first time we’re having a night ride. Can you imagine 300 to 400 people on bikes all lit up with lights taking over the streets? It’s an amazing site to see. Following this year’s ride is another first for us at our end destination: We’ll be having a drive-in style movie projected on the side of Revolution Cafe. Complete with food, drinks and prizes, the feature movie will be a classic, “The Warriors,” which is about a gang leader gunned down in an effort to sabotage a gang truce, which we feel is parallel to the system we live in that is benefiting from us continuing to kill each other. The film starts at 8:30, and all are welcome.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us about some of the non-profit work that you were involved in before Bikes 4 Life?
Tony Coleman: The foundation of One Fam began in 1996 after I led a campaign to get a rogue killer cop fired from SFPD. The cop killed Aaron Williams, an unarmed Black man who was pepper-sprayed and left to die in the back of a paddy wagon. I organized a coalition including Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center that helped put him and others on the map.
What made this so different was the introduction of hip hop activists, due to their unique way of using spoken work when addressing the police commissioners. Their raw street flavor attracted many youth who’d had prior negative interactions with the police, making every hearing the place to be for youth in the community.
After that campaign, the formation of Thirdeye Movement was established, which ended up leading the fight against Prop 21. That was well documented. The organization fell apart due to in-fighting, leaving the controlled funding with the parenting organization, and they later grew into a well established institution, while many of the less educated, less connected were left to pick up the pieces. Some will never engage in politics again, while others still work in the community for other organizations. We just held a 10-year reunion, where many came out and told stories of how the experience shaped their lives. One Fam was born in 2000 in the spirit to resurrect that movement but not to be based around an issue, but unity, therefore going with the name One Family.
M.O.I. JR: What can people do to help Bikes 4 Life? How can they keep in touch with you online?
Tony Coleman: The way people can support One Fam is by donating money, time or writing skills. Since we’re an established 501(c)(3), we can apply for funding but, with limited staff, we’re often overlooked by more established organizations. We know eventually we’ll be able to staff our organization, but we’re so excited about the impact we’re having now we can’t wait for the days when our organization gets the recognition and funding it deserves.
West Oakland, CA, bike shop spins the wheels of social change
Published on Thursday, January 07, 2010
Last updated on 08:40PM, Thursday, January 7, 2010
Bikes at this summer’s Bike 4 Life bike ride at Defremery Park
As people across the nation make resolutions to live a greener life in 2010, Oakland-based Bikes 4 Life is a few paces ahead, thanks to a committed crew with a lot of heart. Located at 1600 7th Street, across the street and a few blocks away from the West Oakland BART, the bike shop space is packed with potential and ready to become a model of entrepreneurship, community service, and healthy living for the West Oakland community.
Co-founded by West Oakland residents Tony Coleman, 43, and Kendrick Grant, 25, the store’s mission is to “build a strong healthy greener community” by working with youth who are moving through the court system. Working with previously incarcerated young people is nothing new for this duo, who actually met through another program established by Coleman, On The Bricks, a program of the OneFam community organization. (The program provides job-training and support for those exiting juvenile hall and pairs them with mentors who have carved out new lives after prison.) “Tony was an older gentleman that had been through the prison system,” explains Grant as the two sit side by side, “and he passed down a lot of knowledge to me through On the Bricks.”
While Coleman downplays his resume, Grant is quick to note that he has been a force in community development for years and even inspired the Ella Baker Center’s work with the Silence the Violence initiative. After a successful bike ride for peace in July 2009, the two organizers realized that they could reach youth, give back to their community and help the environment at the same time.