Named for Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor, the country’s first Black cycling champion, and the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, an all-Black unit known as the ‘Iron Riders,’ the Major Taylor Iron Riders club of New York City is comprised largely of Black, Latino, and Asian-American riders. These riders have informed perspectives on what it means to be a person of color in the U.S. cycling scene. We are honored to share their thoughts in a regular column series on velonews.com in the coming months.
In early June 2020, one of the most comprehensive lists of Black lives lost to police violence was not on CNN or the New York Times website. It was actually part of a message on the website BabyNames.com with the headline: “Each of these names was somebody’s baby.”
The list began with Emmitt Till, who was killed in 1955 at the age of 14, and contained 119 names arranged in a loose chronological order, ending with George Floyd. I discovered this list while I was working on a special kit design project for my cycling club, the Major Taylor Iron Riders.
A look at the Major Taylor Iron Riders BLM kits. Photo: MTIR
These names now appear on the back of a special Major Taylor Iron Riders cycling kit, which was released last year. We didn’t want to just copy and paste these names onto our kit from a website. I don’t claim to be an expert on racial justice — not many of us are — so I decided to research every name on the list before adding it to the design.
For two weeks I researched each name online, searching by name and state, and then name and city when the locations became repetitive. I added one name at a time I’d get through 10 or 15 names each day, sometimes fewer. It was an emotional journey that I didn’t expect to start, but one that I quickly realized was necessary.