In conversation with Nedra Deadwyler – Civil Bikes
We’re excited to be joined next month for MuseumNext London by Nedra Deadwyler, founder of Civil Bikes. We caught up with her about her impressive social enterprise ahead of her speaking at our conference.
Civil Bikes is an amazing idea, how did it get started?
Civil Bikes is one of those ideas that sit with you for a lifetime until it is ready or the time is right for it to come alive! There are two parts, one is the valuing of the individual and their story. The second part is the desire to create something that is representative of what I knew to be true.
I grew up in the South and specifically in Metro Atlanta and as a southerner storytelling is part of the culture and so is listening. I grew up listening to my elders sharing their lives in stories, daily activities like dinner preparation or extended family meet-ups that were large, lively and inter-generational. I am a Licensed Master of Social Work and learned to respect each individual’s story. Recognizing that it held answers to understanding their life’s complexities, problems and possible pathways to a healthier life and/ or goal attainment.
Civil Bikes is personal. As a Black woman, the portrayal of Black people indigenous to America, i.e. have ancestors who were enslaved are poorly represented in the media and history is lacking to content. We have not be valued in the American society because our contribution generally goes unrecognized, is not retold, and isn’t common knowledge. I saw this was a need for every American regardless of race or national origin, people needed to understand who Black people were. I firmly believe it will make a difference for every person. Additionally, there is a minimizing of other POC and immigrants and those who identify as LGBTQ(AI). It is our history that is being either misrepresented or not retold, erased as cities change, and undervalued.
One day in 2013 I lost my job and began formulating and doing the work to bring Civil Bikes to life!
What’s been the most surprising thing about running Civil Bikes?
The most surprising thing is that people actually want to join me in conversation and want to be part of this organization. I’m not the only person who is hungry for human contact and for the stories I tell, others are too. And the second surprising thing is that talking about difficult subjects such as race, white supremacy, and segregation aren’t all sad, maddening, or depressing. People need shared experiences to learn, grow, change, heal, and confirm; this is what Civil Bikes provides to each person that comes for a visit with us.
How have your customers responded to your tours?
Most responses are positive. There are a number of ways people have responded. It will bring up memories for people, sometimes tears are shared, people share their own personal experiences with/ in history, people also want to discuss books they’ve read on various subjects that come up or share their knowledge, many people will connect the Atlanta stories share with where they’ve come from. Only a few people wanted to change the subject or have questioned my knowledge or facts or not interested.
What’s been the highlight of the journey so far?
The highlight of creating Civil Bikes is that idea impacts other people’s experience, perceptions, and possibly even change their belief and/ or understanding of history, people, and communities.
What’s next for Civil Bikes?
We are in the process of growth and scale. Just completed an incubator for social- entrepreneurs and was accepted in a Civil Entreprenure Residency program at the Center for Civic Innovation with the support of Sara Blakley and SPANX! We are in the process of hiring and onboarding people to host biking and walking tours. Plan to continue community building activities (bookclub, host a monthly kids ride, add tours like a ride+brunch+museum tour, free themed rides). We are open and looking to new collaborations that will help us to continue to grow our audience and highlight stories and histories in our mission. And develop more content through interviews and blogging. Improving our branding. Host more long-form European styled tours and food + history tours.