By Harold C. Ford
Some two dozen area motorcyclists obliterated the image of motorcycle riders as narcissists living on the edge of law as they welcomed Doyle/Ryder Elementary students back to school on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Dubbed “Rolling Into Success,” the event was organized by Kevelin Jones, Doyle/Ryder principal, and Urundi Knox, bishop of Burton-based Ebenezer Ministries.
Adults lined the entranceway to the school and lavished the arriving students with applause, high fives, and encouraging words. After running the gauntlet of cheering adults, students were greeted by the sight of a few dozen gleaming motorcycles parked in the atrium and gymnasium of their school.
Several officers from the City of Flint Police Department were joined by a sprinkling of community leaders including: Flint Mayor Karen Weaver; Isaiah Oliver, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint; motorcyclist Harold Woodson, a Flint Board of Education member and its immediate past president; and the new superintendent of Flint Community Schools. Derrick Lopez.
Lopez told East Village Magazine he found the event “amazing, because it really shows how much our community embraces our children. It really shows…that when it’s about our kids, our community shows up.”
Richard McAdory is one of those community members who showed up. President of Ebenezer Ministries, McAdory told EVM: “We came out to display our bikes, welcome them back to school, give them something to grab on to, some type of incentive to go further in their education.”
While most of the civic-minded motorcyclists were affiliated with Ebenezer Ministries, others like Mike Carmody participated as independent riders.
“Anybody that can come forward and help motivate the kids, it’s in the best interests of the city of Flint,” he said. “You get the kids revved up and involved in their education.” Carmody, 65, has been riding bikes for 50 years. His gleaming $27,000 Harley Davidson Road Glide was conspicuously parked in the Doyle/Ryder atrium.
“It’s awesome, very uplifting, and inspiring for the childred,”observed Michelle Gray, one of several female participants along with her Honda VTX 1300. “Visually and mentally it’s meant to inspire them that they can achieve anything they want to.”
Dispelling myths about motorcyclists:
“Bike clubs forever have been helping out different charities,” Carmody said. “We’re here to help the community. The bad reputation (of motorcyclists) is undeserved.”
“We have clubs that give out scholarships…that give back to the community,”concurred McAdory. The motorcycles “are just a tool to get people’s attention.”
For Gray, the use of her motorcycle at the Doyle/Ryder event was simply a continuation of her long-held civic-minded lifestyle. It began in Beecher High School and has included her mentor-tutor work in Carman-Ainsworth’s Dye Elementary, Urban League of Flint, the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, and now Ebenezer Ministries.
SOS, saving our schools:
Though buoyed by the jubilation of the moment, nearly all those present were surely aware of the task facing Flint schools as clearly stated in a recent Aug. 22 post on EVM’s website:
“…as Flint students and teachers go back to school this fall, a make-or-break drama is underway that significantly affects the future of the Flint Community Schools…The district has been given 36 months by the State of Michigan to pull itself up…(or) face three possible consequences: being absorbed by another district, being reconstituted, or being shut down.”
“We’re trying to get the kids to come in the first day of school and get excited about school the rest of the year,”asserted Richard McQueary, a community health worker at Doyle/Ryder. “We try to get our kids to come back to school inside of the city,”agreed McAdory.
McQueary, McAdory, and others are keenly aware that less than one-third of Flint students actually attend Flint’s public schools. Approximately two-thirds of Flint’s 15,000 school-age children attend other public, private and charter schools.
Lopez seemed optimistic about meeting the challenge facing Flint’s schools. “I think this is the spirit that is in this building every day,”he said. “The teachers are so embracing of our kids. If we can keep this energy and keep this motivation going, our students will become the scholars we all want them to be.”
EVM staff writer Harold C. Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. EVM staff writer and photographer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at email@example.com.