We had the good fortune of connecting with Marcus Robinson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marcus, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Our decision was truly unconventional. Most entrepreneurs seem to have had that, “ah-ha” moment of discovery or innovation but mine was born out of pain.
When George Floyd was murdered and the nation and the world began to protest not just George but all injustice for the Black, Indigenous and People of Color(BIPOC) globally this is where my path began.
As a long time cyclist who had a bike before I bought my first car after college, cycling and then racing came fairly easy for me. I didn’t win every time but I had a blast. It was my escape, it was in fact a vehicle that could take me anywhere, discovering new things and places I’ve never seen, it was freedom.
But now in this racially divided country for the first time in my life I was truly afraid to ride my bike due to the color of my skin. The sport I loved as a child and now as an adult was being taken from me. My family feared that someone would run me over or shoot me. Yes, the color of skin mattered.
I vented my anger on social media and my cycling friends came to my support and my good friend and cycling coach Neal Henderson called me and just asked me the simple question, “Are you okay what’s up?” He listened intently and then he posted live on Instagram and I saw tears in his eyes. He told me I have your back and we’ll get the crew together and go ride and you will feel safe. I said and then what? We have to do something, you will not always be around to support and protect me from these racist that think it okay to harm or kill someone that doesn’t look like them. The country that I was born in was being torn apart. The worst of America, that had been simmering, had been given the air of acceptance to act with no accountability and the BIPOC community was in the cross hairs.
Within 10 days we decided to do a community ride through the city a very low speed cruise if you will and yes during a pandemic and chose the name “Ride for Racial Justice” I recruited some colleagues and shot a public service announcement, we posted on social media found a location that believed in our mission as a ride starting point and our non-profit was born. Our first ride had about 100 cyclist and it was an emotional sight, my “Star Trek” moment when humanity was linked together to fight injustice.
Our mission at that time was just to ride together as a community to protect one another and show the world that we can come together to have discussions about race, injustice and truly learn within the safe space of cycling.
Now, 10 months later we are a certified 501(c)(3) and we have a defined mission and a plan.
We’ve found in our space that within cycling the BIPOC community has been marginalized as well as other sports, we have no voice, corporations, brands reap tremendous rewards by our participation in sport but choose not to be inclusive in decision making in the communities that take from, they merely add one person to a board and check the box of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion(EDI) and then post on social media and say yes we did to show the world they are compliant, we say NO you’re not!
Taking a step further, my sport is very elitist, it takes a tremendous amount of financial assistance to become competitive and then add coaches, training camps and that all important bike with prices approaching the stratosphere was beyond most parents. Add to that, cycling in the past has never promoted BIPOC participation, yes we had some successes Major Taylor, Nelson Vails, Rahsaan Bahati, Justin Williams and now Aeysha McGowan, 5 out of over a hundred years?
RFRJ has chosen to push the envelope of inclusion by partnering with Steamboat Gravel Race to have 25 BIPOC athletes participating in one of the largest gravel races in the world and do what no other race has ever done by assuring BIPOC representation at the start line.
We are taking our mission of inclusion to another level by giving these gifted cyclists the means to be successful in this space and encourage others in their communities to take up this sport.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
After college, I began a career in oil and gas, specifically well-site geology. I’ve always loved rocks and had a collection when I was a kid and they were all probably the same rocks but they were cool. Working in the field took me throughout the US but I was never home, living in hotels and trailers in some remote locations. The positives I received were arguably the most beautiful sunrise, sunsets, wildlife and star filled images I’ve ever seen.
It wasn’t easy being black in some of these towns as at that time I was probably the only black person that community had ever encountered except on television and I will leave it at that.
The one thing you have in life is your word, I survived during that time due to integrity, you lose that it cannot be gained back.
Ride for Racial Justice is an organization that is pushing the envelope of inclusion in cycling for all BIPOC athletes will have an opportunity to succeed and change the way this sport marginalizes people of color. Soon they will realize we as a group have the commitment and financial means to create change and we will.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary — say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First of all; my peeps that would come to visit would know we’d go to the mountains period! As anan Outward Bound graduate that spent 26 days in the high country’s I know a little bit about the mountains and as cyclist I have a few spots that are still untouched and if you know me, you know can’t share it here.
But, let’s say, I’d start by picking up some travel sandwiches from Curtis Park Delicatessen; THE BEST HANDS DOWN. A quick pass of my beloved Denver Broncos Stadium, maybe a trip to view some bald eagles and then a trip on the Peak to Peak Highway or Mt. Evans, you’re in Colorado you need to see Colorado.
Besides, the sandwiches at Curtis Park, I’d have to include food trucks and for sure check out the generational taco-rillas(sp) and a few bbq joints after all I am a Q-Master
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have a few; my co-founder Neal Henderson; Director of Sport Science; Wahoo Fitness, Amy Charity; Principal Steamboat Gravel Race and Mark Satkiewicz; co-founder Steamboat Gravel Race(deceased) and my great Board of Directors; along with Neal, Renee Marino and Massimo Alpian and Alisha Zellner