Amid the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Ronald King and his friends just wanted to stay active.
“Around March last year when COVID hit, we didn’t have anything to do — we couldn’t go to the gym, we couldn’t go to the park, they took the (basketball) rims down; it was nothing to do as far as being active,” the Bronzeville resident said.
That’s when he and a few of his friends started riding their bikes throughout downtown Chicago, taking pictures and posting them on social media along the way. But what started as a way to keep active, would soon turn into a bike club with membership in the thousands from various parts of Chicagoland, including Homewood.
Now the group is titled Streets Calling, a Black-owned Chicago cycling club that focuses on social activism, entrepreneurship and support of promoting Black culture. It has chapters in Washington D.C. Philadelphia, Charlotte and Detroit.
“Two people turned into 10 people, 10 people turned into 20 and I think in about three or four weeks we had about 100 people coming out every Saturday morning,” King, the club’s founder, said.
Within two months, around 400 people were coming out to ride. The group would ride about two times a week, starting in Bronzeville, around McCormick Place, and they’d ride to Wrigley Field, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Pilsen, Morgan Park and to Evergreen Park.
The club saw its largest crowd on Juneteenth last year, where over 1,400 people showed up to ride through the Chicago area.
Martell Hall is a lifelong cyclist and friend of King’s. He saw the group’s numbers increase from just a few friends to a string of hundreds of cyclists. He was grateful to see others finding satisfaction in an activity he always loved.
“I already knew that riding bikes was fun; it’s a very freeing experience compared to your normal day-to-day grind,” he said.
Oliver Hatchett, a Homewood resident who’s been friends with King for years, said he didn’t even own a bike when he was asked to come out and ride with the group.
But he kept coming back after being drawn to not only the health benefits of cycling but the networking and the camaraderie he experienced during rides.
“This club consists of individuals from the entire Chicagoland area — young African American professionals, business people, police officers, principals, television executives. All kinds of different people. We got a whole smorgasbord, if you will, of people that are out,” he explained.
But what drew him the most was the club’s dedication to advocacy.
As the club started gaining traction, a slew of Black-owned businesses in the Bronzeville neighborhood were closing due to financial pressures from COVID-19.
King said he and others who are part of the club saw an opportunity to show support.
“If we can get together 100 people, we might as well see if we can support Black-owned businesses in our community,” King said.
After a ride, club members would go to a Black-owned business to support it, whether it was a restaurant or bar, Hatchett said.
“I mean you have 150 to 200 people show up at your business at the end of the day and patronize it on a Tuesday and you can’t beat that,” he added.
The group is gearing up for cycling season slated to begin rides sometime in April. King said to keep tabs on the club and its future plans, visit www.streetscallingbc.com.