Bringing awareness to Indigenous men’s mental health through biking
Indian Country Today
A group of Indigenous men cycling more than 800 miles say they have one goal in mind: to bring hope and healing for Black and Indigenous men.
The ride is sponsored by Break the (BI)CYCLE, an organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the mental health challenges faced by men of color. It began on Sept. 14 in Wyoming and will conclude in the coming days in New Mexico.
Former professional basketball player and avid cyclist Damen Bell-Holter who is Haida, Tlingit and African American, founded the organization when he began riding his bike in March. He quickly realized riding felt therapeutic to him.
Two year priors, he tried seeing a therapist, but “it didn’t work out.”
“I realized they couldn’t connect with me. They didn’t really understand my trauma or the things that my people are going through with our historical traumas — and how colonization and slavery have greatly impacted all of our people,” he said.
Bell-Holter says he’s traveled to various Indigenous communities in the U.S. and Canada to provide exercises on self-empowerment and growth mindset training. On his trips, he frequently asked what types of mental health services are offered for men.
“There weren’t many,” he said. Instead he decided to start organizing spaces for men to delve into vulnerable conversations together.
“I’m not a guru. I’m not a total expert. I’m meeting people where they’re at. That’s how we’re able to push each other forward,” Bell-Holter said.
The initial bike ride was planned from Vancouver, British Columbia to Newport, California. But the wildfires raging along the course changed their course.
Now the group finds themselves biking and camping along their route ranging three states. The ride began with nine riders. He estimates it will end with 15 and encourages others along the route to join.
Part of the ride also includes a social media campaign.
Break the (BI)CYCLE has challenged men to bike for 7, 14, 21 or 28-plus miles daily, then to bring a friend along for the ride. The milage is inspired by the principles of caring for the seven generations to come.
So far, the challenge has been embraced by some on social media.
“When I heard about the Break the Bicycle movement that Damen Bell-Holter is leading, I sprinted at the opportunity,” said Judge Marshall, Hupa, Karuk and Yurok on Instagram.
“I feel like biking ... has helped and inspired me on many levels. I believe in promoting Unity and Wellness for Black and Indigenous peoples. This has given me a way of putting my support into action,” Marshall said.
Bell-Holter says he is excited to see where the organization takes him, ultimately hoping to continue building community.
“A lot of people think you’re supposed to work on yourself, by yourself, in a corner. But it doesn’t necessarily have to look like that,” Bell-Holter said. “You can heal through community.”
Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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