"Naked" Bike Ride a Symbol of Community Activism
|Photo by Justin Namon/WorldRedEye.com|
|Protesters talk with the local media.|
Saturday afternoon about 100 people gathered outside the BP gas station on NE 10th Street and Biscayne Boulevard. For one hour, a horde of social activists, students, artists, cyclists, and people upset about the oil spill stood in front of the gas station with signs, chants, and a togetherness voicing our community's anger.
Then, everyone hopped on bicycles and rode up Biscayne, over the Venetian, onto the beach, down Dade, across Washington, to South Pointe, and then back up Ocean Drive to 14th Street. Tourists stopped to witness the spectacle and cheer on the riders. Workers came out of restaurants and businesses. Locals hung off of condo balcony's with cameras.
The event was organized as a "naked bike ride" but forget about nudity. The "naked bike ride" was a hook to easily lure and bait the media. This was a demonstration to protest a crime being committed against our environment. By focusing on the nudity aspect, it is easy to dismiss the message of the event, and consequently label its demonstrators as a bunch of kooky liberal freaks and nudists. No. These were young, conscious, smart, artistic, active people, whose voice should be heard.
Forget nudity. This was activism. Art as activism.
Imagine the "nakedness" as a metaphor for people's vulnerability to stop the oil spill. For 55 days this environmental travesty has continued to destroy the Gulf. Not pollute the Gulf, destroy the Gulf. And there is nothing one can do, thus the nakedness.
Picture the "bike ride" as a symbol for our dependence on oil and automobiles. What better way to prove we don't need cars than to gather a big group of cyclists. Granted. Logistics make it impossible to get everyone out of a car and onto a bike, but it's the optical image that makes the statement.
The bigger point of this protest was the voice of the people. People are supposed to be represented by elected officials. More than ever, it appears that the officials we elect are bought and sold by special corporate interests and lobbyists. Whether its our wars, bank and auto bailouts, insurance and pharmaceutical industries, or energy companies, it is obvious that business supercedes government.
So, if elected officials don't represent the people. And corporations have the power. Then, where is the voice of the little guy? Gatherings like this bike ride allow the people to play a role. By getting off one's ass, creating the optics, and reflecting the issue, people can use the media to push towards change.
If enough people get involved, change could become irresistible.
J.J. Colagrande is the author of Headz, a novel. He's also a professor at Miami-Dade College and Barry University.