[SHAPE YOUR FUTURE]
I want you to take this journey with me. Let's set the stage. It's a Sunday in Baltimore. There could be kids in the park Druid Hill. They're watching dirt bike riders go pass, do tricks, pop wheelies, do stunts, they're zipping. If you hear the engines revving, smell the gasoline, you can see the joy and excitement on their face. Someone’s probably learning how to fix their dirt bike, because the parts are way too expensive to buy. Then they can go to school.
They can get a pop quiz or a test from a teacher. You know the kind we all heard and we've all hated. "A train that's leaving from New York, goes to Cleveland," but they're here in Baltimore. How does this relate? They don't get it. They fail the test and now they can hate school.
Then their world can be turned upside down. They can get on Facebook, on Instagram, get a call or a text. They can watch as their friend can become a hashtag, a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lost to the streets, lost to the system or lost to gun violence.
Or a kid that could be arrested for a dirt bike. Because in my city it can be a misdemeanor for possession of a dirt bike. This can be a likely story for Black kids across the country. In cities like Miami, Cleveland, Atlanta, Philly, whatever place had the dirt bike task force.
Now ask yourself if the thing you use to relieve your stress, if it was demonized, would you still do it? If it was criminalized? The answer is yes. That's the reality for Black people across the US right now. They’ve watched as we made room in cities for skateboarders, for bicyclists and any other sport. They can watch TV and see it on X Games, the Olympics or ESPN. The style of riding can be seen in ad campaigns and films. But in Baltimore, what do they have to look forward to? What do riders get from all of it? No space, no outlet, just a typical narrative.
Like I said, this is a common story. I was the kid in a park. I wanted to be just like the big dirt-bike riders, but I hate to fall. Instead, I became like Bill Nye The Science Guy. I was doing all kinds of experiments, blowing my eyebrows off, gluing people to the chair, and I may or may not have made stink bombs at school. They would describe me as another bad kid. What they didn't see was all my genius, my talent, my voice was not heard.
Then I became that Black girl from West Baltimore working in STEM. My first position, I was confused for the secretary. I was pissed. But it lit a fire in me. So I want to get more people in the industry. And in 2013, that's what I started doing. Working in small groups with kids and students, teaching them STEM activities.
Then in 2014, I lost my little brother to the prison system. In 2015, I lost all faith in the system, period. The world watched the following of Freddie Gray uprising as Baltimore burned. I wondered when were people going to listen, where were the solutions? And where was the investment into my community?
In 2016, I broke the system and became the founder and CEO of B-360, carving out a new lane. I went back to my experience in the park. I thought about the kids fixing their bikes. Those are skills people use to pay the bills, just like mechanics and mechanical engineers. We leaned into STEM. S — Science. The science behind popping the best wheelie, pulling your dirt bike at twelve o'clock is a physics equation. T — Technology. The technology needed to get the best radial tires so you don't have frictional asphalt. E — Engineering. The engineering needed to fix or peg a dirt bike, but to also get the best "mac mac" noise. M — Mathematics. The math needed for the gas to oil ratio so your dirt bike does not explode. Then I took it a step further. I thought about the riders. I knew the only way to have program and solutions was to have them at the table. Because the people closest to the problem are the solution.
I thought about Mike. Since he was six, he's been riding dirt bikes. When he was 17, graduating high school, he didn't know what he wanted to do, but he knew he loved everything about dirt bikes. He started working with us in B-360, he's helped us educate kids, train dirt bike riders, and at 21 he's our lead instructor. He's created events, he's traveled across the country and he really represents the best of B-360.
At the core of our work is constantly thinking about what people like Mike want. For Mike, he wants a space. A space where he can keep working with students on our curriculum, a space where he can keep training more riders and growing their skill sets, a space where he no longer has to escape, but he has something in his own city for him. With your support and the support of more cities, we can make this a reality. Since 2017, we've saved the city of Baltimore about 233 million dollars by doing programing for over 7,000 students. We've saved the city of Baltimore one million dollars by growing work force and opportunities for people just like Mike. That's less people that could possibly go to jail, less money spent on dollars and cents of incarceration and more money going back into our Black communities, our leaders, our culture and our voices.
We don't need your black squares, we don't need your campaigns, but what we do need is your dollars and cents behind us to make real change. We need more people like you in cities to believe in investing in us and our model of growing the people. What will you choose to be? An ally? Be an impact? Be the revolution? B-360.