A nonprofit that supports Black-led businesses is gearing up for its annual weeklong bike ride to  Mackinaw City to raise awareness for its cause. Black Leaders Detroit’s annual Ride for Equity, which kicks off May 21 this year, will raise money for African American entrepreneurs in Detroit and spread awareness about the importance of equitable funding practices. 

The ride includes several individual one-day bike rides, varying in distance, as well as the full seven-day ride from Detroit to Mackinaw City. Volunteers can sign up through May 11 for the ride.  

RELATED: Biking around Detroit: Jason Hall on the benefits of riding through the Motor City

As part of One Detroit’s Future of Work coverage, One Detroit producer and Future of Work host Will Glover sat down with Black Leaders Detroit CEO Dwan Dandridge for a discussion about the organization’s annual fundraiser and the importance of having diverse leadership in Michigan’s workforce.  

They talk about how the organization’s annual Ride for Equity supports Detroit’s Black-owned businesses and spreads awareness for racial equity in business. Plus, they talk about who needs a seat at the decision-making tables if Michigan wants to attract and retain a young, educated workforce for the future. 

Full Transcript:

Will Glover, @WillofMichigan: First things first, what is Black Leaders Detroit? What is the goal? 

Dwan Dandridge, Co-Founder & CEO, Black Leaders Detroit: So, the way I typically describe it, Will, is we are a funding vehicle for black entrepreneurs operating in the city of Detroit. And we pretty much provide funding in two different ways. We have grants and we also do a no-interest loan. 

Will Glover: Who are you providing these resources to and what is the overall goal? Because it’s not something that is common a no-interest loan. 

Dwan Dandridge: Right. Yeah, it’s funny because I was at the Eastern Market the other day and I was talking to an entrepreneur who said that he recently applied for a no-interest loan and he said that, you know, he saw it last year but didn’t believe it was real, right?

Because they almost never exist, or at least not for us. It’s targeted for, again, black entrepreneurs in the for-profit sector that are running their businesses in Detroit. Our largest loan amount right now is 25 K, and we have distributed $1.5 million through our grants and no-interest loans, so far. And we’re really excited because we had a record quarter this year and we’re set to break that record in this quarter that we’re working on right now based on the applications that we have been receiving. 

Will Glover: Tell us a little bit about the Ride For Equity, what it is, what the message is. 

Dwan Dandridge: The Ride For Equity is it’s a seven-day ride, 377 miles across the state. So we ride from Detroit to Mackinaw the week before the Mackinac Policy Conference every year. And it’s an effort to raise awareness for our cause, as well as a fundraiser for the organization and the work that we do. So, if you’re not a real cyclist or someone who likes to ride long distances, you can come out and support us By joining the kickoff ride.

We do a short, slow-paced police escort ride from U of D College, right up Livernoise to the grocery store at the corner of Nine Mile Livernoise Ferndale Foods. We have a little celebratory little, you know, wave and goodbye. And those of us that are riding longer distances, we carry on from there to Flint. Everybody else turns around with the same police escort and head back. It’s more of a party than it is a ride, you know, that portion of it. But it gets really serious. 

And one of the things that we do in several cities over the course of those seven days, is we add community conversations that we call “Speak for Yourself”, and we invite people from some of the cities to come out and have honest conversations with us about what does it mean to be good neighbors to one another across boundaries and borders, but also honest conversations about equity and how that shapes out, and plays out and our role in creating it. 

Will Glover: If we could craft a message that could really explain to people the benefits of being here and also explain to leadership what wraparound services are necessary, what people are looking for, for the place they want to build their career in life. What do you think Southeast Michigan, Detroit would be if we were able to harness those things? 

Dwan Dandridge: Oh, I think that we would be like that space that you and I have in our mind, right? Like a place where, you know, the young Dwan wouldn’t have to wait and find a back door or a cracked window to success to fit in through. Right? Like the front door would be accessible to me. I think the decision-makers that are at the table shaping the ideas need to reflect the neighborhoods. I think that they will be able to speak directly into– and say, Hey, here is how you would have been able to attract me. 

So, I think it’s some of the onus and responsibility are on some of the young Detroiters that love Detroit to make sure that they are at the table forging relationships and applying the pressure. Because they know what it would take to recruit their peers. We just need to make sure that they have a seat at the table and they need to be really honest when they’re at the table.  And there’s always that that rub in that pressure to say, Hey, if I’m too honest, will I get uninvited from the table? You know what I mean?

I think that, you know, they need to let go of that pressure and realize that the table needs them. My personal opinion on that is, if the real, authentic Dwan is not welcome, I want to find out as quick as possible and get uninvited. Because it’s time out for wearing a mask. Like we shouldn’t be code-switching in Detroit. You know, folks should be code-switching for us, right? That’s just my opinion. 

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