The Town Part II: Interview with Oakland's Bikes 4 Life's Founder Tony Coleman

Posted by Billyjam, July 24, 2010 02:55pm | Post a Comment
Bikes 4 Life 3rd Annual Peace Ride - July 24th 2010

Oakland's unique Bikes 4 Life, which later today presents its 3rd Annual Bike Ride for Peace & Bike-In Movie Night with a free screening of The Warriors, is yet another thing about The Town (aka Oakland) that helps make this long slept-on East Bay neighbor of San Francisco such a wonderfully unique & special place to live or visit. And the goal of the Amoeblog's The Town series is to focus on many of the Bikes 4 Lifefine Oakland organizations and businesses (for profit & non-profit) that have either been around for a few years such as Bikes 4 Life, or for a good many years such as Rent-A-Relic, or else ones have only just cropped up in the past several months such as Beer Revolution and The Layover (both to be Amoeblogged about here in the upcoming weeks).

Earlier today I caught up with Tony Coleman, who is the founder and executive director of this Oakland bicycle based organization -- someone who I originally met through hip-hop several years ago and who has always been a really cool, positive person-- one with his community always first in his mind. The interview with Tony follows and includes the specifics on this evening's bike ride and movie screening.

Amoeblog: Tony, can you tell folks who may know nothing about Bikes 4 Life how it came about and what makes it so special?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life: Bikes 4 Life came about after our community based organization One Fam successfully organized a peace ride around Lake Merritt that attracted hundreds of riders, mostly teenage youth of color from Oakland. That inspired us to want to open a bicycle shop in the neighborhood so that we can serve and meet the demand for affordable bicycles. Plus, we see it as an opportunity to build more unity and grow a bigger, [more] diverse biking community that can work together to improve the community.

Amoeblog: What exactly is your role with the organization and how have your past / previous experiences and projects helped shape Bikes 4 Life today?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life: I am the executive director of One Fam / Bikes 4 Life as well as the founder. I was the co-founder of the Thirdeye Movement, a popular political hip hop activist organization in SF [from]1998-2000 and I've been working really hard to resurrect that spirit for almost a decade because I feel that it has never been replaced. Maybe I am a dreamer but I believe it can happen again, and through the work of One Fam / Bikes 4 Life we're well on our way.

Bikes 4 Life

Amoeblog: How important is The Town to Bikes 4 Life with Oakland's legacy of scraper bikes, etc.? Do you think that Bikes 4 Life could be as successful in another town?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life: Oakland is very inspiring for many forms of creativity and expression and Bikes 4 Life appreciates having many influences that come from "the town" -- in fact, the Scraper bikes were what inspired us to organize some of our first biking events. We showcased them and took them to Las Vegas for the National Political Hip hop Convention on a bio-diesel bus in an effort to bring young folks of color into the green environmental conversation.

Amoeblog: On that same thread, I stopped by the Crucible recently, where they were building some amazing bikes. Do you collaborate with them in any capacity? If so, how?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life: The Crucible is in the hood and the little kids on my block, including my son, benefit from their once a month fix-a-bike program where they actually fix kids' bicycle for free. This is so cool and many residents including myself really appreciate it. We've also have had the opportunity to share a booth with the Crucible at West Oakland's B.A.R.T. station for the national Bike to Work day. We look forward to other opportunities that will bring us together in the future, as we share common interest around bicycles and young people.

Amoeblog: This is the third annual movie night. How were the last two and about how many showed up?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life: Every year has been a success, with over 300 riders and over 500 total attendance through out the day. They've ended at DeFremery Park with live performances and contests but this year for our 3rd annual we'll be having a night ride followed with our first ever bike-in movie night. We'll be hosted by the Revolution Cafe, where they have a huge outside lot that we'll be using for showing the movie.

The Warriors movie trailer (1979)

Amoeblog: This year you have the movie The Warriors showing. Was there a reason you guys chose this film?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life: The Warriors is a classic and though many peace minded people asked why this choice of a movie, I inform them that The Warriors' plot was gangs were all coming together to form a truce and a system that allowed them to collaborate with each other but of course it was sabotaged in an effort to keep disunity. Though we feel that it's important work that needs to be done, we are not into preaching to the choir, so we see this has an opportunity to meet people where they're at by showing movies they can relate to so that we may bring them messages of unity and hope.

Amoeblog: What are some of the special festivities you have planned for this evening?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life: We begin at 7:30pm at Lakeside Park, 468 Perkins St at Lake Merritt in Oakland, and end at Revolution Cafe, 1614 7th St., Oakland.

Amoeblog: Where do you see Bikes 4 Life in five years? What are the ultimate goals for Bikes 4 Life?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life: We see Bikes 4 Life fully staffed and funded in five years as well as being a main staple in West Oakland for not only youth but all residents of the South Prescott neighborhood.

Amoeblog: Anything to add?

Tony @ Bikes 4 Life:. If you have the means to support us in any way, please do. We're engaged in a lot of good work but you know that bills have to be paid and grants [have to be] written, but being understaffed does not allow us to do as much as we can for the people. We are for the people! And we are very good at it. We just need more partners like you. For more info call 510-452-2453 or online visit

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The Town (14), The Town Amoeblog Series (7), Oakland (70), The Town Amoeblog (1), Interview (341), Bikes 4 Life (1)