Reflections on a ride
September 5, 2013
For the best part of a week in November last year I had the opportunity, as part of the support team, to accompany the White Ribbon ride up the West Coast of the North Island. I joined the riders at Kapiti and travelled with them through Palmerston North, Marton, Whanganui, Hawera, Manaia, Stratford, New Plymouth, Otorohanga, Te Awamutu, Hamilton, Manukau and Waitakere. In addition we visited Whanganui and Waikeria prisons spending time with inmates and staff.
As an itinerary is finalised for the 2013 edition of this ride it seems a good time to reflect on this experience and to think about how communities and groups can best share in the ride and how it can best support our kaupapa – our message of non-violence.
What are the memories that linger this far out? There were sausage sizzles at every corner, a very large (and noisy) motorbike ridden into a school hall to the delight and nervous surprise of all, a McDonalds taken over by White Ribbon and the riders provided with a free burger (or two), and at every point the roar and the spectacle of 20 or so bikes, white ribbons streaming from the handlebars, making their presence felt. Vibrations and noise that could not be ignored.
But at another level it is of course people and relationships that remain. Stories and shared experiences of how ordinary people overcome extraordinary pain and challenge to live a different kind of life and how optimism and good will survive, sometimes it seems, against all odds.
I have memories of community gatherings in town centres where there was a collective and very public statement that violence against women and children was not OK; of standing in a prison quadrangle hearing young men share their experiences quietly with riders and their desire to change; of excited school children having fun with a group of ‘tough looking’ riders bringing a clear and direct message of non-violence. And finally of marching through the centre of Henderson as part of a large crowd, led by The Patriots, Te Ahi Kikoha, and local riders and feeling the joy and energy of being a part of something so positive. A community coming together to claim its own more peaceful and less violent future.
A feature of this ride and of all the events was how inclusive they were and how diverse those participating. It was a daily reminder that none of us are exempt from thinking about this issue and choosing how we respond (or not) to the violence that features so widely and with such damage in our communities. It was confronting to witness and experience such good will and hope while at the same time hearing challenging and painful stories and experiences of past and present realities.
So what opportunity does the ride present in 2013 – particularly if they are passing through a place near you? A few thoughts include:
- A chance to make a public statement about your community and people
- To increase the visibility and awareness of the issue of violence against women and to support and encourage men to stand up and make a positive statement
- To be a rallying call to action in your community
- To meet a great bunch of men and women who are going ‘the extra mile’ and who will inspire and support you in your own action
The White Ribbon Ride is unique to New Zealand – make the most of it! For more information on the 2013 White Ribbon Ride click here