On Thursday, August 31, 2023, The Baltimore Times, in collaboration with the Greater Baltimore Committee, presented an event highlighting African American Cycling Achievement at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. This event featured artist presentations, a Forum on Diversity in Cycling, and the chance to meet Black cycling legends: Nelson Vails, Rahsaan Bahati, and Cory Williams, founder of the professional cycling club L39ION of Los Angeles. L39ION participated in the Maryland Classics this year. Steve Brunner, founder of KOM Sports Marketing, served as the emcee, while John Kelly, chair, and sponsor of the Maryland Cycling Classic, along with Al Hutchinson, CEO of Visit Baltimore, provided welcoming remarks. Hosts for the event were Mark Anthony Thomas, CEO/President of the Greater Baltimore Committee, and Paris Brown, Associate Publisher for The Baltimore Times. The Baltimore Times introduced the virtual reality experience celebrating Black cyclists by Dope Nerds. The Baltimore Times along with MPT, WBAL, Global Cycling Network, Tour Track, VELO, and 98Rock, served as media partners.
The event included presentations and artist unveilings, including one from Robert Hansen, a Los Angeles-based artist, who was commissioned to create a piece featuring Major Taylor, including an augmented reality component that narrated Major Taylor’s life; Lee Greene, a Bermuda-based artist, unveiled colorful portraits of Nelson Vails, Rahsaan Bahati, and Cory Williams. The unveilings were followed by a Forum on Diversity in Cycling led by Milton Sharp, board member of Black People Ride Bikes, and community partner for the Maryland Cycling Classics. Panelists included: Sheila Mahadevan, President & Founder of Melanin Base Mills; Suzy Sanchez, Sr. Manager of DEI and Community Programs at USA Cycling; and championship cyclists Nelson Vails, Rahsaan Bahati, and Cory Williams of L39ION of Los Angeles, who participated in the 2023 MCC.
Expanding its storytelling platform, The Baltimore Times also hosted a Pop-Up Exhibition titled “Pedals of Resilience: A Journey through Time, Grit, and Triumph.” This exhibition highlighted the stories of Black cyclists as they navigated through resistance, broke barriers, and blazed trails. It paid tribute to cycling’s origins when Baltimore hosted the first cycling championship and aimed to instill pride, appreciation, and inspiration among all visitors while promoting a more inclusive cycling culture. The Baltimore Times Newspaper collaborated with Dope Nerds, the only Black-owned, female-owned VR solutions company in the United States, as well as celebrity artists Robert Hansen and business owner and founder Sharone Reid of Focus and Fabulous Events LLC to bring this exhibition to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Light Street Pavilion. The pop-up was open from September 1-3, 2023 during MCC weekend-long activities.
The exhibit featured a Virtual Reality Cycling Education Experience, allowing participants to race alongside prominent Black cyclists like Marshall “Major” Taylor (the world’s fastest man), Olympian Cyclist Nelson Beasley Vails, multi-national championship cyclist Rahsaan Bahati, and professional cyclists and diversity advocates Cory and Justin Williams. Participants embarked on a journey through the history of cycling in Baltimore, where championship cycling began, and learned about the prominent Black cyclists during their ride along Baltimore city streets, culminating at the Pratt Street finish line. The Augmented Reality (AR) Experience merged art and technology to showcase the many faces and experiences of the life of Black cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor, considered the world’s fastest man over one hundred years ago. By loading the ARTIVIVE app, participants were able to hear the story of this cycling legend. The Baltimore Times commissioned celebrity artist Robert Hansen to create this custom piece (photo below).