by Mark D Swartz Why would I, at 61 years of age, with zero bike touring experience and nagging arthritis in my right knee, launch into a 2,000 km solo cycle from Halifax to Toronto? Why would I painstakingly plan my route, stay overs and tote weighty packs? Create a website and post social media updates daily, interviewing passers-by on the way about their views on Canadian racism, unity and democracy?
This isn’t a heroic journey. It won’t benefit me financially. I am doing this pilot ride, one I have called DemocraCycle, for many reasons.
WHY I RIDE
What I have witnessed not just in the United States and around the world but in Canada too, particularly over the last couple of years, has been incredibly upsetting to me – as a citizen, professional, community member, and father of two great young adults. Increasing polarization, disinformation, acts of more visible hate and violence have me worried for the future of this country – and for all of us. I have rarely been subjected to racism, hate, or systemic barriers as so many others in this country have. However, in order to create change, I know as a decades-long writer who has stood for social progress, that we all must do our part to contribute to it. Now I want to make more of an immediate impact. So, I created the DemocraCycle ride to help raise awareness and needed funds for The Mosaic Institute and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. I thought what better way to give back than to use my efforts to support the effective work of those already on the frontlines. I’m doing this because ultimately, I believe in this country. I believe there is much that connects us and unites us that we wish to uphold. I believe we all can and should do something to aid in preserving our great country’s essence now and for the future. I’m just one person, a volunteer, who simply wants to connect with people, engage in respectful dialogue, and promote positive change for a more kind, democratic, and inclusive society. I believe there are more of us than not.
MY RIDE SO FAR
Canada’s uplifting essence is something I’m discovering firsthand since I flew to Halifax on June 25. I have encountered a diverse group of people in my interactions, conversations, many with offers of support of this journey. Young cyclists, newcomers, long-time residents and settlers, people of various racial and ethnocultural backgrounds, it has been deeply meaningful, and a pleasure to connect and hear directly from them on their views on democracy, this country, and various subjects from vaccines, to mental health and depression, to segregation. You can hear these short interviews as well on my Youtube channel. In each situation so far, we were all pleased we could hold a civil discussion and learn about one another through our differences as well as our commonalities. What I’m finding so far is that I have been delighted by the openness, willingness of people to connect when face to face to engage in courteous dialogue. That every person has things that they love about this country through their individual experiences, though those experiences may differ greatly. My ride will last another six weeks. These initial conversations, and interactions with people who have hosted me overnight, have inspired me to keep going despite falling ill for the past week. I am eager to hear what more people have to say as I recover. What has largely been told of our society through media, especially social media over the last few years does not tell the whole story of who we are as individuals. Those stories require connection, nuance and understanding. I don’t expect that every person I meet will bring the same approach to my inquiries. But I am committed to giving others a chance to share, explain, and hopefully take the opportunity to help advance positive change.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
My goal is to raise an abundance of funds to assist Mosaic Institute with its mission. Mosaic is a leading organization doing the difficult work of dismantling prejudice that is essential to a more equitable, peaceful, and just society we all want. I chose Mosaic because its research, programs and dialogues are more important than ever – and in these challenging times, funds are more needed than ever. You can support this initiative and our shared goals of dismantling prejudice in several ways:
Follow along on my journey on my website and socials, and help amplify this message to others.
Connect with me along my route, or connect me with people you know along my route – get in touch through my website!
Get this initiative to the attention of local media along my route – reach out to me for route details!
Donate via my GoFundMe campaign for this journey to support this mission. All proceeds go directly to Mosaic (minus the site’s small processing fee) to fund their most urgent needs. You get a charitable receipt.
I have $3,700 to go toward my goal (and more than few kilometres to go as well!) before I reach the “finish” line in late August. My thanks to the supporters who’ve contributed to this campaign so far. You have kept me motivated on the days when pouring rain, an intermittently aching knee – and energy sapping hills – have been daunting. I hope more of you will join us on this journey we are taking, together, to help create a better Canada than ever before. Thank you!