On July 23rd and 24th 2021, Trailblazers (then BikeNWA and NWA Trailblazers) and Bike.POC hosted the inaugural Critical Mass Summit- a two-day event designed to build relationships, diversify, and grow the cycling, active transportation, and social change movements, and empower women and the non-binary community to work in these spaces (or aspire to lean into them). Focused on the region of Northwest Arkansas and surrounding areas, the summit was intentional in inviting those that typically are not a part of conversations around these topics, whether that is due to lack of resources, access, or opportunity.
Friday’s, virtual summit saw a total of 125 attendees participate from Northwest Arkansas and around the country. On Saturday, in-person attendees joined each other for recreational activities, intended to provide first-time experiences to some of the region's best outdoor offerings. The groups gathered in Bentonville, Rogers, and Fayetteville to enjoy stand-up paddle boarding, mountain biking, razorback greenway riding, hiking, yoga, kayaking, rock climbing, and more.
Dr. Destiny Thomas
Session 1: Why We Should Engage in the Development of Our Growing Cities
- Dr. Destiny Thomas from the Thrivance Group will help summit attendees understand why being engaged in the development of our growing cities creates a world where everyone has equitable access to safe neighborhoods, beautiful spaces, social enterprise, healthy food options, quality healthcare, affordable housing, active transportation and clean air and water.
- Facilitated breakout discussion of sharing how city development affects you
Session 2: How to Organize the Community to Support a Cause
- Charlene Mack, Strategist and Management Consultant, and Teaching Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School will give summit attendees a crash course in community organizing by walking participants through a process for growing grassroots support and empowering others to support the change they wish to see in the world.
- Facilitated breakout discussion of how to organize your community
Session 3: How to Sustain your Own Momentum-Cultivating Resilience to Avoid Burning Out
- Kelsey Blackwell, Somatic Coach from the Strozzi Institute, and an InterPlay Leader will discuss the importance of combatting fatigue and burnout as we live through multiple overlapping crises. While we may feel a push to keep moving, sometimes maintaining momentum looks like slowing down. In this session, we’ll champion the type of ‘momentum’ that makes space for pause, rest, and self-care. Attendees will come away with an embodied practice for cultivating resilience and for sustaining well-being as we navigate whatever may be ahead.
- Facilitated breakout discussion of sharing ways to avoid burnout
Elected Official Policy Panel
Session 4: How to Effectively Engage with Elected officials
- Moderated by Jaclyn House, KNWA Producer and co-host of Good Day NWA. Jaclyn will interview a panel of women elected officials to talk about effectively engaging in dialogue with them on issues you care about and also about their experience and advice running for office.
- Facilitated breakout discussion of working within your community's political structure
Aparna Rajagopal & Elyse Rylander
Session 5: Concurrent sessions for White and BIPOC women to explore Building Inclusive Spaces and Navigating Barriers
- Summit attendees will split out into two concurrent sessions that create Accountability and Affinity spaces that provide for deeper conversations in a safer space around issues of exclusion and barriers in the trails and cycling sector.
- A) An Affinity space to help BIPOC women process through exclusionary incidents and structures, build connections around shared experiences, heal in community, and identify strategies that would support them.
- B) An Accountability space to help white women process through the feelings that arise when they may be unintentionally complicit in exclusion, identify internal barriers that keep them from speaking up and working in solidarity, and commit to tangible action steps to tear down barriers to access, participation, and positive experiences on trails and paths.
This session was not recorded in order to protect the safe space that was created.
Session 6: Celebrating your Accomplishments with Ritual and Remedy
- Celebrating accomplishments is often forgotten in our busy lives. Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz, a traditional healer, will walk attendees through creating their own aromatic spritzer (using the box of ingredients shipped prior) to celebrate accomplishments and participation in the summit and support emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.
2021 OUTDOOR Experiences
We enjoyed the beautiful setting of Coler as we blended hiking/walking with yoga, an opportunity to be present outdoors and enjoy the benefits nature had to offer while connecting with other women. We started with a short 15 min walk on the paved trail, followed by a grounding yoga practice. This was great for anyone who was new to being out in nature, excited to learn about places to go hiking, and looking for that mind-body-nature connection.
Gravel riding is a popular term around the area and may be a totally new idea of riding to you. Really, it’s just about going out on rides that are maybe sometimes paved, sometimes a little dirt, sometimes a little rocky, or all of the above! Northwest Arkansas has some of the best routes that start where the blacktop ends. This was great for those who were comfortable on a bike and excited to try a new style of riding that took them beyond city limits.
We joined Pedal It Forward and gave back while learning how to build a bike. We were at the Pedal It Forward headquarters in Downtown Rogers learned about how the organization works within the community, put some bikes together, and made an impact together.
Cocoon Yoga Lab generously offered a two-part experience:
Gathered for a glorious morning soaking in nature at Lake Atalanta in Rogers. A casual hike around the lake intermingled with walking and seated meditations. All-levels welcomed for this outdoor experience. Wore comfortable shoes, brought a journal/pen and water. The hike around the lake was around 3 miles. Left renewed and refreshed + sun-kissed with a little dose of nature's vitamins.
This was a fun way to get your exercise and vitamin D for the day. Learned the basics of SUP in a relaxed group setting. We started on dry land, teaching correct paddle height and hand placement, equipment overview, kneeling and standing on a board, and water safety. Then we took it to the water to learn paddling techniques, turns and more. Once you have the basics, you were free to paddle and play. No SUP experience was needed, but you must have been a confident swimmer. Board, paddle and life vest were provided.
The Ozarks have nearly countless opportunities to get out on the water and paddle around. We discovered the joys of paddling and learned the basics of kayaking. This was great for those who have never been in a boat before and wanted to try it out! Boats, life jackets, and other equipment was provided.
Always wanted to try the dirt trails in the area but never felt totally comfortable getting out there on your own? We were pumped to offer a chance for first-timers to experience the excitement of riding off-road. This was a great opportunity for those who had never been on dirt trails or maybe tried it out and wanted to learn the basics.
Perfect for your first time on a bike or maybe your first time in a LONG time. We were excited to spark joy on a bicycle and support you getting on the trail. We reviewed parts of a bike, rode safely, got tips for getting rolling, and how to have the most positive experience!
The group met at 9am to check-in, did introductions, discussed the day, and received all equipment needed for a good experience. We spent time going over bikes, talked skills and technique, and rode around to put it all together. We then wrapped up and headed to the lunch gathering at Natural State Rock and Republic. We all came right from our adventures!
*Needed a bike and helmet? No problem! We discussed this after your confirmation email for the activity.