"I simply do not understand how a system that was supposed to be set up to make this world a better place has so atrociously and horrendously predominantly wronged people of color," says founder Alisha Zellner

By Joelle Goldstein
July 22, 2020 02:14 PM
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Alisha Zellner
Alisha Zellner

A Colorado police officer is taking a stand in the fight for racial justice as she pledges to bike 400 miles by the end of the month as part of her Bike Ride for Black Lives initiative.

As a Black woman and Colorado State University police corporal, Alisha Zellner says she's especially invested in the fight against racism and police brutality.

"The complexity and intersectionality of so many of my identities make moments like this very conflicting for my heart," she tells PEOPLE. "It is really about having perspective and empathy on both sides. Many people will never know or understand what that feels like."

Wanting to take action, Zellner, 33, decided to launch Bike Ride for Black Lives, an initiative that honors the Black Lives Matter movement and brings awareness to injustices in the criminal justice system.

"I wanted to have a voice in the movement, and I wanted people in my community to know that I am fighting for social justice along with them," she explains.

Alisha Zellner

The idea to bike first came to Zellner in late May, shortly after she completed the Police Unity Tour, which is a 250-mile bike ride from New Jersey to Washington D.C. during National Police Week in honor of officers who were killed in the line of duty.

Because the tour was canceled this year due to COVID-19, Zellner completed the ride on her own in Fort Collins, and later realized she could bring the "same kind of energy and awareness" to an initiative for the Black Lives Matter movement.

With Bike Rides for Black Lives, Zellner pledged to ride 400 miles throughout the month of July (12 miles per day) in honor of the "400+ year fight the African American and Black community has been fighting for social justice in the United States."

She also set up a community awareness ride on July 12, where Colorado community members could come together, like the Police Unity Tour, to complete 12 of those 400 miles.

"I felt like riding bikes rather than marching and protesting would be something different, something this community had not necessarily seen before, and a way for people to still maintain social distance during the pandemic," she adds.

Alisha Zellner
Alisha Zellner

At the beginning of June, Zellner launched a GoFundMe page, where she revealed that she would be raising money for five organizations — Black Lives Matter, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta.

Ever since, Zellner has kept her followers up to date with her journey on social media and encouraged others to do the same by using the hashtag #Bike4BlackLives.

She says she's been particularly moved by the support she's received, especially during the community awareness ride.

"There were over 200 people who showed up to ride in solidarity with me and I have had to raise my fundraising goal six times," she shares. "It would not have been possible without the volunteers, the community members who shared the event with friends and the people who encouraged me to do it. I have received so much support and positivity."

Alisha Zellner with other cyclists in the community
Alisha Zellner

As of July 20, Zellner has completed 361.74 miles and raised over $5,100 on her GoFundMe. She has also partnered with CycleBar Fort Collins, who is hosting a CycleGives Ride this week with their $25 class fee going towards her initiative.

With only nine days left in the month, the police corporal says she looks forward to completing her goal and eventually making this initiative an annual ride where people from all over the country participate.

Most of all, Zellner hopes Bike Rides for Black Lives will bring more awareness and contribute to systemic change as the movement gains momentum in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody.

"I simply do not understand how a system that was supposed to be set up to make this world a better place has so atrociously and horrendously wronged predominantly people of color," she says. "No amount of settlement money can ever truly make it better. Fixing the system so we no longer have to witness such tragedy is the key."

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"I do not want future generations to still be fighting for what our ancestors started centuries ago," Zellner continues. "It is important for people to be able to come together as a community and continue to bring awareness to these issues. They are not going away overnight and we can see that just from the Civil Rights Movement until now."

"It is also important for me, as an officer, to continue showing the community that we are committed to listening, learning and growing," she adds. "I want people to know that this is a human rights movement. Change is only going to happen if we do this together."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.