The Fender Bender Collective is in a moment of reflective transition. We are writing this letter to you as one of the many wonderful people who have come to our events, volunteered their time, ridden the city streets with us, danced with us, fixed bikes, strategized, waxed poetic, and learned with us. We are transitioning out of our space at the Cass Corridor Commons, our home since June 2011. We are not moving to another space and are seriously downsizing our equipment and programming. This letter is to all of you who have been with us for the last 5 years to let you know how we are thinking about all of this and how we are thinking about the future. We share this with you in order to be transparent with those we have worked and played with over the years. We love you so much.
Fender Bender Detroit is downsizing due to financial & time limitations, in order to more strategically address the needs of our women, queer and trans* cycling community. The collective has been locally funded through individual member investment, community donations, and a few small-scale sporadic grants. We are an all-volunteer organization, operating outside of a non-profit model, with no capacity to pay people for their work. This, in combination with personal time limits, led to an unsustainable funding environment.
As a part of our transition we have shed a lot of equipment. As a collective, we decided to keep all of the bicycles used for the lending library in personal storage. A dozen bicycles were originally donated to the shop by one of the collective members; she is now restoring them personally to sell. Some bikes and parts were beyond repair and scrapped, others were donated to Southwest Rides and local artists. Each bike, each part, and each tool is connected to a memory in the shop, and what had been our home and safe space for us and others for what seems like forever.
We set out to organize differently than traditional NGO models on purpose, and even with these struggles: Fender Bender Detroit has been successful by the standards of our collective. We may be transitioning out of our space, but we continue to be present with the amazing community of beautiful people that has formed with and around Fender Bender & the struggle for a more just Detroit.
As we adapt and realign the collective, Fender Bender will no longer operate the same breadth of community events and training opportunities. Our brick and mortar location will be gone, but the essence and connections of what was created stay. Although regular shop hours and programming will no longer be available, we are excited for the continued opportunities to collaborate on workshops and group rides. With no permanent location, we can travel to you!
The immediate community in the Cass Corridor has shifted drastically –along with wider Detroit demographics– so maintaining a physical shop in the Corridor doesn’t feel so urgent when we look to the future. Moving from The Commons will allow more freedom to consider where we want and need to be in the city. Fender Bender will be continuing open conversations about how we can re-collect as a women, trans*, and queer centered organization as we seek to redevelop relevancy within the ever-changing community, and our purpose as a bicycle education and advocacy space in the city. We see a future Fender Bender re-establishing alongside other grassroots organizations in Detroit to share space, resources, mutual affinity and support. The desire for a building of our own is a real vision, and something we have our sights set on.
During this changeover we are embracing the importance of accountability and transparency within community organizing. The process begins with this open letter, and can be continued via our facebook page & website, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
We have treasured our physical presence in the Cass Corridor and the women, queer, and trans* communities of Detroit. We individually and collectively look forward to working in solidarity with those who continue this work.
Bikes & revolutionary love,
The Fender Bender Collective
Sarah, Ayana, Gemini, Kezia, and Jessi