Damen Bell-Holter began cycling to Rawlins from the Wind River Reservation today, September 15th, to continue spreading awareness and fundraising for Break the (BI)CYCLE.
This movement is to break the silence around mental health, and to inspire hope and healing for men of color. The former Boston Celtics basketball player and now avid cyclist is currently en route to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I picked up cycling and biking as an outlet for my mental health,” he shared. “I was searching for something since I stopped playing basketball that tested me mentally, physically, and emotionally sometimes.”
This journey formed organically after he created a men of color cycling community, he explained. Promoting mental wellness within the community began after seeing the mental health gap in resources and in general acknowledgment for black and indigenous men.
“Our men have faced a ton of trauma. We haven’t even started having a conversation around that trauma; where a lot of other different demographics have.”
He started cycling in Seattle, Washington with a goal of pedaling over 1,000 miles along the coast to San Diego, California. Upon reaching Oregon, his plans had to pivot due to the California wildfires.
“We made a commitment and we have a responsibility to uphold it,” he said about this journey. “Especially, since I’m advocating for something that is near and dear to my heart.”
Seeking a new route to complete his journey, his friend and professional skier Connor Ryan from Boulder, Colorado picked him up in Portland and headed east to get out of the wildfire smoke.
After making it to Salt Lake City, “I saw the Wind River Reservation on the map, and this was someplace I always wanted to come out to,” Bell-Holter explained. “So, I decided to start from here and head down to Albuquerque.”
Ryan will be cycling with him for the rest of the journey. “I’m here to ride along in solidarity,” he said. “We are trying to bring as many tribes and as many groups together as we can for this. We are all united in this same struggle to make sure we can make our communities strong.”
Bell-Holter’s plans after reaching his destination is to continue the conversation and raising awareness in hopes of creating more mental health resources for boys and men of color. He’s already planning the next big trip as well.
“I’m very very thankful for the community showing support,” he said about his time on the Wind River Reservation. “I’m definitely coming back to work with the youth.”
“I’m really honored by how we have been received by the Arapaho and Shoshone people,” Ryan shared. “It is a reminder we are all in this together. No matter interest or tribes. We are common bonded by this need for making the stigma around men’s mental health not be what it once was.”