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A young boy sitting on his bicycle.
One Day Magazine

Free to Ride in Memphis, Tennessee

Damain Brown and his friends take to their wheels to explore their Orange Mound neighborhood and make it to school on time.

By Leah Fabel

February 27, 2019

Steven Ward (D.C. Region ’12) is in his second year as principal of Aspire Hanley Middle School in the Orange Mound neighborhood of Memphis. Last year, it was one of eight schools in Tennessee’s Achievement School District to earn the top mark for student growth on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

Damain Brown (above) is an eighth grader at Aspire Hanley. It was easier to be a kid in Orange Mound than it is to be a 14-year-old, Brown says. The same parents who used to send him and his friends out to play all day now send them out with warnings. “Be safe.” “Take care of yourself.” “Call me if you need to.”

But when they jump on their bikes, Brown and his friends feel as free as when they were younger. They fly past the shotgun-style row houses that were the first in Memphis to be owned by residents who were black. They ride to the gym to play basketball. They ride to the corner store to buy Takis, his favorite snack. And on warm weekday mornings, they roll up to the bike rack outside of school, lock their wheels, and stroll into class, ready to go.  

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