MISSOULA – As the University of Montana African-American Studies Program prepares to celebrate 50 years on campus, its director is about to embark on a 500-mile bike ride.
Tobin Miller Shearer, an associate history professor who recently was voted Best UM Professor in the Missoula Independent’s “Best of Missoula,” hopes to raise funds and awareness for UM’s Black Student Union and African-American Studies Program – the country’s third oldest program of its kind – which marks a half century of existence in 2018.
“Riding 500 miles in the mountains of Montana in the course of seven days won’t solve racism,” he said, “but this has been a year in which I've watched my African-American students deal with increasing racial harassment, seen Black Lives Matter posters repeatedly torn down by my office door, watched white supremacists ramp up their rhetoric in the state I now call home, and been put on a national watchlist for speaking out against racism and white privilege.
“It seems like the time to do something positive, something that offers some movement forward. Something hopeful.”
Shearer’s students are planning a Black Solidarity summit as part of the anniversary, and he has set his sights on raising money through his ride to support them and the program’s next 50 years.
“My students are amazing,” he said, “but there is very little money right now in our university system to support them in their efforts. So, I'm setting out to raise $15,000 to support them, celebrate our 50th anniversary and bring amazing speakers like Darlene Clark Hine – one of the country’s pre-eminent scholars of African-American history – so my students and our community can learn from her.”
There is a long history of biking and black history in Montana, including an incredible recreation of the original 25th Infantry’s 1897 Missoula to St. Louis ride by Black Student Union members in 1974. The story, covered by the UM student-produced Montana Kaimin, is online at http://bit.ly/2t61jQI.
“While I won't be reprising any of the historic routes, I am honoring that tradition by choosing a bike ride to raise funds,” Shearer said.
His weeklong bike journey is scheduled from Saturday, July 29, to Friday, Aug. 4.
He encourages supporters to follow his journey on Facebook and Twitter under the hashtags #ride4blacksolidarity and #500forthe50th. Those particularly inspired and equipped are invited to join him for a leg of the ride. His fundraising page is online at http://hs.umt.edu/aas/news-pages/solidarity-ride-page.php. For a specific route, email firstname.lastname@example.org.