Looking for an antidote to the plantation tours that dominate the lower Mississippi? Welcome to Down by the River, a group bike ride along River Road in St. Charles Parish that brings you face to face with two powerful forces in Louisiana: the environmental justice movement and local African American history.
A trip with a twist
Down by the River is an evolution of what has traditionally been called a “toxic tour” — a drive-by of polluting sites like dumps, refineries and chemical plants. Our ride transforms a litany of depressing sites into powerful beacons of resistance, a lens through which the past and present are applied to today’s environmental movement.
Honoring an environmental justice leader and historic uprising
Our pedal-powered ride is inspired by Margie Richard, the former president of Concerned Citizens of Norco. Margie led her community in a successful campaign for a fair buyout of homes contaminated by Shell Oil, and she invoked the past for power and motivation. “If my ancestors were willing to be killed for standing up to slavery,” she often said, “I can surely stand up to Shell.”
The Slave Revolt of 1811 in what is now St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and Jefferson Parishes was the largest uprising of enslaved people in U.S. history. Many descendants of the revolt fought in the Civil War — and while this is a long, proud history, scars remain. The area continues to celebrate the history of the plantation owners, rarely referring to enslaved people and instead focusing on fine china and fancy furniture.
Unsuspecting visitors to the region get a distorted view, as if the wealth of the plantation owners is something to be admired. Down by the River gives you a different perspective and applies history to today’s environmental justice movement.
Who should experience Down by the River?
We’ve led many groups, from students to Bucket Brigade donors to groups in town for a conference. If you’re interested and have a group of at least 10 people, we’d love to have you join us!
Down by the River Bike Ride
Ride Leaders: Louisiana Bucket Brigade Director Anne Rolfes and Pastor Harry Joseph, a leader from St. James Parish.
How to Register: Please e-mail our Bike Ride Manager Sheila Tahir, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: River Road, St. Charles Parish
Duration: About 4 hours, covering 11.5 miles with ample breaks to point out sites along the way
Group Size: We typically lead groups of 10 to 20 riders. (Have a larger group? Let us know.)
Equipment: Bikes and helmets are included. (If you love your bike, feel free to bring it!)
What to Bring: A filled water bottle and anything else you need to be comfortable. We provide snacks.
How History Fits: In a region dominated by the oil and chemical industries, the Slave Revolt of 1811 represents courage and questioning of an all-powerful status quo — the same ideals that drive Louisiana’s environmental justice movement.
Cost Per Person: $85
Is cost an issue? We still want you to experience Down by the River! Contact us about volunteering with the Bucket Brigade in lieu of the registration fee.