WHO: The Non-Stop Riderz.
WHAT: The local black trail-riding club joined Black Lives Matter protests in Houston.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: When Cassandra Johnson heard about George Floyd’s killing, it hit close to home. Floyd, known as a “gentle giant,” was a fixture of his Third Ward community. Though Johnson lives in the Fifth Ward, her family members in the Third Ward grew up with him and he had once dated her cousin. “He was like family,” she says. “He’d talk to kids about gun violence and encourage them to stick together. He really was someone who tried to motivate people and asked them to love one another.” She knew immediately that she wanted to act.
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As protesters demonstrating against Floyd’s killing and police brutality organized in cities across the country, Johnson and her husband turned to their trail-riding group, the Non-Stop Riderz. Founded in 2016, the Houston-based organization of about 115 members embarks on trail rides and an annual campout in Shepherd, northeast of Houston. When the group rode into downtown Houston’s Discovery Green park for the protest last week, their appearance went viral on Twitter. Many photos and videos documented the riders on horseback, some donning shirts with George Floyd’s face printed on them and the text “I Can’t Breathe.”
Cheers rose up from the crowd as these dudes rolled up. Clip-clip-clip-clop. pic.twitter.com/x1h8UpmyQy
— Mike Hixenbaugh (@Mike_Hixenbaugh) June 2, 2020
Johnson, known within the trail-riding club as the “first lady of Non-Stop,” says she was proud to show the world what trail riders could do. “We wanted everyone to know that Non-Stop stands for equal justice,” she says. “I’ve watched so many black lives taken, and I have a seventeen-year-old son myself, so this is personal. I have to talk with my son every single day about how to react when he’s stopped by an officer. His life is on the line every time that he leaves the house, so we had to go out there and show support.”
Though their appearance at the park drew attention, the Riderz’s trip down to the Third Ward later was even more meaningful to Johnson. As the group rode down to Floyd’s old neighborhood, they gave people rides in their party wagon—a steel-frame wagon with “Non Stop” in neon-orange block letters that they hitch to a pickup truck while Johnson’s husband, Marcus, typically acts as the DJ, playing zydeco, rap, and gospel music. Some people danced in the streets or followed on horseback while others hopped onto the wagon, enjoying the music. “We love coming together to do something positive,” she says. “It hurts my heart that Floyd was calling out for his mother, but it means the world to me that we could go out there and show people how much we care.”