To celebrate the self-determination of the Black South, women-owned adventure company Black Freedom Outfitters led a three-day journey from New Orleans to AfricaTown, Alabama. Ride along.

I’m Paris Hatcher, a Black queer feminist organizer, strategist—and bike magician. I co-created Black Freedom Outfitters with mother, activist, creative and adventurer zahra alabanza eight years ago to curate experiences that center the histories and geographies of Black people in the great outdoors. Over Memorial Day weekend, we led riders from around the country on the Bike The Gulf Coast Tour­ from NOLA to the site of AfricaTown in Mobile, Alabama. AfricaTown was a self-governing community built in 1860 by West Africans who were among the last recorded shipment of Blacks imported to the U.S. for the purpose of slavery. Here, highlights from our trip:

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    A Circle in Congo Square: "Before we start each ride we always circle up—like a wheel—making a commitment to each other to leave no one behind, to protect each other, and to embrace the personal exploration that lies ahead. We put a heart in the middle of our wheel to remind us that the love we have for ourselves, our people and the land sustains and propels." (Photo: Tiffany R. Smith)

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    Respect for NOLA: "We held orientation for the tour participants at the Treme Center in the historic Treme neighborhood in New Orleans. We chose this location to make the connection between Treme and AfricaTown and to highlight what these communities mean for the history, culture, independence, autonomy and self determination of Black people in the U.S." (Photo: Tiffany R. Smith)

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    Crossing: "On Day One, 30 miles outside of New Orleans, we mass up and wait to cross a drawbridge. For many riders, this was the longest distance they had biked to date." (Photo: Hamilton Riley)

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    Door of Return: "Black Freedom Outfitters cofounder and tour leader, zahra alabanza explores the remnants of a building on The Rigolets in Louisiana." (Photo: Hamilton Riley)

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    Riding U.S. 90 East: "We biked the majority of the ride on U.S. 90 East, a state road that connected us across three states and several bridges. Black eyed Susans and the sign remind riders at different points, 'You are on the right path.'" (Photo: zahra alabanza)

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    Bridging Exercise: "Rider Makeda Damali crosses an old drawbridge on U.S. 90 East somewhere in Louisiana." (Photo: Yamani Hernandez)

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    TLC: "After our first day of riding many of our bodies needed some additional love. Here Alsie Parks, co-founder and executive director of the food-security and agriculture organization Fresh2Health, gets a knee massage from fierce Black feminist organizer and writer Jasmine Burnett." (Photo: Yamani Hernandez)

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    Refueling: "The tour’s nourishment manager and resident food faerie, Alsie, preps our vegan dinner at one of the campgrounds where we rested. (Photo: Samantha Scipio)

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    Gulf Coast Spotted: "On Day Two, 14 miles into Mississippi, we finally saw the Gulf Coast. For most of the day, we rode on its powder-white sand watching family-friendly beaches turn into secluded spots and giant casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport." (Photo: Jillian Ford)

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    Roadside Assistance: " Getting a flat while on a bike tour is a given because the roads are filled with debris. Here is Samantha, who has the important skill of quickly changing a flat." (Photo: zahra alabanza)

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    Image: Colorlines screenshot of jkdjljldjk taken on tjtjtjttj
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    Glory Be: "At a Prichard, Alabama, campsite, Jasmine pulled out her trusty tambourine, Glory, to celebrate the spirit of Bike the Gulf Coast. (Photo: LaJuana David)

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    At Last: "Upon arriving in AfricaTown, we had all the feelings. Joy was the most prominent one." (Photo: Ramsey Sprague)