Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Next Chapter -- Africa Rising Women's Cycling

I've been doing a bit of thinking and soul searching over the past few months and this is what I've come up with for my next chapter thanks to the encouragement of a good friend who kept me seeing through the thickets while the wheels of my cart broke off.  

From every struggle and challenge, a new road appears.....

In August 2016, we announced our plan to form the first ever all African women’s professional cycling team.  We had a big vision and an unrelenting passion to bring African women’s cycling to the international stage.  As the year drew to a close, we realized we would not be able to secure adequate funding for the team.  We looked at various avenues to possibly run a scaled down version, however, we also realized something more important while going through the process.

While trying to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for just a few women we asked ourselves, are we potentially sacrificing the many for the few? 

Over the past month, the answer has become evident.  Africa is a vast continent, 54 countries, hundreds of languages, tribes, cultures, but with one common thread; give women an outlet whether it be education or sport or business and change the future not just for her, but her family, her village, her community. 

We realized we could be of more value to more women by taking a step back to build the women’s cycling infrastructure, not just in Rwanda, Eritrea and Ethiopia, but throughout the continent.

Africa Rising Women’s (ARW) Cycling Program was born.  ARW is a global initiative to promote women’s cycling in Africa, giving African women access to bikes for recreation, business or to someday join the professional racing ranks.  We believe if we open the doors to the world of cycling at the youngest ranks, eventually we will have not just the first women’s African professional cycling team but dozens of professional teams. 

Our vision includes:
  • ·      Identifying stakeholders in each country who have a passion for the sport and are committed to helping women access the sport of cycling and empowering them with the tools they need to grow the sport
  • ·      Creating role models in each African country.  ARW would profile these advocates and tell their stories and the stories of the women in their respective countries via our social media channels.  We hope through telling these stories women will be inspired and empowered to do more in the sport, to ride more, to become advocates for other women. 
  • ·      Attracting and directing effective charitable contributions and sponsorship opportunities to the various programs throughout the continent.  Our goal is to be the liaison between sponsors and programs who might not have the opportunity to access the sponsorship funding or equipment
  • ·      Working with National Federations to build programs to give girls in school access to bikes
  • ·      Petitioning National Federations to add women on their executive committees.  Currently, we know of no women holding any seat in any National Federation.  Women’s cycling will never be a priority without the support of women at the highest levels of government or UCI navigating the policies for women
  • ·      Securing 2-3 positions for women leaders on the Confederation of African Cycling (CAC) Board in 2017
  • ·      Working with partners such as Qhubeka to bring bicycles to girls currently in Primary and Secondary school
  • ·      Working with the UCI to develop more women commissaires, coaches and mechanics.  It is also important to see more women in management and leadership roles at the UCI

We will hold our first strategic planning meeting at the Continental Championships on February 15, 2017 in Luxor, Egypt.

Kimberly Coats, Founder of Africa Rising Women, explains, “Long term, in order to help all women interested in the sport, we need to grow the grassroots support.  We need to organize and help place women in leadership roles within local clubs or federations.  We need women in the Confederation of African Cycling and more women in the UCI in leadership and policy making.  And ultimately, we need young girls to know the freedom they can experience on a bike and the older women to be their mentors and voices.  Together we can raise African women’s cycling.”

To learn more about Africa Rising Women’s Cycling visit our website:

Instagram:  africarisingwomen

For more information contact:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

And Then There Was Hope

Saturday morning I woke up with a Trump Inauguration hangover.  It was brutal.  His inauguration speech was another campaign speech leaving me thinking, "Dude, you won, we got it.  Bring us together and do something!"  I woke up the next morning with no hope and a hunker down mentality.  

Last night I started seeing the first of the Women's March posts coming through on Facebook.  I talked to my sister and other women who were marching on my side of the world, in Nairobi, Lilongwe, Munich, Heidelberg.  I quickly saw, this wasn't a US issue, this was a worldwide issue.  Women are just sick and tired of being taking for granted, paid less, passed over more and simply not afforded the same rights as a man, especially a white man.

This morning I woke up and scrolled through Twitter and Facebook, read the NY Times and never felt such pride and joy in being a woman.  Sisters around the world you ROCK!  

I've said since that first morning when I kicked the dog bowl across my front lawn in anger over the election results, that there must be something good that will come of all this hate, lies and misogynist behavior from the person who now holds the highest office in our country.  

Yesterday all over the world was the result.

Don't poke the leopard or we'll march and show the world exactly what we think and feel.

Vienna, Austria

Munich, Germany

What really shocked me was how many women worldwide were marching.  I never felt to loved, understand and proud to be a woman.  It was a worldwide solidarity.  I saw a meme on Facebook which said:

Obviously, the entire meaning and show of solidarity was lost on this person.  If this was about not getting our way why were women from Africa to Asia to Europe to South and North America marching?  They have no skin in our game, yet they relate.  I would also strongly disagree with the "when human rights have been violated" phrase.  As a woman I dare any woman to say she has never been dismissed, passed over for a position, made less money for the same or better work, been grabbed, groped, harassed or just made to feel "less than".  

I used to scoff at the word feminist.  I didn't want to be "that" feminist.  So, I kept my mouth shut.  In actuality, the definition of the word feminist is someone who supports feminism which is the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of equality of the sexes.  (Thank you google dictionary).  I should have read that years ago.

I think for me, I reached an accumulation point, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back point.  I wish I would have been more vocal over the years.  Instead, I simply laughed it off and went back to work.  In reality I should have called it what it was, inequality of the sexes.

When I was in my early 20's and running several Subway stores with husband #1 we went to a area wide meeting to vote on choosing a new food vendor for all the stores in the region.  At that time we had 3 or 4, one of the few with multiple locations and thereby with more voting power.  The sales rep trying to close the deal was this short, overly buff (too much gym time) guy who simply looked right through me.  He had his Barbie doll wife who was very nice, however, completely clueless about why she was even there.  He kept trying to surf me off to his wife when I was asking him questions about delivery schedules, rebate pricing, everything I needed to know to make an informed decision.  Every time I asked a question, he turned to Mark and answered it.  Then he would ask him something.  I kept looking at Mark with a "WTH?? is this really happening look".  

Mark finally looks him straight in the eye and says, I don't handle any of this, if you want our business you need to deal with Kim and walked away.  Awkward....

As a young woman in business I dealt with employees over the years, men, who wouldn't listen to me.  When I finally would have to let them go, they would go running to Mark to have him reconsider.  Luckily Mark did not play that game.

As the years progressed and I either owned my own business or worked in sales I would experience the most inane conversations or be directly verbally or physically harassed.  And I took it.  Why?  I'm a strong woman why didn't I stand up?  Because in the end, I knew it was a man's world.  I needed the sale, the job, the money so I just "laughed" it off and went to work.

Some of my all time tragic moments....

When sales reps would come into our businesses and ask for my husband.

When being sold a car or a major item, "why don't you bring your husband in and maybe he can help you decide".  Apparently because I did not have decision making capabilities due to having girl bits?

"You got sales rookie of the year?  How many reps and customers did you have to sleep with or blow?"  I kid you not a man I worked with said this to me.

My strip club customer (yes, they sell food) in Vegas, "If this food gig doesn't work out you can always work here."  Eye roll....

My boss when I asked to see him...."Well, it's Friday, we're at the strip club, come on down and we can talk."  Seriously?

A chef, when he found out he'd been sent the wrong french fries, whips the 5# bag of fries at my head in the kitchen and yells, "I told you I didn't want these F(*&ing fries, are you F(*&ing stupid bitch."  Mind you, I had placed the order correctly.  The order picker in the warehouse (man) or the driver (man) made the error.  I did call my boss and gave away the account.  I gave away an account that made me a couple hundred dollars a week because HE was harassing ME.

I had an employer (man) and his board (3 other men) decide they were going to cut my pay by 1/3rd in the middle of the month without telling me while I was working in Rwanda.  I politely told them if they did not pay me the full month I would enforce the contract.  If they wanted to renegotiate the contract with me they were welcome but I was not taking a pay cut.  In the email back I was told I was being "terse".

I had a male client while working in Kenya who was awaiting a delivery of bikes.  After we won the tender we had a window in which to deliver the bikes.  My predecessor, a man, had just left the country as he had been promoted stateside with the same company.  The client did everything in his power to make sure I did not meet the delivery window.  My shipment was late from the factory, the truck was in an accident on the way from the port and spent a night on the side of the road in the middle of Kenya.  It broke down outside of Nairobi on its way to my warehouse, then there was an attempted high jacking.  Every day I called the client and every day he told me with almost glee in his voice that I would not make the delivery date.  The bikes got to the warehouse.  My staff worked a week of 24 hour shifts assembled the bikes and started delivering them.  The client tried to stop delivery by giving us impossible time frames (between 1 and 2 on the 2nd Thursday of the month).  The day the last bike was delivered I called to tell him.  It was the day before the deadline.  You would have thought I stabbed is kitten.  I have never had a man work so hard to sabotage me.

I'm the only woman running a national cycling team on the continent of Africa (54 countries).  Just imagine....the ONLY woman....

So, this is why I'm speaking up.  I've fought for abused kids in the US for years.  I've fought for my riders.  Now, it's time to fight for all the women like me who have been silent way too long.  I really, mentally, tried to explain it away, that it really wasn't what I was experiencing.  I cannot anymore.  

I want to thank all the awesome MEN out there who marched alongside women and stood up for my sisters.  There are amazing men who I feel get lumped into the smaller minority of really bad guys.  My dad is one of those men.  I remember him teaching me how to drive a manual transmission when I was 16.  I had an automatic car and asked him why I needed to learn to drive a manual.

"Because, someday you're going to be somewhere and you will need to get home by yourself and the only car will be a manual transmission."

A few years later I drove my drunk, passed out boyfriend home from a party at KU.  I had to leave because his "friend" thought that since my boyfriend was passed out it would be okay to "take over" for my boyfriend.  I hightailed it out of there.  Thank you dad!

Husband #2 has apologized for experiences he has witnessed with other men who showed blatant disregard for my work and me.  That shouldn't be his job.  But I'm glad he sees it.

So, part of the work I will be doing in the future will be with women, women who ride, race, love the sport of cycling up and down the chain from recreational rider to a management role helping dictate policy and funding for women's programs on the continent.  

And years ago, many years ago, I almost ran for the Missouri house seat vacated by my friend's father whom I highly respected.  He endorsed me and then I moved to Las Vegas and here I am in Rwanda 16 years later.  When I'm back in the US I want to get involved representing people as someone who cares and not someone just trying to keep a job in politics.  

The change starts here and now.  Please women, don't let up, don't take it anymore, fight for it otherwise, this entire sad election will have been for naught.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Road to Character Took a Detour

I recently finished the book, Road to Character written by David Brooks.  I started reading it after the election and finished it before the inauguration of our 45th President.  There was not a moment during the reading of this deep, philosophical book about people with strong moral character, that I didn't think, "How did this man become our President?"

Politics aside, seriously, politics aside, I want to talk about the man.

Character is learned, it is cultivated, it provokes moral dilemmas and it is the difference in a human between self-love and narcissism and a diligent, methodical and conscious effort to be a person of character. defines character as a:

  • Moral or ethical quality
  • Quality of honesty, courage or the like; integrity
  • Reputation
As the past few months unfolded I questioned the character, the integrity of all the candidates.  But President 45 stood out above the rest.  The rest to me simply lacked strength of good character.  I think for the most part the others were deep down inside probably decent people, caught up in the self-aggrandizing that is a political election.  Let's call a spade a spade....elections seem to bring out the worst in all people running.  

David Brooks describes people with character, 

"They radiate a sort of moral joy.  They answer softly when challenged harshly.  They are silent when unfairly abused.  They are dignified when others try to humiliate them, restrained when others provoke them.  But they get things done.  They perform acts of sacrificial service with the same modest everyday spirit they would display if they were just getting the groceries.  They are both thinking about what impressive work they are doing."

Not many candidates exemplified character.  President 45 took it to a whole new level.  Everything I write will be written from a researched, fact based, position.  Of course my personal opinion is evident but unlike the inaccurate social media world I will only deal in facts.

President 45 radiates a aura of "better than" a "disdain for others".  His tweets are all we really need to confirm this.  

“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

 “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!” 

....and he's just mean.  If you want to read more....just the facts.

This election for me was about character or lack thereof.  I have voted for every Republican Presidential candidate since I was old enough to vote.  Until 45.  

If I, as a pretty much die hard Republican, saw the lack of character and the damage potential how could others not?  I am still grappling with that question and I do not think I will ever come to terms with it.

Character and integrity is everything to me.  As people "explained" away 45's behavior I sat stunned, in shock.  

"It's just words...."

"He didn't really mean it."

"It's just boy talk."  

"Locker room talk."

Okay, if my "boy" or "boys" talked like that I would eliminate them from my life.  

Those are not just words...all of his is an stark indication of his lack of Character.

People don't change, not at 70.  He is who he is.  He was elected by people looking for change.  I get that, but he's not the change maker you were promised.  Because in the end, his lack of character justifies all his decisions and will continue to do so for the next 4 years.

45 lies...all the time 

 “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” 

The former President of Mexico, Vincente Fox Quesada has seen through the half truths and outright lies.  He calls out his Character:

I think one of the most difficult things to see unfold is the Cabinet.  When 45 was elected I prayed....after my severe crisis of faith....maybe, just maybe he would surround himself with good people who really would take care of the country.  

45, in documented lie after lie, says he has the "smartest" Cabinet in the history of Presidential Cabinets.

Truth:  45's cabinet has the least amount of academic degrees ever.  Only 1/3 hold bachelor degrees, 40% have a law or medical degree and no one holds a doctorate. Betsy DeVos, billionaire, who has no experience in Education, accept for turning a profit, is one of the most glaring examples of inexperience.  She could not even answer the most basic of questions, proficiency versus growth.  And guns in schools in Wyoming for bears?  But here's the real damage she has done in her own state.   

Why did Betsy DeVos get the nomination?  5.3 MILLION Reasons.  #Draintheswamp...not so much.  There is not even ONE Hispanic in the Cabinet.  93% of the Cabinet is white that a reflection of our country?  

Why do I talk about this when I'm talking about 45's character?  He told us all one thing and we get completely another.  Why are we taking this?  

The irony of this week being not only Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, but also the transition of power from our first black President to another white man is not lost of me.  King was a man of character who changed our world forever.  As 45 tries time and again to suppress the media, unless it's media he wants whether true or false, I'm struck that we are slowly losing rights.  It is a slippery slope.  Now more than ever we need to speak up, speak out, with dignity and integrity.  

Scot McKay defines lack of character as, 

"Anyone who is blatantly narcissistic or psychopathic, has a hair-trigger temper, gets their jollies from swindling people, lies even when the truth is obviously short on character."

Am I missing something?  

"But, Kim, he's a good businessman."

"Really???  That's not what Newsweek reports."

No offense....I think Newsweek's fact check department is a bit better than your Uncle Beauregard's.   

45 is our President, it is what it is.  I pray we're not part of the American Titantic.  I do not want colossal failure on his behalf or for the country, however, I will not stand idly by.  I will call out his lack of character, lack of transparency or simply his lack of common decency.  

45 is not a man of good moral character, nor will he ever be.  

Of all the incredibly disheartening, stomach churning, deceitful things 45 has done, yesterday at the inauguration there was a moment when I truly grasped, there is no hope.  We must ride out these next four years and I pray, it will shake us all up to make a change not just for change sake, but a change, a moral decision to elect a President with character.

Bob and Elizabeth Dole are Republican Royalty, they have given their lives serving this country.  Bob Dole fought in World War II and devoted his life to serving the people of Kansas.  He's now 93 and in a wheel chair.  45 won as a Republican yet it was Obama, a Democrat, who gave Mr. Dole and his wife the well deserved honor and respect he has earned for a lifetime of service to this country.

I never voted for Obama, but I always respected him as a man of character.  

Thank you President Obama for just doing the right thing.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Honoring Death to Remember to Live

Every decade or so I experience a “not so great” year and generally it coincides with a major milestone chronologically in life…30, 40 and this year, 50.  2016 was such a year.  It seems, as I scroll through social media “friends” and “acquaintances”, 2016 was not a year many of us wish to repeat. 

It was the year of death… many bright stars leaving this world full of gaping black holes.  David Bowie, Glenn Fry, Prince music I grew up listening.  Heroes, by Bowie, is still one of my all time favorite songs.  George Michael, on Christmas Day?

Muhammad Ali, the world of boxing and sport will never be the same, an iconic hero gone forever.

Gene Wilder, Mr. Willie Wonka, devoted husband of Gilda Radner, you will be missed.

It seemed like every week the world woke up to another death.  Was it really more than we were prepared to stomach for a year?  The “In Memoriam” for 2016 was a full-length television segment.  Was it really more than most years?  Or was the pallor over the year in general making it seem more?

However, the death that most affected me this year was of someone who was only an acquaintance.  Keith Joe was a friend of my sister’s.  They went to medical school together years ago and reconnected during my sister’s divorce several years ago.  This time was her most difficult era of life, as I’m sure all of us who have experienced divorce would agree.  For those of us who battle the darkness the pain can be amplified exponentially.  Keith got my sister out of bed every day and refused to let her wallow in her well of self-pity.  My sister said, “he talked a lot about himself.  He always did, but that is what helped me.  He didn’t let me to talk about my problems and me; we needed to talk about Keith and his next adventure.”  Little by little, while enjoying the Keith like adventures, my sister rejoined the world. 

Keith was a strong, fit, young man of 42.  He was diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer.  He was diagnosed in October and dead on December 11th.

One day you’re rock climbing, the next it’s over.

Keith had come to a screening of Rising from Ashes in Washington DC years ago.  We all went out to dinner after and I remember just having a really great time with friends and family.  My sister was in DC and my friend Molly who I met in Rwanda when I first moved here.  Molly and Keith talked non-stop. 

(Washington DC World Bank 2013:  Kim, Danielle & Molly)

The next time I saw Keith was at my sister’s wedding in June of 2015.  He flew to Germany for her wedding.  That’s what friends do….real friends.

And then he was gone.

Time is always there for every one of us, however, rarely do we think about the end: the finishing up of our time in the world.  I have thought about it every day since he left, because frankly, healthy 42-year-old men shouldn’t just die.  Not a man who has two kids, friends and family who adore him and even acquaintances who were stunned and deeply saddened by his passing.

Today, January 15th is his memorial in Washington D.C.  My sister is there, as is Molly.  I spoke with my sister this morning.  The waves of emotion are strong.

When Keith was nearing his grand exit, I kept reading his Facebook page.  There is no doubt, this young man positively influenced so many lives.  He was loved….deeply.  If half of the people I know said about me what Keith’s friends said about him I would have had a well-lived life.

His death has made me so very conscious of time.  I’m 50. Yesterday I was 18.  There are many changes coming in the next few months.  Changes that I need to make, it’s time, because frankly, who knows how much time we all have. 

Yesterday, today and moving through the time I have left, I will think about how my time on earth affects those around me, those I love, those I simply need to keep a distance from, those who have broken my heart and those I let go.  I will remember those I need to keep close, squeeze tighter and love more.  I will definitely laugh more.