The History of Major Taylor Cycling Club of NY & NJ
The Major Taylor Cycling Club of New York & New Jersey
Long ago in America’s history existed a Negro Baseball League. The Negro National League was later formed in 1933, followed by the Negro American League, which was chartered in 1937. These two leagues thrived until the color line was broken. The demise of the Negro Leagues was inevitable as the younger black players were signed by the white major league franchises.
In the early seventies, two sisters from Brooklyn, New York, Lucille and Mildred Smith started a cycling group, as a result of inspiration from their sister Annette. The group was known as the L & M Tourers. The sisters were not openly welcomed by other clubs around New York City. They formed the L & M Tourers to attract black cyclists. The first season started with one bike tour and several cyclists. From the latter part of the 1970s into the early 1990s, the active members thrived. As time went on more and more of the black cyclists became members of other clubs. (Sound familiar?)
The year 2000 brought on a name change from L & M Tourers to L & M Cycling Club. In 2002, we adopted a new name: Major Taylor Cycling Club (MTCC). The name memorializes the greatest African-American cyclist to-date! With the new name, our multicultural bike club has become affiliated with other clubs both local and national. These new affiliations as expected have rejuvenated the club and brought back the great camaraderie started by Lucille, Mildred and Annette. Hopefully, after reading this you will make Major Taylor Cycling Club a regular part of your cycling agenda.
Case vs. John Sowell et al.
Since the early 1970s, from April through October, the Major Taylor Cycling Club of NY/NJ (formerly L&M Cycling Club) was a regular fixture at Newark Penn Station on Sunday mornings. Sisters Lucille and Mildred Smith of Brooklyn, New York founded this premier cycling club of color. The Major Taylor Cycling Club of NY/ NJ name was adopted in June of 2003 and became an associated member of the Major Taylor Association of Worcester, Massachusetts later that month.
Like many organizations, the growth and popularity of the Major Taylor Cycling Club NY/ NJ bred ill will on more than one occasion. Remember how Jesse Jackson turned on Barack Obama? The famous, "Cut his nuts off" line caught on that hot mic he was wearing? Why would Jesse feel that way? Because he was not the chosen man of color to be electable to the highest office in the land? The corruption here is consistent with that of politics. Irvington’s City Council President John Sowell of Team Irvington and Newark Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (an attorney in Roseland, New Jersey) are at the forefront. The two were not alone in their quest for control of the cycling club. Demetrice Miles and James McCarther, close friends of John Sowell and Grace Spencer, have also proven to be in collaboration.
In a meeting called by John Sowell on December 28, 2008, between club members and two existing executive board members, John Sowell and his friends felt we should begin to hold elections, start committees, attach a blog to the website and such. A board member brought up an issue he was adamantly against and that was the notion of incorporating the club. It was clearly stated to this board member by more than one individual in attendance they were no longer pursuing any type of incorporation. But, the writing was already on the wall and the board knew they had to act in order to protect the club as it is, “A laid back group of people who get together to ride on Sunday”. Who needs to deal with the IRS?
January 7, 2009, a board member sent an email to John Sowell, his cohorts and those who attended the December 28th meeting stating they are free to leave the club and begin one to their own liking under a different name/ title. On January 21, 2009 all monies collected by James McCarther for annual dues and given to Robert Lara at the December 28, 2008 meeting were returned in order to bring closure to the situation and amicably part ways. Unbeknownst to the club’s board members, John Sowell nor his followers felt they needed to honor this request. Instead, John Sowell, a former Treasurer with the club, decided without the knowledge or consent of its present board members to create a business entity named “Major Taylor Cycling Club of NY/ NJ, a New Jersey Non- Profit Corporation” on January 8, 2009. The foursome was very well aware the club name did not belong to them, but that did not seem to matter. The need to pilfer control of an established name far outweighed any sense of decency toward people they have spent countless hours with during previous cycling seasons.
The board members were only made aware of this action from a source that attended another meeting held by John Sowell on January 25, 2009, (18 days after they were sent the email advising them it would be better if they left and started a club to their liking under a different name). Actions were taken immediately by the board members to have this New Jersey Non- Profit Corporation’s name changed so as not to incur any legal or financial issues in the future. Former club President- Robert Lara, VP- Freddie Thomas and Herman Greene of Major Taylor Cycling Club of NY/ NJ enlisted the services of Attorney David Bursik of Wayne, New Jersey in order to pursue an infringement case against John Sowell, L. Grace Spencer, Demetrice Miles and James McCarther. A document attained by David Bursik confirmed Council President John Sowell did indeed create the entity with L. Grace Spencer, Demetrice Miles and James McCarther named as Trustees.
February 10, 2009, David Bursik sent a letter on the board’s behalf via certified mail to John Sowell and his three Trustees asking this group to cease and desist with this infringing activity. There were no responses from John Sowell or his co-conspirators (Trustees). David Bursik then advised us just how expensive this case will be to pursue. Is it worth it? Would you pursue a case such as this one against a corrupt group because of the principle? In this economy who can afford that? So, what is the next best thing for the present board to do? Expose their actions to the public. The voters can conclude what type of character their elected representatives really possess. Honest and ethical or corrupt and dishonorable. They were so emboldened as to mail out their 2009 literature and club schedules bearing the name “Major Taylor Cycling Club of NY- NJ” on the envelope and schedule to people on our database! We have been given originals from members that received them!
April 21, 2009, Grace Spencer decides to contact the boards former Attorney David Bursik in order to request the removal of his Cease & Desist letter from the clubs website (majortaylornynj.com/ Case vs. John Sowell tab) or at least to redact the letter. She was not calling to proclaim her innocence or the inaccuracy of the charge leveled against her and the other three named in the dispute, but to request personal/ private information such as home addresses be removed and to say the board posted that letter on the site with malicious intent. She makes that claim because as she put it, “considering that your clients are aware that the name Major Taylor Cycling New York New Jersey is not being used by me or any of the individuals who are named in your letter suggests that the reason for publishing the letter may have been malicious in nature”. We watched as they removed our club name from their blog that same afternoon and replaced it with their present name in an effort to cover their tracks. We complied and have since replaced her private address with that of her government address, which is for public view on any government website. Politicians are public figures aren't they? Just Google her name. In the meantime, on April 18, 2009 (just three days prior to her contacting our former attorney) members of her club were in Newark’s Branchbrook Park handing out 2009 ride schedules titled, “Major Taylor Cycling Club NY- NJ”. Someone gave us a copy of that one as well. Grace Spencer’s title with John Sowell’s club is VP of Rides. Her duties include originating this ride calendar. Is Grace not aware of the title they are using on the calendar she is responsible for?
May 28, 2009, The harassment of our former attorney David Bursik continued when he advised us he was again contacted by Grace Spencer and asked to have the letter removed. He shook in his boots and turned on us. Threatened me with the MT Association. It was a good laugh because I responded and cc'd our contact at the MT Association. Just so that he is aware I was not worried about that lame threat. Lawyers (can't trust 'em)... We had a good laugh after that. We removed the letter and replaced it with this accurate timeline of events.
If there is anything in this description of events that is not accurate, any of the four people named in this dispute can feel free to write and dispute the facts. I will print it of course and reply with a "respond to all" option. New Jersey politicians are viewed as so corrupt that many people just laughed. “What makes you think they would be any different” they said.
For board members Freddie Thomas and Herman Greene, the Major Taylor Cycling Club of NY/NJ is a cherished cycling institution. They were there from the very beginning (1973). John Sowell and his counterparts’ ill morality far outweigh their illegal actions.
NEVER GIVE UP TO NO ONE
Major Taylor Cycling Club NY/NJ,Major Taylor NY, formerly L&M Tourers, is an affiliated member of the Major Taylor Association.