In April of this year, Cyclista Zine (@cyclista_zine) launched the #ChangetheName campaign to end the use of the slur “Dirty Kanza” as the name of the annual gravel racing event held in Emporia, Kansas. Kanza is the official name of the Kaw people, part of the Kaw Nation.
From the original Change.org campaign: “The Kaw Nation of Kansas, now of Oklahoma, has survived adversity and today is a federally-recognized self-governing tribe seeking to recover its cultural heritage and land. To preface Kanza people with “Dirty” shows a disconnect of the history of place, violence, and colonization that has been justified with terms like “dirty” that is connected to America’s Legacy of anti-Indigenous violence.”
Although the event has now been rebranded as Unbound Gravel, it took nearly seven months for them to make this change in response to the campaign, after a fumbled start, but we’re glad to see it’s finally been addressed. Make sure to head over to Cyclista Zine to learn more about their current initiatives and to find in-depth resources for further learning.
Find Unbound Gravel’s complete press release below.
“Our team agreed that we wanted a name, logo and colors that embody the Flint Hills of Kansas. This region, and the hilly, sharp gravel roads that accompany it, are what help make this event what it has become – known widely today as the World’s Premier Gravel Event. We know the life impact this event has on people and we wanted a strong brand that participants felt proud of, that we could tell stories around, and that tied literally and figuratively to the area,” said Michelle Duffy, Director of Off-Road Events Marketing at Life Time. “The word UNBOUND most literally means to be free. It represents the free-range cattle, wild mustangs and native bison in the prairie of the Flint Hills, who move freely and live wild. It’s synonymous with our participants who experience a sense of freedom on the gravel roads outside of Emporia, in those moments “unbound” from anything else. Just the rider and the tire-shredding, sun-baking, breathtaking Flint Hills gravel.”
In support of the new name and branding process, Life Time established a task force composed of Emporia business and tourism leaders, representatives of the cycling media, members of the cycling community—including a past champion and a two-time podium finisher—alongside its internal brand and marketing leaders. Additionally, other members of the gravel cycling community, along with partners and athletes, and a survey of many members of the DK community were instrumental in validating that ‘UNBOUND Gravel’ meets the event’s future vision. Finally, members of the Emporia-based events team visited Kaw Nation, Okla. to visit with members of the Tribal Council to openly discuss the renaming of the event and share the planned path forward.
“This rebrand is the end of a chapter for us as the DK, but we’ll continue to embrace the history of the land on which we ride. We hope that each time riders touch the gravel roads in the Flint Hills, they take a moment to remember what has been,” said Kristi Mohn, UNBOUND Gravel Marketing Manager. “UNBOUND Gravel provides an opportunity to reimagine what an event can look like, and this rebrand is only step one in the process. So much is yet to come for the gravel community.”
In keeping with the establishment of its DEI Coalition, Life Time is committed to providing access and education to all individuals, while initiating industry shifts around inclusiveness at events. The organization has pledged to impact change across the industry as a whole, using their 30+ events as a platform. The team is taking deliberate steps to enact change for riders and runners across BIPOC, LGBTQ+, gender-focused, economically disenfranchised and para groups, including lowering the barrier of entry to the sport, providing access to start lines, gaining a clear understanding of who we are, so that we can identify and implement the work that must be done and evoking change to benefit the entire Life Time family of athletes, volunteers, partners, team members and the broader endurance sport community.
Furthering the Company’s commitment to the community, the event rebrand comes on the heels of the Life Time Foundation announcing a multi-year partnership with Emporia Public Schools, through which it has committed $95,000 in funding for a School Food Program that will impact more than 4,300 students across nine schools.
The 2021 All Things Gravel Expo will kick off on June 3, with race day being Saturday, June 5. 2021 deferral registration will launch for participants with entry from the cancelled 2020 event on Monday, November 16. You can learn more at unboundgravel.com. Pre-order UNBOUND Gravel merchandise is available for purchase. Life Time will be contributing 15% of all proceeds towards our DEI initiatives for UNBOUND Gravel.
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