KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Greg Jasperse typically spends his free time biking around town and around the country. Professionally, he’s a professor of jazz studies at Western Michigan University and he’s passionate about music.
However, his other passion is cycling.
This summer he said he’s cycling for a good cause.
“I’m riding a thousand miles between now and Labor Day to raise $10,000 for Black Lives Matter, [and its] partner NAACP Legal Defense Fund,” Jasperse said during an interview with FOX 17 on Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve already raised $10,000.”
Jasperse said he and some friends in Maine and Iowa created Biking 4 Black Lives Matter and set a goal to raise $10,000. They reached the goal this weekend.
However, he wants to raise the same amount on his own.
“My personal fundraising from my community is still under $10,000. It’s probably a little over $9,000,” Jasperse said. “So I’m first of all committed to that. And I said I was going to ride these miles and I know that we can do more than $10,000. So there’s no reason to stop.”
Jasperse said he’s got 600 miles to go this summer.
The Biking 4 Black Lives Matter fundraiser began in early June when protests broke out in cities throughout the country in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Jasperse remembers going out on a ride one morning and wondering ‘what can I do?’ he said.
“For me it really is understanding where my power lies, where my circle of influence is, and then using that to contribute in my most powerful way to the cause,” Jasperse said. “I knew that because of my career as a published composer and arranger that I have a network of people really around the world.”
Jasperse said as soon as they created a GoFundMe account and posted it to his page, donations started coming in from around the country, Canada and Europe.
He said he’s overwhelmed by the response.
“A friend and I were talking how COVID is the universe’s way of saying everybody stop what you’re doing and pay attention, basically sending us to our rooms and making us think about that we’ve done,” Jasperse said. “But, It just feels like this conversation is lasting longer. It’s going deeper. There are more voices that are a part of it.”
Jasperse said he’s grateful to use his voice and privilege to help the Black Lives Matter movement. All the money raised with the group and on his own goes directly to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
He hopes that his efforts spur others to think about what they can do to get involved.
“I would encourage people to ask themselves the same questions I’m able to ask myself: where is your power? where is your influence? what do you want to do? what do you want to see changed?,” Jasperse said. “I reflect on a lot the Maya Angelo quote ‘Do the best you can. And when you know better, do better.’”