I write this blog for my own personal reasons, and those reasons have remained strong for years- I feel a strong need to help and defend the incarcerated. Many prisoners inhabit the lowest rung of society- the wholly disenfranchised.
Nolatoangola.com spreads a few rays of sunshine in this dark landscape through cycling. NOLA to Angola is a long-distance, solidarity bike ride established in 2011 to raise funds for the Cornerstone Builders‘ Bus Project. All riders are sponsored, and all sponsorship funds pay for this bus service. Check out the New Orleans Advocate article on this bike project here.
Cornerstone Builders is a program for formerly incarcerated persons looking to provide service to the community and educational opportunities. Cornerstone Builders provides free family bus rides to prisons and mentorship to children whose parents are incarcerated.
The NOLA to Angola route travels over 160 miles from Orleans Parish Prison to Angola State Penitentiary over a three-day period. The route covers areas of Southeast Louisiana that are of ecological, historical, and social interest. Some of the interesting geographical areas along the route include-
- the River Road
- Bonnet Carre’ Spillway
- Cancer Alley
- the German Coast
- Maurepas Swamp
- Baton Rouge
- the Tunica Hills.
It draws attention to that distance because when people hear about it, they’re so incredulous: You bike all that way?, said Nicky Gillies, one of the ride’s organizers. But it really makes a point about the separation.
Cornerstone Builders’ Bus Project started in 2007, chartering two or three buses a year. But with help from the cycling fundraiser, which raised almost $25,000 last year, Cornerstone now offers as many as two bus trips per month from New Orleans not just to Angola but also to the Avoyelles, Rayburn, Dixon and Hunt correctional centers.
Founder Leo Jackson, pastor of Second Zion Baptist Church in Marrero, said it costs about $1,200 to charter a bus for a single trip. With about 50 passengers per bus, the program has grown from serving 150 people a year to about 700 people.
Jackson said about 40 percent of the riders on trips are regulars and about 60 percent are new riders.
There are a lot of people who do not own an automobile, he said.