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SJ Brooks was the Founder of the Seattle chapter of Friends on Bikes, a group focused on creating space for women/trans/femme/non-binary people of color to enjoy biking together. Brooks was tragically killed over the weekend in an internationally publicized tragedy.
SJ’s death is a huge loss to our city. At 32 years old, they had so much more to do in this world. Our deepest condolences to their loved ones. And our best wishes go to Izzy, who is recovering. Izzy served a term on Seattle’s volunteer Bicycle Advisory Board a few years ago, helping to guide the city’s bicycle planning.
“Everybody bikes differently,” SJ told Seattle Bike Blog in an October interview about the launch of Friends on Bikes. Looking back through my notes from that interview, that quote really stands out to me as a perfect three-word summation of what bicycle culture should be all about. SJ worked in the bicycle industry on both coasts, from Montreal to Boston to Seattle, and that’s the insight they were hoping to bring to our city through Friends on Bikes.
SJ was scheduled to speak about Friends on Bikes at the WTF Bikexplorers summit in Montana later this summer. The Portland chapter of Friends on Bikes wrote the following about the late leader of their Seattle chapter:
Deeply heartbroken for the loss of SJ Brooks. No words can describe how much they will be missed in FOB, Seattle and the community at large. They were a positive light who worked tirelessly to create change. We’ve suffered a great loss. Please keep their family and loved ones in your thoughts. As well for Izzy who is still recovering. Keep your loved ones close, life is precious.
While media outlets are fascinated by the rare circumstances of Brooks’ tragic death, Seattle needs space to talk about SJ’s life. If you have any stories or remembrances you want to share, either leave them in the comments below or email them to me at [email protected] and I will add them to this post.
🚲SJ was a friend to U District, Let’s Go. We will miss them. Thanks for their work on making bicycling more inclusive; will work to carry on your legacy. Condolences to all who loved SJ. 🌹🌈 https://t.co/IVRdYA14qn
— UDistrictLetsGo (@UDistrictLetsGo) May 21, 2018
We will always miss SJ, but their presence will be part of our work and part of the cargo bike movement in Seattle for a long time to come.
— G&O Family Cyclery (@GoFamilyCyclery) May 21, 2018
My heart hurts today. SJ had just recently started to whip things into shape as manager of the Hillman City Collaboratory. I'm only learning about their passion for diversity in biking through this tragedy. Time to dust off the bike, methinks. https://t.co/ibaT1sDsJl
— Mary Dickson Diaz (@marythought) May 22, 2018
🚲my friend SJ leaves a legacy of helping people feel included. while my heart is broken, it is also inspired. condolences to all that loved SJ. 🌈🌹 https://t.co/qTpPpZufuP
— celeste castro 🤓 (@writerceleste) May 22, 2018
I met SJ just a few times. That was enough to know they kept it really real; someone you could just be your complete self around. Not to mention their inspiring leadership in the bike world. ❤️ https://t.co/WIuExZhZgG
— kelsey mesher (@kmesh) May 22, 2018
I remember SJ Brooks as a McGill AHCS grad school colleague with strong commitments to social justice & community. This is such a heartbreaking, tragic loss 💔 https://t.co/KyiNj6bup9
— Analog Tara (@analogtara) May 22, 2018
I would love it if those of us in and around Boston who love SJ could put our heads together once the dust settles a bit and try to create a memorial fund, scholarship, something.
— Robin (@caulkthewagon) May 22, 2018
SJ Brooks was a leader in making biking more accessible and inclusive to everyone in Seattle. and beyond. Sending my love to their family and all their loved ones. Their work will live on. 💜https://t.co/Qfi0Rqt6lT
— Keiko Budech (@keikoanya) May 22, 2018
I was blessed to meet SJ in Omaha Ne while they were attending Creighton as an undergrad. We developed a relationship quickly, and spent much time together before they graduated and our life paths moved in different geographic directions. SJ exuded light, loving energy and was a tremendous blessing that made an enormous impact on my life. This transition is difficult and heart breaking, as SJ had so many more gifts to offer this Earth. Sending love and healing Energy to SJs family, friends, and all those that have been blessed with the opportunity to know SJ. May the work SJ initiated continue to spread, like the loving energy they always offered. ❤❤❤💔💔 Rest In Power Scooter!
Eternal Love, Jackie
The Boston Globe reports on the reaction there to the news of SJ’s death:
“S.J. was an avid cyclist and a strong supporter of Bikes Not Bombs who participated in our vocational educational program, rode in our annual Bike-A-Thon for many years, and served on our Board of Directors from 2012 to 2016, before moving to Seattle,’’ the group noted in its posting. “We truly valued S.J.’s deep commitment to inclusion at Bikes Not Bombs and the cycling community. Our hearts go out to S.J.’s family and friends.”
Brooks also worked for the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston’s South End, the organization said in a statement.
“We were shocked and saddened to hear about the death of S. J. Brooks,’’ according to a statement posted to the organization’s Facebook page. “S. J. was a valued member of the BCA staff when they worked here in 2012 as a member of our Visual Arts team.”
Brooks was described by the BCA as a “kind-hearted, generous, and wonderfully creative person with a deep commitment to their work in the community. We extend our sincerest condolences to S.J.’s family and friends during this horrible time.”
The CBC reports from Montreal on the reaction there:
“They would come to the shop, ask small questions,” [Marissa Plamondon-Lu, the owner of the Montreal bicycle shop Bikurious] told CBC News. “They were slowly getting into bikes, partly in Boston and partly here.”
Brooks became an avid cyclist and a bicycle mechanic, Plamondon-Lu said, finding Bikurious to be a safe space.
“I could really see it in their eyes, how special the space was for them.”
Plamondon-Lu, who has owned her shop for 10 years, said she actively tried to hire women and open up the “intimidating” and “super white” world of bikes to a more diverse community.
“I loved their approach to the whole thing — just encouraging more queer, P.O.C. women to feel empowered by bike mechanicking,” Plamondon-Lu said.