Making Cycles and Breaking Cycles

This year’s Orrick Lecture Series speaker, Brandale Randolph CdeP 1994 talks about manufacturing change, one bike at a time.
Brandale Randolph CdeP 1994, founder of 1854 Cycling Company, was this year’s Orrick Lecture Series speaker. During his Zoom presentation to the campus community, Mr. Randolph shared some of the difficulties he has faced as a Black man in America, including his brother’s death at the hands of the police and the death of his mother due to inadequate healthcare. He went on to offer his world view: Rather than turning away and rejecting society,  he said, “I realized that I could be bold enough to stand up and do something I believe in.”

To that end, in 2016 he founded 1854 Cycling Company as a way of creating employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated women. His mission today is to help end generational poverty by offering living wages to the formerly incarcerated, particularly women, military veterans, and former juvenile offenders. Ironically, the most recent iteration of his bicycle was designed for police work, with technology similar to that found in a police car integrated into the bicycle’s design. 

Prior to founding 1854, Randolph graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and worked as a commodities trader. He believes that his time at Thacher prepared him for his success at Penn and in the financial world, particularly because he had to learn a new language at Thacher. His inner city dialect didn’t fit into the 1990s primarily white culture of Thacher, so he learned to “code switch”—to adjust his speech to the environment.

Joi ’21, one of the heads of Thacher’s Black Students Union, introduced Brandale and moderated a lengthy Q&A session after the talk. During the Q&A,  Brandale was asked a question he often addresses: “How is it to be a black-owned police brand in the middle of the movement for Black lives?” His response: “Even though the situation is awkward for us, I don’t fear it any more, because I know who I am. And who I am is a person who only wants good in the world.” 

A lot of the departments that will use his bikes are developing new methods of community policing—with less emphasis on militarization and more crisis intervention. He designed the Thoreau bike to help these organizations provide services to their communities: connect a person going through a mental health crisis to a crisis worker; help find shelter for a homeless family living in their car. He considers these hi-tech bikes his “gift to the world” to “make a better community.”

It’s a sentiment Brandale echoed throughout his talk: “Be the good in the world. Be the beacons of light in the world full of darkness. Show people what’s possible by being that person that’s not afraid to go out there on your own.”

As is customary for the William H. Orrick Lecture Series, Klondike Bars were served in the dining hall afterward in honor of Judge Orrick CdeP 1932. 

Related story: Virtuous Cycle

The Orrick Lecture Series, established in 2004, was made possible by a generous donation from Suzanne Orrick in memory of her late husband, U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick Jr. CdeP 1932. Judge Orrick had been a longstanding and loyal devotee and supporter of the School throughout his life. The lecture series named in his honor aims to educate students about the U.S. legal system, jurisprudence, legal ethics, and the public service done by attorneys and judges so that they may serve their communities and make a difference in the world after their time at Thacher. Every year brings a new theme, but the judge’s favorite ice cream bar is always served at the end of the night.

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