SACE's Electric Transportation Equity Manager takes Driving on Sunshine to 'The Bottom' Bookstore to share the wheels and help prepare for a local Pride Month event.Madelyn Collins | June 30, 2023
A few weeks ago before heading on an EV Roadtrip, I had the lovely experience of sharing the driving experience of SACE’s Tesla Model X which promotes the concept of Driving on Sunshine – or driving an electric vehicle powered by solar energy – with local community artists, friends, and activists in Knoxville.
Right in the heart of East Knoxville on Magnolia Street sits a multi-use community space called The Bottom. It is a Black-owned, community-based non-profit that started as a bookstore and has grown into a dedicated safe space for Black people to build community, celebrate culture, and engage in creativity in Knoxville. It is a place that many, including myself, inhabit to recharge our bodies and minds, so I was excited to share the experience of driving an electric vehicle that had been plugged into a charger powered by solar panels (so quite literally, Driving on Sunshine), with Ty Murray, The Bottom’s Director of Arts & Communications, and Jaleria Rivera, the Founder and Curator of SpaceCraft.
When I pulled up in Driving on Sunshine, Ty and Jaleria’s faces lit up. They had never been in an electric vehicle before and were excited to hop in and see what all the buzz was about. Ty’s and Jaleria’s attention was immediately drawn to the Tesla’s control screen mounted to the dash. Playing around with all the control screen’s different settings and possibilities, the giddiness was infectious as we chatted and laughed together about our discoveries, like figuring out you can watch YouTube videos through the internet app on the Tesla!
Besides showing off the wheels, I met up with Ty and Jaleria to prepare for a future Pride event. At the end of June, we are closing out Pride Month with an educational workshop centered on connecting and celebrating Black Queer Culture. Transforming the Tesla from a vehicle to a creative space, we put on voguing videos to inspire our rehearsal and planning meeting.
Jaleria, founder of SpaceCraft, an advocacy and community organization focused on connecting and building space for artists, commented on how amazing this vehicle can be as a space for artists to get inspired. She said, “If I had an electric car, this [utilizing the Tesla’s interface to view and develop art] is what I would do every time I charged. It would be beautiful to have a dedicated space for artists to use this kind of technology where they create.”
Ty had similar thoughts about her time in the Driving on Sunshine emblazoned Tesla. As I told her about charging hubs, she said, “I can see places like The Bottom being a great space for charging hubs. We have community members that see our space as their second home. It makes sense to charge here.”
Thinking of my time at The Bottom and other spaces around town where I practice art, I wholeheartedly agree. Destination charging should be considered as places we recharge as humans, and creative spaces, particularly in the Black community, are often those places. I would love to see future charging infrastructure connected to where we lay our heads at night and where we gather for community. EV mobility hubs for underserved communities cannot be limited to ‘multi-unit family dwellings;’ we need infrastructure that reflects that. Our neighborhoods have and continue to be forcibly split by the legacy of redlining and the impacts of gentrification. This is why community centers have become an essential multi-use, physical space of unity and shared ownership to geographically-fractured communities.
The Bottom not only devotes itself as a hub of creative access but it also acts as an environmental justice champion in the community as well, like with their “Black Outside” program. This program facilitates and provides opportunities for immersion in recreational, preservation, and conservation outdoor activities that Black communities have been historically barred and discouraged from. Infrastructure like E-bike libraries could complement programs like these to get people comfortable and familiar with electrification and sustainability and be a community source of access to mobility.
Ty, Jaleria, and I left our shared EV experience motivated, enlightened, and recharged, and to commemorate the special moment, we couldn’t help but practice our craft near the EV, as our upcoming Pride event has a fitting theme: Forces of Nature.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Electrify the South program leverages research, advocacy, and outreach to accelerate the equitable transition to electric transportation across the Southeast. Visit ElectrifytheSouth.org to learn more and connect with us.