Malika Nu-Man's father passed away from AIDS in 1991 when she was 11 years old. She never met him.
"He was incarcerated for drugs and also for being a pimp," explained Nu-Man. "I was angry with him throughout my life and during the ages of 5-12, I was molested by a family member and at the age of 21 was raped by a friend. So, growing up, I had this conversation with myself about my dad that if he had made the right choices, I would have been safe and my life would have been a lot easier," she said. It wasn't until Nu-Man was 31 years old that she went to visit her father's grave for the first time and forgave him. "I learned that he did the best for me under the circumstances and, via personal development, I had to let the anger go."
A few years after visiting her father's grave, a friend showed her a video about the annual AIDS/LifeCycle, which benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
"He asked me to join him, and I told him my story about my father, which later encouraged me to actually do it," she said. "I also admitted that I had never been on a bike." Nu-Man's friend convinced her to do that ride and join his team. "I remember telling the team at the first meeting that I needed help learning how to ride a bike, and one of my new teammates had a bike with him, and for an hour and a half they took me outside and helped me find my balance." Nu-Man learned to ride a bike just months before riding 545 miles down the California coast.
Nu-Man is a teacher in South Los Angeles and the environment is similar to what her father endured growing up. "I work as a middle school teacher, and I have kids who are troubled and some already even have parole officers," she said. "I wanted to take on this challenge for myself to demonstrate to my kids that if you are willing to commit and take the steps, you can do anything you put your mind to." And Nu-Man did just that by filming her experience and showing her kids what she had accomplished.
"I am excited to do it again and also to learn how to ride a bike with clips in," she said. "Now I have a better idea of how serious to take my trainings, and now I will be able to take on the hills!" Nu-Man said she felt completely supported during the ride and never felt unsafe as everyone on the ride was willing to help her out and make her feel confident each day. "I was very happy with everyone from the roadies to the food to everyone -- I would encourage anyone to participate as it's a good cause, and everyone should be aware of HIV and AIDS as it impacts everyone, not just the LGBT community."
Nu-Man feels as if she now has closure with her feelings about her father. "During quad busters, I was freaking out over the hills, and I remember stopping for a minute, and I wanted to quit, but I took a moment to do a silent prayer to my dad, and when I looked down, I saw a trail of ants in front of me, and I heard a voice telling me that I was as mighty as an ant -- which can carry ten times their strength -- and I felt like he was with me and guiding me, so I continued. I know that my father would be very proud of me."