A West Oakland preacher and community advocate, sits on his bike, smiling, while wearing black sunglasses and a bright shock pink T-shirt that says "ROC," short for the Roll Out Crew.
De’Morea “Truckie” Evans outside of Mama Jean’s Create Hub, the community space he founded in Oakland, Calif. on Jun 21, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

De’Morea Evans is one of the most connected and influential people in Oakland. Known as “Truckie” to his friends, Evans is an artist who also happens to be a preacher, community organizer, and a barber—he runs a shop across the street from West Oakland’s BART station. And he was recently named one of the Bay Area’s ten Bike Champions of Year by the organizing committee for Bike to Wherever Days, a regional advocacy coalition funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. 

Evans was nominated for his work with the Roll Out Crew, a three-year-old Black-led organization that educates people about bicycling through fun city-wide rides, many of which feature bicyclists popping hair-raising wheelies and showing off other skills. 

“Riding my bike, including during the pandemic, has helped me a lot,” Evans told the Oaklandside in a recent interview. “It allows me to exercise and have social gatherings with others. My hopes and dreams for biking in the Bay Area are for more riders and safer streets.”

Evans said he lost more than 150 pounds riding his bike, improving his health and happiness. Biking has literally transformed Evans, but the opposite is also true; Evans is helping change Oakland and its approach to road safety. He believes Oakland roads need more protected bike lanes and better infrastructure to slow down speeding cars, which can save lives by reducing traffic violence. This can also help reduce pollution.

In February, he organized a solidarity ride of more than 800 people in Oakland to support the East Bay cyclists attacked by people in stolen cars called “We Ride as One.” 

In April, the Roll Out Crew was part of the coalition that pushed the Oakland City Council to increase funding for new infrastructure in the city’s most dangerous corridors, which are often in low-income Black and brown communities. 

In interviews, his friends and fellow bicycle advocates said they couldn’t think of anyone who deserves the recognition of bike champion more than Evans—but that bicycling is just one way Evans fosters community in West Oakland, lifting up longtime residents, building bridges with newcomers, and advocating for a safer and healthier city for everyone.

Starting the Roll Out Crew and becoming part of a growing street safety movement

Since the start of the pandemic, Truckie Evans has focused on biking and pedestrian education in West Oakland. Part of the education is through community rides, or “roll-outs.” Credit: Tamika Scott

During the first few months of the pandemic in 2020, Evans, like almost all of us, felt isolated staying indoors for weeks at a time. During the worst of it, he said, he spent hours sitting around, causing him to gain weight, reaching 430 pounds. He started to be intentional about leaving his house to ride around the neighborhood and get back in shape. Within months, he noticed that he was losing weight and was able to connect again with his neighbors. By July, he had lost more than 100 pounds. 

“Around that time, I said, ‘Man, let’s have a community bike ride, get everybody outside, social distance, get some exercise, and have some fun,’” he said. 

After a little bit of social media marketing to promote a West Oakland ride, Evans said about 200 people participated. 

This gave Evans and his friends another idea. They started a bike club to make the rides a regular part of the community. These would be events where kids and adults could come together to do something that was fun and safe and bikes seemed like an accessible option. Access was also a big part of that. 

“My thing was free. All events must be free,” he said. 

Evans started the Roll Out Crew, which organizes rides all over the Bay, often with other groups. Oftentimes, random locals—in Oakland, Walnut Creek, Hayward, El Sobrante—who see them riding together will join up spontaneously. 

“People join because the positive energy is contagious. That’s what we wanted. We grab people as we go. With all the stuff that you hear about bikes in the streets and how [unsafe it can be to ride], people usually don’t want to be a part of that,” Evans said. “And then you see someone join, block the streets to make sure pedestrians get through, and that’s what the Roll Out Crew is all about. 

The group’s name has a double meaning. “Its initials also stand for relationships, opportunities, and community building,” said Evans.

At one point in the first year of the organization, the Crew organized a breast cancer awareness ride in Oakland where 400 bicyclists showed up. They gave away a bike, which has become a standard gift at Rollout Crew events. Evans and his friends usually reach out to churches and nonprofit organizations to donate funds to buy prizes. Supporters of Oakland’s Black Joy Parade, for example, helped pay for some of the gift bikes, but friends of Evans told The Oaklandside he also buys prize bikes with his own money.

At the February event supporting the victims of the violent attacks against bicyclists in North Oakland, Evans gave a bike to a volunteer who cried tears of happiness. For many, whether they are kids or adults, it is the first time they have ever owned a new bike. 

Over the past couple of years, Evans has also built an alliance with the Traffic Violence Rapid Response team to advocate for changes to Oakland streets that will better protect bike riders and pedestrians. 

“You have to apply the right kind of pressure to the right people,” said Evans.  “It’s just a matter of knocking on the door and hopefully we see something different. But consistency is important and we have to do it in numbers too.”

Communicating a vision for safer streets in Oakland in 2023 requires thinking like an influencer. That means using social media prodigiously, like Evans does, including replying to nearly all the comments his posts garner. It also means knowing that each time you talk to someone in the community, they may be connected to hundreds of other people who could make a difference in convincing the city to set aside a few million more for an infrastructure project or raise the money needed to donate more bikes to kids who come to community gatherings. Evans likens the process to gaining votes on a political campaign. 

“There are thousands of people who’re having conversations that their vote doesn’t count. So they’re not voting. But if a politician loses by a fraction of the votes, the number of people who didn’t vote made a difference [in the outcome.] If this community ever takes action on things we need, they’ll never be able to stop us.” 

Bike advocacy is just one part of the work

Truckie Evans uses his artistic background to promote community events on social media. Two of his most successful ones include the human trafficking awareness workshop earlier this month and the Holiday Makeovers event that gives out free haircuts from barbers and stylists. Source: Roll Out Crew on Instagram.

People who know Evans say he’s naturally a social person who cares about others and wants them to maximize their potential. They all agree he’s easy to talk to, puts the needs of strangers before his own, and seems to try to improve conditions in his community by getting people to take care of each other through donations, acts of service, or mentoring. 

Endea Cleveland, an East Oakland resident who has helped Evans at various community events, says the West Oakland resident first tried to help out through his work at the Word Assembly Church, where he’s a preacher. 

About 15 years ago, the pastor at Word Assembly, , heard that many people didn’t have enough money for haircuts so he decided to create a program where they could receive them for free. Called the Holiday Makeover, Evans took over the program in TK and he usually rents out a space with the support of his church and brings in about 10 local stylists and five barbers to volunteer their time to cut hair and make people feel good about their appearance for one day a year. 

“It really is an amazing day,” Cleveland said. 

Over the years, Evans has also been known to buy food for seniors and other people in need, personally taking it to their homes.  

In the last few months, he’s transformed his barbershop, where he still takes in clients to cut hair, into a larger community arts and learning space for kids called Mama June’s Create Hub, named after his late mother. 

Since the barber shop was already a gathering space for the Roll Out Crew to fix bikes and for impromptu information sessions on things happening in the community, Evans decided to expand it into a sort-of mini Boys and Girls Club, Cleveland said. 

“The barber shop was already a safe space for the community, and kids trust him,” she said. “So it made sense that he transformed it into a place where the same kids can receive self-help workshops, talks to help them learn about how to avoid human trafficking, and where people can just sit and talk.”

Cleveland said Evans works around the clock to bring in as many people and organizations into his community’s orbit to provide services. 

“He does it tirelessly,” she said. “It’s not one event a month or every quarter like other places. I can tell you I get texts at three in the morning. ‘Hey sis, I thought about this. This opportunity came up, let’s see if we can pull it together.’”

Evans recently completed the Capacity for Equity and Success (C4ES) training program, run by the Alameda County Healthcare Services Agency, to help him and his business partners better run their growing list of community-building projects. 

Just this past week, Cleveland said Evans and his crew received word that some families in the neighborhood were going without food and needed grocery vouchers and needed help paying their PG&E bill because of recent job losses. Evans put out a call for donations.

Friends say Evans’ talent as an artist is at the core of his creativity. He has previously designed murals in West Oakland, has designed patterns on shoes for friends and kids, and his cut designs as a barber are well-known. He also painted the mural outside the Create Hub community center by hand.

Tamika Scott, a friend of Evans who is a middle school teacher and lives in Miami, said she first learned about him through the drawings he did on someone’s hair more than ten years ago. She said that over the years, Evans has provided designs for kids in the neighborhood to bling out their graduation caps, and their Air Force 1 or Vans shoes.

“It’s amazing that he is an advocate for biking,” said Scott. “In the Black community, a lot of people are not focused on that and instead on cars or other bad aspects of culture. But with casualties—recently a cyclist was hit here in Miami with a traumatic injury and nothing was done—it’s important for the kids to see someone like them to want to better the community.”

Injured in a violent collision, Truckie’s dedication to ending traffic violence grows

People in West Oakland commonly stop by Mama Jean’s Create Hub to work with Truckie Evans on community events. Photo: Amir Aziz

Around the time in April that Evans was about to receive the Bike Champion of the Year award, he stopped at a local gas station in Oakland. While he was walking back to his car, a truck forcefully hit the side of his torso, nearly knocking him off his feet. His knee was badly damaged. 

“I tried to deal with the physical pain for a couple of days but couldn’t take it,” Evans said about the crash. “I went to the hospital for x-rays and my heart started palpitating really hard. I was told my heart rhythm was extremely high for me to be sitting down,” he said. 

A few days later, he was diagnosed with an accelerated heart rate, often known as flutter. He believes it was caused by the trauma of being hit by the truck. Evans was put on blood thinners and was told the collision led to nerve pain in his leg that possibly exacerbated his nervous condition. In the last few weeks, he’s had a medical procedure to monitor and reduce that flutter. 

But he’s still dealing with the trauma of the collision. He no longer feels comfortable around fast-moving vehicle traffic, which in West Oakland is almost inescapable. 

He hasn’t ridden his bike as much since, though he said he’s gone to the gym to improve his cardiovascular health. In social media videos he shares with his fans, friends, and followers, he’s asked for prayers to help him recover. 

The collision has also brought to light all the work he and his friends and community partners have done to make streets safer in the last two years. He said intentional and malicious attacks happen all too often to bicyclists. Although that’s not what happened to him, he said the connection is an overall lack of safety and concern for those riding bikes.

“The person who hit me was not paying attention,” and Evans said he apologized. “But I will say that drivers overall just need to be more careful.” 

The East Bay bike community pays attention

Almost two months after suffering from a collision as a pedestrian, Truckie Evans rides his bike down 7th Street in West Oakland on June 21, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

Tim Courtney, who nominated Evans for the Bike Champion of the Year Award and is one of his neighbors, told The Oaklandside he has “never seen someone more resourceful, positive, and inclusive.” 

Courtney has been a part of the safe streets advocacy in Oakland through the Traffic Violence Rapid Response group. While campaigning to save the protected bike lane project on Telegraph Avenue in 2021, Courtney went looking for Black and brown community members interested in using the lanes for transportation and quickly heard about the ride-outs that the Roll Out Crew was organizing. Once he started joining the Crew on those rides in West Oakland, Courtney and Evans developed a friendship based on respect and listening to each other, he said, where Courtney would relay the latest news from the city about upcoming road improvements, and Evans would provide Courtney with a historical perspective on West Oakland’s traffic violence. 

Courtney said “Truckie being open to a white transplant who moved into the neighborhood to collaborate and learn each other’s backgrounds,” means a lot. “He’s incredibly positive. He’s out there taking care of people. He’s a unifier.” 

Courtney added that Evans’ work provides people with essential services and tools that the city and community have failed to deliver and that coming from him, have a great chance of succeeding. 

“Giving to kids who don’t have a lot is something that can’t be measured. You never know the kind of impact that an act of kindness can have on the community,” Courtney said. 

George Spies, another Traffic Violence Rapid Response member, first spoke to Evans after the East Bay Bike Party attacks. He said that Evans’ deep connection to his community was immediately apparent and his decision to create a solidarity ride was encouraging to road safety advocates. 

The potential long-term impact that someone like Evans can have on infrastructure development could be immense. Courtney noted that the West Oakland neighborhood where he and Evans live still suffers from decades of underinvestment. It’s visible in the form of potholes, sinkholes, and poor road drainage. He thinks people like Evans, who have lived in the community all their lives, can make a massive difference.

“When people get to know each other, they create bridges, and they can create the conditions that will attract investment to fix systemic needs that will move the needle,” said Courtney.

Evans’ friend Scott said that his community-building work is really just starting and if people want to be a part of it, they should reach out to him directly through Facebook or Instagram.  

“He has made such an amazing difference because it comes from a pure place. He just wants West Oakland to be a better place,” she said. 

Jose Fermoso covers road safety, transportation, and public health for The Oaklandside. His previous work covering tech and culture has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, and One Zero. Jose was born and raised in Oakland and is the host and creator of the El Progreso podcast, a new show featuring in-depth narrative stories and interviews about and from the perspective of the Latinx community.