How we got separated isn’t important, but what my brother, Wilson Tai, taught me was to live life fearlessly, with meaning and empathy.
Growing up, he was a bit of a bully. I remember crying many times after watching TV because he would make me wait in the living room in the dark while he ran to the room first. What I didn’t realize then was that he was preparing me to have the strength for the unknown, and the challenges that lay ahead in our life.
One of the first challenges we both encountered was losing our father at a young age. Growing up in a community where we felt different and looked down upon, we did our best to fit in. The problem is, we were never meant to fit in. In fact, my brother led the way for the both of us to push beyond the ordinary and believe that if we put our minds to it, we could achieve anything in life.
As far back as I can remember, everything we put our mind to, we achieved. At one point, Wilson explored the world of DJing. He loved House music, 2Pac, and even Drake, but most importantly, he liked being around good people. If you were a trusted friend of Wilson, he would give you his 110% and be the first to tell you if you were slippin’ or potential solution to the challenge you were facing.
Before becoming a DJ, Wilson pushed us to start a car club. He had just got back from LA from a car show called ‘Import Show-off’ and said, “Man, we gotta start a car club out here. It’d be hella tight.” And of course, that’s what we did. From the mid-90’s to the early 2000’s, we traveled the Bay Area, California - and even the country - show-casing our cars, meeting people, wasting money on our cars, and taking hundreds of ridiculous photos. We did everything we wanted, and learned a lot along the way.
The biggest lesson was how community plays a vital role to success. And that same principle is why my brother was so drawn to the world of cycling.
In November 2009, he sent a group of us an email titled, “Volvo S70 T5 for sale”. The email read, “The Volvo sold last night. It was sad to see it go as it served well, but it also feels great to lose 3000+ lbs.” Everyone thought he was crazy. How can you sell a car and replace it with a bike?! It's raining. We get tired. But in Wilson fashion, he proved all the naysayers wrong. He figured out a way, and in the process, he inspired thousands of people. I remember he called me and said, “Hey Shaun, let’s get you a bike. I want to bring you to a movement we started called "East Bay Bike Party". I thought, “What is a bike party?” And after getting a used bike and taking BART into Downtown Oakland, I discovered the insanity and beauty of Bike Party. Hundreds upon hundreds of smiling human beings pedaling their own enjoyment. This was the joy that my brother introduced to so many people, and that impact is still felt today. Most importantly, it was a healthy joy - burning calories while playing loud music, lights flashing, food and flowers everywhere, and memories that we’ll never forget.
Wilson’s impact went beyond the bike party.
When I decided to start a non-profit, Wilson wanted to see if I was for real. For the first several years, he kept a watch on me but let me do my thing. He wanted to know that it was something that I truly cared about and was committed to. Once he knew that I was in it for the long run, he dedicated so much of his time and heart to helping my dream become reality. I didn’t realize how much my brother cared until recently when I was looking through the past five years of photos and videos. Every major event, every professional achievement - my brother was the first to be the harshest critic, but the person I felt the most love from.
One of the last bike rides I remember was a seemingly ordinary ride from BART back to my house. The challenge: a steep hill stretching half-a-mile long. Normally, getting up that hill is a struggle. That day, with my brother by my side, I was flying like a bird. At the final pitch, Wilson advanced ahead of me so I could draft behind him, pushing me forward and providing the energy to lead the way up the hill. When I got to top speed, he moved to the right and let me pass him. To date, that’s the fastest time I’ve achieved.
And that’s what Wilson was about. He didn’t need the limelight. He wanted to pave the path for others. That’s my brother Wilson.
If there’s something I know about my brother, he would want each of you to get a lesson from this experience. Something that comes to my mind immediately is the phrase, “Outside is free”. My brother Wilson loved the sun, he loved being outdoors, and most importantly, he loved fatherhood. He expressed to me how his life changed, how his perspective changed, and how his daughter, son, and partner Stephanie brought him joy every moment.
My final memories of Wilson are watching him lay in the grass enjoying the blue skies, getting an amazing tan, while his daughter watched so proud.
When the time is right, I look forward to reuniting with Wilson in the light. Wilson, my big brother. I miss you and I love you.