Category Archives: Featured

The Irrelevant Black Biker: The Ghost Rider Pt. I

Despite the Marvel Comics character riding a V-Max in the unwarranted sequel to the horrible movie, I am not referring to any physical resemblance I have with the fictional character nor the actor Nicholas Cage who portrays the Ghost Rider’s alter ego in the film. While the flaming head visual is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen, I won’t be taking a match to my “good” hair either. I’m referring to the fact that I happen to be African American and a biker which makes me an invisible citizen in a sub culture within a society that prefers all of us to be invisible and silent. I exist but I’m hardly known and the people who do know I’m real regard me more as a myth or urban legend. I assure you though I and few thousand of us are legion but collectively, African American motorcyclists make up the living embodiment of the Ghost Rider.

Culturally, African Americans are raised socially conservative. We are not raised to live on the outskirts of extremity which is why we consider camping, bungee jumping and parachuting daredevil activities. The most common response I get from a person of color who hears of my passion for motorcycles is, “You can die on that thing.” Either because I’m annoyed or apathetic I try not to respond by reminding them that a diet saturated in fried foods, excessive sugar and cigarettes is probably considerably more dangerous then riding a motorcycle. Those things are culturally embedded practices while African American motorcyclists are not.

But that’s not really entirely true is it?

That’s a rhetorical question because unfortunately I’ve found that most bikers of color don’t know their history and what’s even more disgusting, they don’t care to know. If you’re one of those who are blissfully ignorant, then stop reading. I don’t even want you insulting me with your stupidity. If you’re actually interested in learning something, read on.

Motorcycles in some shape or form have been around since the late 1800’s. Bike clubs started forming a few decades after the initial advent of the bike and when enthusiasts eventually found each other. That initial assembly of “bikers” wasn’t so much a response to the rejection of the sport of motorcycling, but rather a shared joy of the sport and the emerging lifestyle. In other words, people who rode bikes weren’t coming together ‘cause cagers were hating on them. They were coming together because when you find people who have a passion in common with you, it’s normal to gravitate towards each other.  It wasn’t until veterans of WWII started coming home needing an adrenaline fix did the idea of a motorcycle club start to have a purpose besides a Sunday afternoon leisure ride. Again, please note I’m stressing having a purpose meaning there were clubs before WWII but after the war there was a definitive change as to why clubs existed and that’s very important to note. Vets needed to ride as opposed to wanted to. The bare-chested bravado of war manifested in the antics and social practices of motorcyclists (notice I haven’t called them bikers yet for a specific reason) with drinking contests, drag racing and a flippant but jovial attitude towards life. It wasn’t until the events at Hollister and Hollywood’s subsequent drummed up dramatization of those events in the film “The Wild Ones” did the image of the biker tattoo itself upon the American landscape. (I stress American because Europe wouldn’t see an impression of biker culture until the Mod and Greaser wars of the early 60’s which led to the birth of the Café Racer nation) When asked, “What are you rebelling against?” in the film The Wild Ones,  Marlon Brando’s character Johnny responded, “Whadda you got?” Newspaper sensationalism didn’t depict motorcycle enthusiasts as fun loving, care-to-the-wind guys but rather leather clad, hard drinking, hard living bikers (ta-da) who rebelled against everything good and wholesome in society.

Oh yeah, by the way they were all white.

No one bothered to research the fact that African Americans had been riding bikes as long as their white counterparts partly due to the same reasons and also to economic ones. Bikes were cheaper to own then cars and easier to get. African American clubs sprung up and those early clubs were just as wholesome as their white counterparts. Where clubs of color lagged behind (if you want to consider it lagging) was accepting the image of the motorcyclist as the rebellious hair raising, law-breaking hellion. Sonny Barger and his cohorts in the Hells’ Angels were able to take their anti establishment behavior and manifest that into an anarchist collective that today is the most recognizable club in the world. The Hell’s Angels and other outlaw clubs were and primarily remain a white’s only establishment so brothers couldn’t join their ranks so out of necessity we created our own.

African Americans and people of color in this country to me always seemed more in line with the origins of why outlaw clubs existed in the first place. 1%’s say they’ve been outlaws since birth having always gone against the grain, never accepted by society and after a while never wanting to fit in so they banded together.  Using that definition of outlaw who merits that description more then minorities in this country? We don’t fit in based simply on not being born white therefore everything we do is against the grain. Though we have a Black president now we are still not accepted on so many levels because of our respective racial differences and thus we’ve formed our own groups, churches, schools, neighborhoods and of course MC’s.

Minorities were second class citizens given third class opportunities and fourth class accommodations. We were the drudges of society though it was often our back breaking labor that society flourished off of. From nigger slaves, Hispanic wetbacks to Asian rail monkeys we put this country together and that country happily pimped us and relegated us to the backroom when the work was done. If anything, we should’ve been the natural rebels of this country. We should’ve been the ones to create that Confederate flag or the movement behind it and we should’ve been flying those colors originally. We should’ve seceded from the Union and said we wanted to form our own nation.

We didn’t but those seeds of rebellion and outcast never left and they took seed and sprouted in black only schools, communities, religions and of course in black motorcycle clubs.

Though bikers were already castrated from society, they self castrated themselves by segregating themselves by making clubs color and bike brand specific. Like with slave owners, a divided nation is a weak one and bikers distilled their own ranks by incorporating societal racism within their two wheeled communes. Therefore there is no one more outlaw and a true embodiment of the term outlaw then a black biker. We are outlaws within an outlaw sect. Imagine the notorious American outlaw Jesse James campaigning against an even more notorious outlaw to get that outlaw off the streets and locked up. Imagine the cracker calling the honky white in other words. It’s very much comparable to the Founding Fathers of this country having the gall to state in the Declaration of Independence that they were fighting for “justice and freedom for all” but nearly all of them had slaves. The Declaration of Independence therefore naturally becomes just a rag as far as African Americans and other minorities are concerned because apparently those inedible rights didn’t apply to us. So when white outlaw clubs preach about freedom, being outlaws and outcasts that title or brand only applied to them which essentially made their whole rally cry a crock of shit. When so called outlaws have criteria that go beyond being an outlaw and you have to be a certain color or race to join ranks, you’re not an outlaw anymore; you’re part of the fucking establishment. Now you’re making the same rules that the society made who originally kicked you out.

That’s essentially what happened when black Harley Davidson bike clubs sprang up. They were rejected by the accepted outlaws (continuing the irony in that the white outlaws had become the accepted outlaws when the very definition of an outlaw is remaining true to the mantle of outcast) and had to form their own clubs. Black motorcycle clubs have the indigenous right to be the demons that kick the other demons out of hell. They have the historical right to strike fear into the oppressor and therefore naturally the oppressor of the oppressor.

But instead Black Motorcycle clubs and bikers have become for the most part irrelevant and inconsequential. We’re not outlaws because we’ve embodied the true bad-ass imagery that comes with the underdog rising up to live by his own rules and code of conduct. No, instead we’re irrelevant because we don’t even live within the rules of what a true MC is, how they conduct themselves and what it means to be a biker. The outlaws who coined the term outlaw keep us out because we live outside the accepted understanding of the laws that govern real bikers and real MC’s.

We’ve become invisible. We’ve become ghosts. We’ve become ghost riders.

Ghost Riders: Pt III From Ghost Rider to John Blaze

In the summer of 1973 the Zodiac MC in Kansas City, Missouri was formed. The Zodiacs brought together the Vultures and the Crusaders MC and a few other clubs to have a “small get together” of local clubs. Today we know that small get together as The National Bikers Roundup. That small local Saturday get together is now a week long party attended by forty to sixty thousand bikers annually.

What are the chances of a modern day club having the leadership, influence and humility required to work with other MC’s to create a unified event that could turn into the next version of the National Bikers Roundup? Judging from the sucka MC’s that overpopulate the black biker community today and the ghost riders they have as members, I’m willing to confidently say the chances aren’t very good.

A trifecta of leadership, influence and humility would require a series of qualities and effort that as of this writing, I’m not confident that the current crop of black bikers and their respective MC’s can pull off. It would mean going from being a Ghost Rider who is an irrelevant, invisible and dishonorable rider to a John Blaze who is a biker who is relevant, alive and active within their respective community.

“Some club patches have no real symbolism. Some clubs have no bylaws; members just have a club to ride with. I was looking for a real purpose in riding, and a way to make a difference. Now as President I continue to move the club forward by giving back to my community-by attending more charity events and producing our own.” Buttnaked, President Pasadena 4 Horsemen MC

That quote by the Buttnaked, the International President of the Pasadena 4 Horsemen MC demonstrates a few things required in a MC or rider going from sucka MC and ghost rider status to legitimate MC and John Blaze. First and foremost it reflects leadership. What Buttnaked is suggesting is going against what’s become the grain of so many clubs today which is doing nothing more then throwing trophy parties, fish fries and bikini washes. On any given week I get at least fifty text messages and emails about another party but hardly ever get anything about a charitable run or event sponsored by an MC. Before someone says, “Hey we did the Toys for Tots collection” my response will be, “Who didn’t do the Toys for Tots collection?” I’m not putting it down but I’ll quote Jesus to make my point: “Even a tax collectors family loves him. You get no credit for loving those who love you. True love is when you love those who hate you.” So my point is, everyone does a Toys for Tots collection. It’s a no brainer and I’m not applauding anyone for a no-brainer. True leadership means taking the initiative to do something above and beyond and in addition to making sure your respective club is on board with that initiative, while making sure you enlist other clubs as well.

The African American and Hispanic communities suffer from a great many social and health ills too numerous to list here. There’s a menu an MC can choose from to combat and support with a sincere, sustained effort that would literally buck the norm. How many MC’s are members of the local NAACP? How many MC’s sponsor their PAL Little League baseball or football teams?  Do any MC’s work with their local churches in uniting on a local cause? It doesn’t take much but it starts with a seed of leadership and for some reason when it comes to planting that seed within the black MC set, that ground is anything but fertile.

“When other chapters of the club asked me if they accept black members I reminded them we never had a rule that said you couldn’t. The club was originally formed with vets of WWII and we didn’t care what color you were in the war and wouldn’t have cared what color you were in the club. All that mattered was that we were all Americans…and liked to drink” Wino Willie, Founder The Boozefighters MC.

Because I consider myself a motorcycle culture historian I’ve always recognized and understood The Boozefighters as being the most important MC ever established in our country (if you don’t know why, then maybe you should research it) but it wasn’t until I read that quote by their founder did I actively investigate if there was a local chapter here in New York (there isn’t) because I would have prospected immediately. Before integration of the armed forces and American society, Wino Willie looked beyond a man’s skin. Considering the angry racist image we have of outlaw biker from their 60’s and 70’s Nazi symbol patronage to their contemporary stubborn support of the Confederate Flag, Willie taking that position in the 50’s before the Civil Rights era is incredible. It shows that he not only rode his bike with the iron clasped balls to match but he lived his life with the same gusto. He was a leader.

Leadership means different things to different people but leadership to me in our biker community means a collective getting together to reign in these sucka mc’s that make us all look bad. No, I’m not advocating a 1% takeover but I am calling for clubs who have followed time honored traditions to ban together to pull these young and ignorant clubs together and knock some sense into them. As a Christian I can’t and will never advocate unjustified violence but as a biker who believes in Christ, I do believe sometimes settling things the Old Testament way is an option. Read into that as you wish.

“Not all black groups get along, especially amid the L.A. street gangs. The streets have become a battleground. Yet all factions of the L.A. black motorcycle set seem to co-exist peacefully.” Tobie Gene Levingston, Founder of The East Bay Dragons

Co-existing requires humility. Trust me, I know. I’m married. You have to learn how to let certain things go and for other things demand more of your partner especially when you know they can do better. Co-existing means trusting your partner and following them instead of leading but when the time comes for you to lead; you step up and take your rightful place up front.

It should be no different in the black biker community we ride in. Yes, there are clubs that have been here longer and yes there might be a 1% presence but neither one of those positions automatically makes either group the spokesperson for the community. Humility allows other clubs to come in without intimidation or threats. Humility allows for ideas to be shared and events to be created as joint efforts. Humility allows an atmosphere of true brotherhood. If anything we need to remember as members of this black MC community is that we are not our niggers keeper. White bikers don’t greet each other as “kike, wop, potato picker or PWT. They great each other as brothers. We shouldn’t greet each others as nigga’s but rather brothers.  We are our brothers keeper. We are a brotherhood, not a niggerhood.

In the comic book John Blaze makes a deal with the devil and mortgages his soul to become the demonic Ghost Rider.  In other words, he was alive as John Blaze and for all intents and purposes dies when he becomes the Ghost Rider. When a rider becomes a biker he doesn’t sell his soul to the devil but he should be buying into a lifestyle that is the quintessential expression of freedom. Being a rider is simply being alive but being a true biker is living. It means going from being spiritually dead as a Ghost Rider to reaching the climax of living as John Blaze. He is coming into a culture that is for the elite. Bikers tempt death every time we get on a motorcycle and when we join clubs we are collectively telling Death, “Catch up if you can.”

If we respect and treasure that freedom and the lifestyle and everything that comes with it, we therefore have to do everything in our power to protect it and see that it grows correctly. If you’re not a biker and just someone who enjoys riding their motorcycle I have to respect that but you also must respect the fact that for me, it is a lifestyle, it is my culture, it is who I am. I am a biker and not a rider and there is a distinct difference. Having and riding a bike is an extension of me as a biker but it is not what solely defines me as a biker. Lemme me stop there ‘cause I’m getting ahead of myself. The difference between a rider and a biker is next week’s blog topic.

I am not a Ghost Rider. I have no respect for Sucka MC’s.

This is my final blog entry under The Ghost Rider series but because of the positive and tonnage of responses I’ve received as a result of the first two parts of the blog, I’ll be continuing to write on behalf of the MC community that I cherish. I don’t expect to start a revolution because  I’m not always going to say things you’re going to like and you and I are not always going to get along but I will always remain humble because you took the time to read, share and hopefully comment on what you’ve read. Hell…I’m just happy most of you guys can read.

Ghost Riders Pt. II: The Sucker MC’s

A ghost rider is a rider who might define themselves as a biker but in actuality they’re invisible and irrelevant within their own motorcycle society. They have no codes, no honor and no self respect because they are undisciplined, weak and without purpose. They don’t know their history or the history of their club so they ensure themselves of no future and since they make no attempt to bring honor to their everyday, they are truly worthless.

Welcome to the world of the black biker and the sucker MC’s.

Ghost riders belong to unrecognized or unsanctioned bike clubs who operate without a code of conduct and respect, flying colors that mean nothing to anyone. Did you approach your local One Percent club when you formed your club? If not the dominant One Percent club, did you at least approach the oldest ranking MC in your territory to get their blessing? In other words, did you follow time honored MC protocol because if you didn’t, you’re an unsanctioned club and your lack of respect for protocols means sanctioned clubs who did it correctly have no business respecting you.

I’ve been riding a bike for nearly ten years and I’ve logged well over 100,000 miles. I’ve ridden on both coasts, across the Hoover Dam, through snow storms, the length of US1, through violent thunder storms and through the Arizona desert during the day when it was 105 degrees and 35 degrees at night. I’ve put in my time and miles on two wheels. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start riding. My love affair with motorcycles and motorcycle culture began years before I was even old enough to ride.

I grew up next door to neighbors who belonged to a white outlaw club and I got educated very early on in terms of codes of conduct, rules and protocol when it came to biker clubs. I saw a brotherhood and allegiance to each other that on the surface no outsider could penetrate. I saw unruly men who had no discipline in their “normal” lives but followed rule after rule when they donned their vest and represented their club. I saw men who cursed society but loved and respected their club and each other.

When I joined the black biker community I naturally expected to see that same discipline followed and adhered to but I was sorely disappointed.

A white One Percenter once said to me and I quote, “I don’t understand how you guys call each other brothers but you treat each other like niggers.” And to be clear, he said the n word with the “er” pronunciation. He was helping me with something that my former club had promised to do but never came through so this white One Percenter went out of his way to help “his black brother.” He went on to say, “You’re a biker. I don’t give a fuck what color you are. We’re gonna get you back on the road. We need more bikers, not more niggers.” Yes, he said the n word and pronounced the “er” with emphasis. As a biker that was the lowest point of my life on two wheels to have a white One Percenter show me the love that my own black MC wasn’t. It makes me ask, “Are you your niggas keeper or are you your brothers keeper?” I dropped my colors with the club that night and began to ride independent for the next two years and what I observed in those years reinforced my thought that  too many black MC’s are made up of irrelevant ghost riders essentially redefining the RUN-DMC mantra Sucka MC’s. .

We did not create the idea of motorcycle clubs. There are hundreds of them that came before and the “good” clubs who have grown in membership, sustained their identity and protected their brand have done so because they’ve gotten their counter culture outcasts to become club abiding citizens. Men whom society has claimed have no honor conduct themselves by the code of honor of their respective clubs and because of that their clubs have prospered. I respect the Big Red Machine. Not only have they grown their club to make it a global force but new members have a passion and respect for not only the club but for the people who came before them who made the club what it is. Those members know without the sacrifices of those bad ass mofo’s who came before them, their club wouldn’t exist. There is no respect in, respect out. There’s just respect in.

Ask any random black biker who Tobie Gene Levingston is and I’m willing to bet my life the response you’ll get is, “Who that nigga?”  Ask any random black biker who Bessie Stringfield is and there’s a very good chance you’ll get, “Who’s that bitch?” It wasn’t until last year did I find out who Ben Hardy is and I’m embarrassed to admit that. Does the name Suga Bear mean anything to anyone out there? Ask any random white biker however who Sonny Barger is and while I can’t guarantee what they’ll say, I’m pretty damn positive they’ll know who that man is.

When you have ghost riders who congregate in groups masquerading as a motorcycle club what you have are sucka MC’s. In case that was too hard to understand I’ll say it again. When individual bike riding suckas get together to ride you have a Sucka MC.

In the black community, sucka MC’s are as prolific as high cholesterol or diabetes and the symptoms are crystal clear for anyone who cares to see them.

A club with no sense of history, no vision and therefore no purpose is certified sucka. Members who don’t know why the club was founded in the first place and by who are certified suckas. If you don’t know who or why the initial members formed the club then realistically how can you truly connect to the core principles of that club? Americans still refer to the principles of the Founding Fathers cited in 1776 in running this government today in 2012. Motorcycle clubs haven’t been around that long that we can’t even remember the principles to which a respective club was formed.

Because Sucka MC’s don’t understand the importance of history, the infection of apathy spreads to current and new members. What do your club colors stand for? What does your patch symbolize? How do you embody the principles of your club? A club is a family of people with different last names, but one patch that if taken seriously, is as deep and meaningful as any surname you might share with your blood father, brother, sister or mother. If you’re blessed enough to know your grandparents, don’t you respect them and show them that respect? Do you do that to the elders in our own black biker community? Do you even know who they are? Are you seriously telling me right now that The Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings know their history and respect their elders but you’re telling me we in the MC community can’t?

What’s the point to your MC? Please don’t direct me to your Facebook profile where it says, “to promote a safe family atmosphere through a community based motorcycle experience” because we all know that’s bullshit. Getting a black MC to show up at a run in support of an African American health cause is hard enough (trust me. I was involved in putting together an event to raise money for MS and not hardly a person showed up and those who did had a problem donating anything more then $5 to the cause). There’s nothing wrong if you and your MC ain’t about nothin’ but at least have the nerve to admit it.

I challenge MC’s out there to instill discipline within their ranks. Go to a website that lists offices and their responsibilities and ask yourself if the people in your club with titles truly deserve them. Do your members know how they’re supposed to approach or not approach Property? Do your members know that  taking off their cut and placing it down in public is enough to get beat down or disciplined in most outlaw clubs? Do you have members who don’t own or ride a motorcycle and do you make excuses for them ’cause that’s your boy or “she’s a honey you used to smash?” What is church as it refers to an MC? If you don’t know the answer to these very basic questions then you’re a ghost rider and if you’re not in a sucka MC now, you should be ‘cause only a whack and bullshit “club” would accept you in their ranks.

Is the black MC set just about bikini washes, trophy parties and fish fries? Oh wait, there’s the annual bike blessing where people talk through the prayer. Understand I’m not knocking those things because part of what we do is party and bikers party hard but when the parties over, what are we left with? Minority communities in this country are plagued with violence, low literacy rates, single parent homes, a disproportionate number of men in prison and health issues too numerous to list here so how come more black MC’s don’t inject themselves in a positive way to address any of these issues on a continuous basis?

Please note I said continuous. Gun violence in the hood is an everyday problem so our presence shouldn’t be as insincere as a baby kissing politician. We need to have a steadfast voice in our own community but I suppose if it doesn’t have anything to do with bikini washes, trophies and fish fries and alcohol it’s too much to ask.

At a Vietnam Day Committee on October 16th 1965 the Oakland charter of the Hell’s Angels that included Sonny Barger made it a point of getting involved in the anti-war protest that they felt was dishonoring this country and the Americans fighting overseas. The club is officially apolitical but when something happens that so passionately ignites them, they mobilize. If the Hell’s Angels, an organization that almost everyone outside of our community would identify as a criminal organization can get together to act on behalf on what they feel is right in their community, can’t we find a cause passionate enough to do the same?

I challenge black MC’s to be relevant and matter. Be a force not just in your motorcycle community, but in your community that you rock on your rocker. Understand and respect the culture in which you’re operating. Learn about the people and clubs who came before you and are still here. Understand why they matter and give yourselves a reason to matter. When you’re forming a new club make sure you don’t only go to your local One Percent Club to get their blessing but go to the oldest ranking African American club in the set and acknowledge those people and get their blessing as well. I know a lot of new clubs forming who say they don’t need anyone’s permission to form. No one is telling you to bow down but what I am saying is show the respect to the community you’re entering by following time honored traditions. You only get respect when you give respect. Take a hard look at the members in your MC and ask yourself, are they who you want representing your club? Are they just here because you want numbers? Are they even bikers? What are you saying about yourself having that person as a member?

I’ve been accused of being “too hard” or “too serious” about this MC thing. When I pay my mortgage or get my kids ready for school my wife never says to me I take my responsibilities as a husband and father too seriously. I signed up to be a father and husband so I do what I’m supposed to do to meet those responsibilities. When someone signs up to be in an MC you’re saying that you’re going to live up to the codes and principles of that club. Since no one’s perfect, if you fail to live up to those codes you’ll have the brothers you love and trust within that MC to put your ass back in line. That’s what family does.

If the MC you’re joining is a Sucka MC, then you’re never going to love, learn and eventually appreciate a hardliner like me ‘cause I’m not a sucka. I live up to my responsibilities and if and when I fall off at any point, I trust and respect the people I’ve empowered in my life to get my ass back in line. That’s a family, that’s a brotherhood, that’s a true MC.

Do yourself a favor and go look up Tobie Gene Levingston and Bessie Stringfield before I publish Pt. III of my Ghost Rider series ‘cause if you meet me one day and you don’t know who those two people are, the only thing I’ll have to say to your Ghost Riding ass is, “I see dead people.”