F. Gary Gray for Harley Davidson

Back in March Harley-Davidson invited me to participate in an once-in-a-lifetime trip: a 500-mile motorcycle ride from Atlanta to Daytona Beach for Bike Week.

Although I’m a complete novice, I’d learned how to ride a motorcycle last summer and was eager to hop back on a bike. Riding into Bike Week with a group of journalists, and noted film director F. Gary Gray, seemed like an amazing way to brush up on my skills. So I signed up.

The ride to Daytona Beach was a part of an ongoing celebration of Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary. To commemorate this achievement, the company has enlisted diehard riders to wear the Harley-Davidson “Freedom Jackson” all over the world.

In March, F. Gary Gray donned the Freedom Jacket and caravanned to Daytona Bike Week with three of his friends—actor Malcolm Jamal Warner, Pastor Joe Basile, and photographer Cory Whitted—to highlight the “Iron Elite,” Harley-Davidson’s nod to black bikers.

African-Americans have a long history of riding Harleys. From William B. Johnson opening a HD dealership in the 1920s, to Bessie Stringfield crisscrossing the country solo in the 1930s, black folks have long enjoyed the freedom that comes from riding motorcycles.

These days, black riders express their style and individuality through their bikes in neighborhoods, biking events, and through clubs, but it all boils down to how it feels to ride on a chopper. It’s a feeling that I surely didn’t understand until I gave it a try.

According to Gray, “Riding a Harley is the closest thing to flying that I’ve experience.”

And after rolling into Daytona Bike Week on the back of a hog….I’d have to agree.

Check out F. Gary Gray’s short documentary for Harley-Davidson. 

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i sold my bike because it cost too much money.
    riding is not free…..

  • PGS


    Who said freedom was free?

  • http:tontonmichel.tumblr.com Tonton Michel

    Nice gesture by Harley, just not a fan of their bikes.

  • http://gravatar.com/designdiva40 paintgurl40

    that’s pretty cool. i’m still not getting on a bike though.

  • The Comment

    Love to see them riding into the Cali sunset. The coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

  • SayWhat

    Good for them, they seem different/mature from the images I usually see of black bike week riders.

  • Proud Kiwi

    mate , great to see the silver fern on the front of the Freedom Jacket!!


  • ScriptTease

    I like F. Gary Gray, he’s on my list of favorite Directors.

  • Kellogg Liberbaum

    The lady’s name is Bessie Stringfield, with a T. Just thought I’d led you know that =)

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