Black Bike Week, also called Atlantic Beach Bikefest and Black Bikers Week, is an annual motorcycle rally at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, held on Memorial Day weekend. It is also sometimes called Black-insert-name-here-Week, because it has evolved to attract many non-motorcycling visitors who come for music, socializing and enjoying the beach. Events include motorcycle racing, concerts, parties, and street festivals. Called a “a one-of-a-kind event” and “an exhibitionist’s paradise” by The New York Times in reference to the bikini-clad “superstars” and “Adonises” riding Ninjas and Harleys, Black Bike Week is “all about riding, styling and profiling,” in the words of Mayor Irene Armstrong of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.
It is the largest African American motorcycle rally in the US. Attendance has been reported as 350,000, 375,000, and as high as 400,000. It is considered the third or fourth largest motorcycle rally in the United States.
Began in the early 1980s in Atlantic Beach, South Carolina, which during the segregation era was the only place in South Carolina where blacks could go to the beach. By the 1990s the event had grown to include the entire greater Myrtle Beach area. The Black Bike Week rally started by the Flaming Knight Riders during 1977. In 1982 the Flaming Knight Riders received a charter as the Carolina Knight Riders motorcycle club.
It used to be an exclusive Atlantic Beach event. In the past few years, festival goers have spilled into Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and other areas of The Grand Strand. Some officials and residents attribute the traffic gridlock to the bikers and complain that the festival is marked by lewd behavior such as bikers having sex in public and urinating in the streets. During Atlantic Beach’s earlier festivals, the complaints were limited to bikers drag racing in the streets and loud music. Back then it was a time for motorcycle club members to meet, mix and mingle. They ate chicken bog, danced and vied for trophies in contests for the best looking motorcycle. It was a small intimate gathering, but it will never be the way it was. That’s ok with the Carolina Knight Riders, who hoped word of mouth would help the festival grow when they organized the motorcycle festival.
The year was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was president when this group of weekend road warriors decided the wanted to do more than just ride their bikes throughout the county on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. They had formed in 1977 as the Flaming Knight Riders and in 1982 received a charter as the Carolina Knight Riders motorcycle club. “Our purpose is being a motorcycle club,” said Kenneth Gore, past president of the club. No foolishness involved. We are a club and are here for whoever needs s. The club is open to anyone who can pay the $10 monthly dues, and ownership of a motorcycle is not required. “Anyone can join us. We have a lot of women who have been with us from the very start.” said McDonald “Mac Daddy” Vereen, road captain of the club, as he sat on his Harley-Davidson. “We don’t care what you ride as long as you ride with respect.” Today, there are 30 active members in the group. The youngest member is 21 and the oldest is “up there” is all the members would say.
When the group wanted to start a motorcycle rally and race, they had no place to go except the town of Atlantic Beach. The event was held on the streets of the town and was sponsored by the club. Back then only one police officer was needed to patrol the event, said Harry Wilson, a retired Horry County police officer who was assigned to the festival. Over the years, the club and the town parted ways when their ideas didn’t mesh. The club’s idea for the festival centered on motorcycles, but the town wanted to become more involved and turn it into a social event. Now with a new administration in place, the town and the Carolina Knight Riders have joined forces again. “We are going to let bygones be bygones,” said Kenneth Gore. “This event is so big now that we’ve all been working really hard on this.” But the club members say they are not surprised the event has gone from a few hundred people to 300,000 over the years.
The members said that over the past twenty plus years they have been traveling the East Coast to other biker events, such as the one in Daytona Beach, Fla. At the events, the members pass out fliers and extend invitations to biker clubs to come to Atlantic Beach. “We’ve been looking for our friends to come here for the last twenty plus years, said Glenn Gore, the current president of the Knight Riders. “It all started from nothing and now look at it.” They said they were surprised by what they call “tag-alongs.” They identify tag-alongs as college students who come to town to party and hang out during the festival. “Just because you get on a bike for the weekend doesn’t make you a biker,” said club member George Livingston. “The media lumps everyone in town that weekend into the biker category and everyone is not a biker. Those kids come to party and this is just not us.” The club members are protective. They say the controversy surrounding the event that spread to Myrtle Beach has nothing to do with them and they don’t have much to say about it. “They wanted us to change our festival,” Livingston said. “But can you change Thanksgiving or Christmas? It can’t be done. This weekend is about bikers, whether they are Black or White, coming to our beach rally,” said Glen Gore. We welcome all as long as they keep it clean and respect us.
[These are excerpt from the article we create at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Bike_Week, and The Sun News]