Motorbike group brings riders from across the country for the centenary of the race massacre
The Buffalo Soldiers, a predominantly black biker group, took part in Saturday’s parade for the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre with more than 100 runners.
Addison Kliewer, Oklahoman
TULSA – After the shiny floats, classic cars and the energetic marching band of Booker T High School. The soldiers entered the historic district.
From Alabama to Arkansas and Missouri to Maryland, about 130 mostly African-American motorcycle enthusiasts from across the country made the pilgrimage to Tulsa to crown the Black Wall Street Heritage Centennial Parade on Saturday.
“That’s what we do.… We’re literally all over the United States,” said Ernest “Jazz” Gorham of Baltimore, Maryland. “You’re going to see people from all over the place. There’s a guy here from Hawaii.”
Part of the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, the parade was one of many planned to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history.
Between May 31 and June 1, 1921, crowds of white residents attacked, torched, and ultimately devastated the Greenwood District, which at the time was one of the wealthiest black communities in the United States, resulting in it has earned the name “Black Wall Street”. The fatal tragedy has been covered up for decades.
“It’s a long drive. But I didn’t hear about the history of Black Wall Street in high school. It wasn’t taught in the program. I learned it later in life. Even in college I didn’t hear about it. And for the 100th centenary, I wanted to be there for it, “said Brenda” Lady Dee “Deener, who traveled from Memphis, Tennessee, to take part in the parade.
“It’s just a part of the Buffalo soldiers, because it’s vacations and the storms going through (the country). But it’s a good representation of us.… We support, we roll and we tell the story. ‘history.”
“ A conspiracy of silence ”: The Tulsa race massacre had been absent from schools for generations
In 1993, retired cop Kenneth “Dream Maker” Thomas founded the predominantly African-American Buffalo Soldiers’ Motorcycle Club in Chicago.
“He started the biker club to commemorate the Buffalo soldiers of the 9th and 10th mounted cavalry, which is why we all have the 9th and 10th (patches),” Gorham said, pointing to the logos on the shoulders of his black leather jacket.
“We ride to commemorate them. So we show up at events like this – they asked us to come and show ourselves – and just show the positive side of the bike. For example, you can’t have a crime and being a soldier. So many of us are retired military, retired police officers. “
In addition to sharing the rich history of the US Army’s 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments of African American Soldiers, or “Buffalo Soldiers,” who served 1866-1944, Gorham said motorcycle enthusiasts strive to be positive forces in their communities.
“A lot of our young black people need to see us well, acting well… not on TV in handcuffs. They need to see the other side of who we really are.… So, we introduce ourselves , and we show that, “Hey, we can get out there, we can ride our motorcycles and we can have a good time. And that’s not foolishness, ”Gorham said.
From brightly colored bikes and booming sound systems to fancy textured boots and dapper cowboy hats, he said many Buffalo soldiers enjoy using their motorcycles and riding gear as vehicles to express themselves.
“A lot of people invest a lot of money in their motorcycles. They invest a lot of money in what they wear… and all that stuff. And we’re having a good time,” said Gorham, who chose to drive his car and walk in the parade rather than making the trip to Maryland on his motorbike.
“Each chapter has local organizations that they support wherever their hometown is … And that’s how we give back.”
Centenary of the Tulsa Race Massacre
A four-year-old member of the Buffalo Soldiers, Donna “Special D” Rice traveled from Houston to ride in the parade and help commemorate the centenary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“It’s just awesome.” she said. “What I like about it (the club) is that we help the community. We help others who are less fortunate than us; we give scholarships. We help everyone.”
Robert “Smoke” Howard, who made the trip from Columbia, SC, also said he was happy to participate in the 100th anniversary.
“I have hope for posterity and for the truth,” he said.
Even before the parade was over, Deener said his trip to Tulsa was a satisfying experience.
“I think there is a lot of history. And I love the city, I love what they have done. In a hundred years there seems to be a lot of healing,” she said. “The city has been really open. Everyone is nice and friendly, and we will be back.”
The Black Wall Street Legacy Festival continues through Sunday in the Greenwood neighborhood. For more information, visit https://www.blackwallstreetlegacyfest.com.