When the great black men and women made history way back in the 1800’s, a black woman rider was among them. Bessie Stringfield became the first Black woman to ride a motorcycle in every one of the connected 48 states in the United States of America in 1930. Without google maps, tar roads, mobile phones, weather apps and all the luxury we have today, she bravely rode across the states, not once but eight times in her life. Almost a century later this month, we celebrate the black history month and are honored to celebrate a woman that has inspired thousands of women riding their own motorcycles today. Oftenly referred to as the “carefree black girl” or “Queen of the road” her story is responsible for many of the “carefree girls and queens on the road” today. We celebrate black history, a Heroine, her birthday and the love for open roads. What else would you do with a valentines month as a biker?
Following the example and inspiration from women like Bessie, there are more incredible women today who through their riding have been quite an inspiration to me and many other ladies. The most fascinating thing about the women riding motorcycles today is that they are changing the world too. There are those whose riding a motorcycle is a means of uniting, leadership, mentoring and even a source of livelihood making the world a better place one day at a time. I want to celebrate those that I have come to know and have been a great inspiration to me.
Porche Taylor – U.S.A
Porsche Taylor is the founder & Editor-In-Chief of Black Girls Ride Magazine. The first ever motorcycle magazine in celebration of women of color. She established the magazine after researching on black women riders and discovering that “as a community, history tends to be more oral than written”. Having been strongly inspired by Bessie Stringfield story, Taylor looked for women who continued her legacy but could not find. This meant that rider profiles on women of color were very hard to find. Determined to carry on her legacy, and tell the story of the powerful women on motorcycles she knew personally, she set out to create the Black Girls Ride Magazine.
Porsche has successfully created a community of women riders not just within USA but globally. It is evident from the Black girls ride instagram account with over 36,000 followers and featuring women riders from all over the world.
Extracted from the Black Girls Ride Magazine.
Utibe-Abasi Nkanga (Queen) – NIGERIA
Queen as commonly known among her friends and peers is a mother of 2 from South zone of Nigeria. She rides a Honda CBR 600 but has ridden a few other bikes of various sizes and models during her riding career. Started riding in 2009 with her first bike being a Kawasaki Ninja 250. During her search for a training school, she was met with a lot of “a woman cannot ride a motorcycle”, as well as “a woman should keep to her place which is at home”. This added to her motivation to ride and inspire other African girls who may have heard or would hear these statements in their lives.
Extract from her feature on http://www.globalwomenwhoride.com
Queen uses her riding to travel and serve her community at home. She is actively involved in Female Biker Initiative (FBi) which goes into active medical care partnerships within Nigeria and Ghana. Their initiatives have so far been part of creating awareness on breast and cervical cancer, promoting early screening, detection and management while sensitizing on healthy lifestyles to reduce caner in the communities in Nigeria and Ghana.
With a deep understanding of how the African culture has been used to discourage women from exploring their full potential in their choices of careers, hobbies and lifestyle, she is determined to actively remain involved in women empowerment project in West Africa. She is truly a Queen.
Grace Mwari – KENYA
A girl who does not speak much about her riding career and achievements but she bears a story that will keep you glued to the seat with your mouth opening wide as you listen to her story. At least that is what happened to me. I have no doubt that will be your selfie position by the you finish reading her brief story here. Brief, because, she deserves a whole blog post but for now, let’s give you the highlights.
Grace begun her riding career back in 2010 in India where she was studying and working. Her training story sounds like one from a movie. She started riding when a friend encouraged her to try out riding and consequently embarked on training her. Around the same time, she had housemates who were riders and they thought she was capable of doing it. She was living and working in India when they invited her on a trip to the Himalayas. She did not think twice about. She got hooked after the trip and has been riding since then.
Today she is the only female enduro racer, motorcycle riding tour guide and off-road trainer in Kenya. She is truly the unsung heroine. Her first ride was the Leh Ladakh region in the Himalayas. She has since ridden in South East Asia, Southern Africa, East Africa, Morocco and parts of Europe.
Extract from Nomad Africa Magazine
Grace is a big inspiration to women, as she has successfully turned her passion and love for riding into a career and source of income. With today’s high un-employment rate, she has positively demonstrated that biking can be a source of income as well as it remains a great hobby. She has been doing this through her travel company Off-road Adventures, East Africa.
Angela Ssemukutu – UGANDA
Angela is the Vice President of Uganda Bikers. A club with 99.99% male riders. That is how inspirational Angela is. You will not find her on the social media streets and therefore another not so known heroine. She has been riding for 7 years. Her first bike was a Suzuki Gixxer 600 cc. She currently rides a Suzuki GXR R1000cc.
Living in a country where women don’t ride motorcycles and almost all riders are men has never deterred her from riding. She says – “As the only female biker representing in Uganda, I get a lot of stares. From the bold ones to those admiring. For me it is the admirers that give me the pride that I can impact someone through the message of the road safety”. She is actively involved in HIV prevention and cancer awareness. A project that is at the heart of Uganda Bikers and they have one long charity ride every year.
She is an example of women empowerment and a society that appreciates women rather than stereotypes them. Thumbs up for Uganda Bikers. Her story is an exemplary lesson to each and every Ugandan girl and Africa at large that may think she cannot do it. She has conquered it all, biking, leadership, empowerment and inspiring.
Extracts from Throttle Queens Instagram post.
WE NEED MORE “CAREFREE BLACK GIRL”
During the days of Bessie Stringfield, dusty roads, zero technology and racism were her major challenges but she still found freedom on the open roads responding to the beckoning call of new adventures. While some of those challenges are a thing of the past, we would expect that with modern technology, education and a better general understanding, it would be easy for women to ride motorcycles today. However, this is not the case. Culture, stereotyping of women riders, discriminative laws, poor economy and road conditions, dangerous driving culture are some of today’s challenges experienced in different countries throughout the world.
In Africa, there are countries that don’t have a single woman riding motorcycle. Culture being the biggest contributor to this. While motorcycle riding has been viewed as a male dominated activity for the longest period, it has evolved to being a social and economic activity especially in African and Latin American countries. Motorcycles are running a huge part of the economy in these continents. Transportation and retail business are some of the areas where motorcycles have become a necessity. In many places, they have displaced the use of motor cars for public intra-city transportation. Its use for commercial purposes has impacted significantly on the economy and society. Some of the countries who are benefiting from this are Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania and Rwanda in Africa. In South America, Colombia and Bolivia with a good number of women riding motorcycles for commercial purposes in Colombia.
It is definitely a less explored area by women in Africa and I would love to encourage more women to take up riding not just for fun and travel but for social and economic purposes. With the high rate of unemployment, ever-changing job market, technologies and opportunities emerging daily, many of us today cannot fit into the traditional career paths. Today’s dream job is one that builds on your strengths, but also aligns with areas you want to learn and grow. It is somewhere you are excited to go to work everyday, even knowing there will be challenges some days more than others.
Happy Black History Month!