The town of Atlantic beach is only four blocks wide and dotted v empty lots and aging motels that are reminders of a bygone era the leisure. The beachfront is vast open and undeveloped. Hurricane Hazel took down the fabled Hotel Gordon much more than sixty year ago. The town feels set apart, and also this has as much to do with style as it does v location. A map see of the town looks favor a mistake — while adjacent communities are linked to each various other by little roads, the highways in Atlantic Beach type a loop. They have been maintained separate, and also don’t access the beaches just on the other side that the sand.

Each Memorial work weekend, the disconnect between Atlantic beach and adjacent beach areas becomes even an ext obvious as soon as the town celebrates its yearly Black cycle Week. For much more than 3 decades, the black color biker rally has complied with the primarily white Harley Week, and bookended a two-week period of twin segregated motorcycle rallies along southern Carolina’s conservative coast. In current years black color Bike week has additionally been the topic of an unfavorable media attention, and thrown a glaring spotlight top top the black and white subcultures that American bikers.

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Members of the collection it turn off Motorcycle Club, the end of Beaufort S.C. At black color Bike Week, left. A couple walks roadside at Harley week, one week earlier. (Click to enlarge images)

Atlantic beach was built on segregation. Established in the 1930s, the so-called “Black Pearl” to be the grand Strand’s just resort town for African-Americans. There, lock were allowed to open up hotels, restaurants and also nightclubs — activities that were the end of reach in the neighboring segregated white communities. African-American entertainers that would have actually otherwise to be denied accommodation in the white hotels where they performed would flock come Atlantic Beach.

Desegregation, however, opened the rest of the region up to black tourists. End the years, the historically black beach has actually been dwarfed by the development of glow neon souvenir shops, towering high-rise resorts and strip bars. In the 1960s, Atlantic coast was invited to unify with smaller beaches to form North Myrtle Beach.

“They determined not to because they walk not desire to shed their identity,” said Jenean Neilsen Todd, director of the phibìc Myrtle historical Museum.

Today, the town’s identity is pegged as lot to motorcycles as it is to coast culture.



Atlantic Beach’s black Bike rally started in the 1980s, a time once motorcycle culture was peaking in the U.S., and when black bike weeks were cropping up approximately the country. Atlantic Beach’s bike week, though, has always been different, and also in recent years, has increased into nearby communities. “That details motorcycle rally has constantly attracted a much more diverse crowd,” claimed Randy McBee, who teaches background at Texas tech University in Lubbock, and also has written a book on American biker culture. “Black cycle Week, native the start, has been a wider celebration in the black community,” he said.

In 2014, violence intimidated the tradition. Eight world were shot throughout Black cycle week and three died, prompting state officials to speak out against the rally. “It is time for the bike fest to concerned an end,” Gov. Nikki Haley told Myrtle beach city leader after Memorial work 2014. “What we have is an event that has obtained out of hand and no much longer is essential in south Carolina.” Myrtle beach Mayor man Rhodes echoed Haley’s sentiments in an interview complying with the violence. “I"m fed up with it. I"m mad as hell around it,” that told a local news station. “Something needs to be done.”

Black cycle Week wasn’t canceled, but as Memorial work approached this year, tensions were to run high. Atlantic beach Police chief Timothy Taylor had remained in charge for just nine months, and at 29, he to be the youngest police department head in the state. In the days top up this year rally he was especially cautious about setup the tone because that the weekend. The area was expecting an flow of in between 200,000 and also 300,000 tourists for black Bike Week and the Memorial work holiday. Though Taylor had called in many of backup, he to be conscientious of the fact that most people who get involved in bike mainly aren’t searching for trouble. “A lot of of world who come here, they’ve got day-to-day jobs. They work hard. They’ve acquired nice bikes. Lock work hard for their stuff,” Taylor said.

“The main thing ns preaching is respect,” the said. “Respect, respect, respect.”




Officially, black color Bike Week, left, has actually taken place in south Carolina’s cool Strand because 1980, despite the area has long been popular with black bikers. Atlantic coast Police cook Timothy Taylor, right, is the top regulation enforcement officer in town. (Click come enlarge images)

On the Friday of Memorial day weekend, empty barstools and also tables reflect the regional mood. “It’s been dead every day,” said Oceanfront Bar and also Grill bartender Jonathan Talbot. The open-air restaurant sit on Myrtle Beach’s boardwalk, a element tourist place usually teeming with people. In spite of the vacation weekend, the restaurant was obtaining a small portion of the service it had actually the weekend prior. “I’ve most likely done about a 4 minutes 1 of what ns did yesterday,” Talbot said.

Talbot assumed the slowdown had actually a lot to do with critical year’s violence. Top top a holiday weekend prefer this, locals typically come in to inspect things out. No this weekend, he said. “I nothing have any kind of regular customers who have actually come in. None are here.”

While opponents insurance claim a link between the black color Bike Rally and also increased violence and also crime, public official from surrounding North Myrtle beach say that there is no correlation. “As far as the City of phibìc Myrtle coast goes, we perform not worry many an ext citations during the Memorial work Weekend duration than we perform during any type of other significant tourism weekend,” city spokesman Patrick Dowling emailed. The city walk not have actually “a great deal of major crime” during the cycle fest.

But the doesn’t stop world from thinking otherwise. “If you room not out and participating and also you are just viewing or reading around what is gift reported, you can obtain the impression that chaos reigns,” Dowling said.


Fear the violence throughout Black Bike main led citizens to key a prayer tent on the boardwalk, left. At an early stage in the evening on the Friday of Memorial work weekend, as black Bike Week gained underway, the Oceanfront Bar and Grill to be empty. (Click come enlarge images)

Fear about the upcoming event was so extensive that some area citizens pitched a huge white tent near the boardwalk and also sat in shifts through bowed heads for 60 hours of continuous prayer. “ simply basically praying because that the city,” said Ronny Kolty of Youth through a Mission. “There is so lot negativity walking on around the bike week, the something negative will happen,” he said.

The prayer time was set up in a beachside park adjacent to the boardwalk. Top top that details night, over there was tiny foot traffic due to the fact that many roads had actually been closed and others were reduced off with steel crowd fencing. To regulate traffic during the rally, city officials had actually transformed currently roads and highways right into a 23-mile loop with minimal exits. The traffic diversion would certainly be placed in place in between 10 p.m. And 2 a.m. — prime biker hrs — and also along the cruising lane, police officers were currently walking in groups as big as twelve. Top top what should have been one of the busiest nights the the year, hotels along the strip had marquees that check out “vacancy.”

“I think the the prayer. I think God’s act this,” stated Deb Causey, ~ breaking away from a prayer under the tent. “There’s a calm, there’s a peace around it.”


A hotel on s Blvd. During Black bicycle Week, top. Ken Perdue, in starred shirt, left, through biker friends and also family; The occasion attracts a couple of aficionados of four-wheeled vehicles, right, as well. (Click come enlarge images)

Biker Ken Perdue, that came native Wilmington, Delaware, explained the way the city officials to be attempting to regulate the occasion as problematic. After 6 years of attending, he was also considering not coming back. “Public late is going to be everything it’s going to be,” Perdue said, however “there’s a bunch the motorcycle clubs coming right here to represent their club and also have a good time.” the paused. “If ns came below for a total fight,” he said, pointing at his white t-shirt scattered v bold blue stars, “I wouldn’t be dressed favor this.”

“Big C,” that stands much more than 6 feet tall and rides with the heavy Hitterz crew out of Longview, Texas, likewise noticed the tension. “The stereotypical fact that we face when we come down below is, ‘Oh this is black Bike Week and we’re walking to have actually trouble out of black bikers,’” he said. Large C was dressed in lengthy dark denim shorts, tennis shoes and a t-shirt, yet when that wears his bike vest, he knows that some world might assume he is in a gang. That’s far from the case. “The truth for me is, if somebody falls right now, ns certified to offer you CPR. I’m a manager of the imaging department of a significant hospital in Texas,” the said.

Even prior to last year violence, black tourists in Atlantic coast complained of subtle discrimination during Black bike Week. In recent years, enterprise in the area have actually been accused of offering “second-class” services to black color bikers, such together sealing off restrooms, said Anson Asaka, associate basic counsel for the NAACP’s national office in Baltimore, who traveled come Myrtle coast to screen this year rally. One restaurant also shut under its dining room totally and served barbeque external the building. “It reminds us of distinction days as soon as African-Americans had actually to walk to the back entrance because that a different kind of services,” that said.


A lone biker cruises a fenced-in portion of the 23-mile loop collection up during Black cycle Week. (Click to enlarge images)

This year, it to be the crowd control measures that attracted complaints. According to Asaka, world felt trapped and also treated “as pets because they’re essentially caged in.” some wondered if the brand-new rules to be designed come make things inconvenient and challenging in order to discourage human being from comes back. “We recognize that civilization have a best to maintain public safety yet we just want come make certain that it is not offered as an excuse come implement discriminatory measures,” Asaka said.

There was a feeling that all bikers were being punished for the plot of only a few, claimed attendee Myron Martin. “If anything wake up this weekend, we’re immediately blamed because that it. It could not have anything to do with the bikers, this is our weekend,” he said.


The parking lot of the Beaver Bar in Murrells Inlet, S.C. Throughout Harley Week, which takes location a week before Black bike Week. (Click to enlarge images)

Just one weekend earlier, hundreds of Harley riders and fans flocked come Murrells Inlet, around 30 miles southern of Atlantic Beach. There, little-people wrestlers speak a mechanical bull in ~ the Beaver Bar while down the street a contempt edgier crowd hung the end at the sucking Bang blow bar. The strip in between the 2 bars to be a sea the gleaming, lustered fuel tanks and chrome pipes. Waitresses attract uniforms featuring fishnets, warm pants and also lacy bustiers or bikini tops slung $2 beers and poured liquor straight into the mouths of patrons. Some waitresses opted to forgo top altogether. Instead, lock skirted public decency regulation by painting their naked breasts.

This to be the 3rd year the Ronnie Brady make the trip to Harley Week from Fredericksburg, Virginia. “It’s coming right out that winter and also it’s hot down here. Earlier home, best now, you will do be quite chilly speak this thing,” he said.

He’s invested about $25,000 in his Harley, that said. “To hell v drinking and drugs. I’d fairly be addicted to the thing appropriate there,” that said, pointing come his bike. “I don’t recognize that it’s any kind of cheaper due to the fact that goddamn chrome is expensive.”

Vendor tents filled increase the parking lots about the bars, contributing to the all at once carnival setting by marketing leather accessories, patches and also stickers v sentiments as well risqué to point out here.


During Harley Week, the sucking Bang punch bar hosts a exhausted Pit, where participants operation their bikes as hard as feasible in a stationary position, burning tire rubber and generating special clouds the smoke. Two occasion participants pose for a photo, optimal left. The group cheers a contestant, height right. Action in the pit, below. (Click come enlarge images)

While smaller sized than black Bike week in regards to attendance, — the local Harley Davidson dealership estimates that 150,000 bikers proved up this year — Harley mainly is large business in this beach community. The area’s dealerships sell between 10 and 15 bikes a day throughout the rally, up from the day-to-day average of one or two, claimed Scott “Bubba” Reeves, general sales manager for Myrtle beach Harley Davidson.

“It’s as American as apple pie. That a fraternity,” Reeves claimed of the Harley community. “You very seldom ever see a man with a tattoo top top his eight that claims ‘Honda’ or ‘Kawasaki,’” the said, pulling up the sleeve of his t-shirt. “It’s simply a culture.”

Asked to explain an typical biker, Reeves said it to be tough. “Everyone has their own picture that they desire to portray, that they desire to project,” that said. “Some guys still like to portray the bad-ass biker,” he said. In reality, that said, most of his customers room at least 40 years old and are recreation riders.

Or, that said, “What we prefer to call weekend warriors.”


An Obama spot adorns the vest the a black biker, left. Patches for sale at Harley Week, right. (Click come enlarge images)

According come Steven Alford, a professor who researches biker culture at Nova Southeastern university in ft Lauderdale, Florida, “the entirety notion of a male motorcycle culture as an outlaw society is a complete fabrication.” Suzanne Ferriss, a liberal arts professor at Nova Southeastern who co-authored “Motorcycle” through Alford, agrees. She states that plenty of of the guys who attend classic bike rallies such as the people in Sturgis, south Dakota, and Daytona, Florida, have white-collar jobs. “They display up in ~ the rally, and they’ve gained their chaps on and their vest… and it’s virtually like castle playing. They’re playing the role and castle in costume,” she said. “It’s a performance.”

Ferriss thinks that lot of the fear surrounding the black color Bike Rally needs to do v race more than reality. She detailed that the bikers associated with Harley Week don’t raise the very same kinds of pertains to as those at Atlantic Beach. “To me, it yes, really does speak something around the image that this plays into in the existing climate, in i beg your pardon violence is associated with young black color men,” she said. “And currently its young black guys on motorcycles.”

This year, black Bike Week would certainly not it is in remembered for violence. Regardless of a surge of tourists during Memorial day weekend, phibìc Myrtle beach reported a palliation in the variety of arrests and also tickets authorize in comparison come the year before. When there had actually been 105 arrests and also 489 ticket handed out in 2014, this year, over there were only 47 arrests and 176 tickets. At Harley Week, there to be 48 arrests and also 190 tickets. Additional south, in Myrtle Beach, law enforcement report no homicides, and a decrease in arrests and also weapons offenses. And also not only did both bike mainly defy expectations, they also may have created brand-new ones.

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Well previous sunset one night in ~ the height of black color Bike Week, thousands of motorcyclists descended on the Myrtle coast Mall parking lot v their very own performance in mind. Rows of chrome and fiberglass bikes, some set off by electric neon lights, radiated the end in bands roughly a Hooter’s restaurant. It to be a carefully choreographed show, down to the police ushering the stable stream of riders who were gradually circling the lot in search of a spot. Everyone was there for the view.

Sitting turn off to the side, 2 women on black sport bikes were surveying the crowd. Flood lights brightened pockets the the parking lot. “Pretty Blaq,” the Atlanta rides through the all-female Star motorcycle crew, and is component of one ongoing change in the motorcycle human being — the consists of women. Blaq has actually been talk her own bike for around three years. “I rode the back for many years,” she says. “But I like the wind blow in mine face. It’s a stress release.”

Though Blaq provided that part women space scared to shot biking, her fellow crewmember “Danger” observed, “there are more women talk now. A lot of more.” Danger has ridden motorcycles for an ext than 25 years, and she find it empowering.

Danger looked ago at the long line of police policemans waving bikes through. “They space really strict,” she said. “They go all out when we come yet I bet you the security wasn’t that tight critical week.” This doesn’t stroked nerves her, however. She not here for a fight.

Danger stated she and also her crew look forward to black Bike Week every year long. Comes is a tradition, and also they have actually no plans to break it. “Once us leave here,” she said, “we’ll start talking about next year.”


Edited by Jessica Loudis, note Rykoff


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