‘At the end of the day, we’re just bikers.’ Experiencing community and Black joy at the Midwest Motorcycle Bike Night
Every Thursday, Black motorcycle clubs gather at the Major League Sports Bar in Dayton. It's called the Midwest Motorcycle Bike Night.
The sound of Black joy can be heard every Thursday night in Dayton as Black bikers gather at the Major League Sports Bar. The night our WYSO team arrived there were over a hundred bikers from all over the region.
“We called it the Midwest Motorcycle Bike Night. We've done seen Springfield, London, Columbus, Chillicothe, Indianapolis, Richmond, Indiana,” says Herbie Hines. He's the founder of the Dayton Chapter of The Black Souls Motorcycle Club. “It's a family reunion every Thursday. Like, we might meet your cousin, your wife, your baby daddy, anything down here. Like, it's open. Like, it ain't nothing but good handshakes and conversation.”
The media often portrays Black communities as marginalized, underserved, disproportionately disadvantaged populations that live in food deserts. But rarely does the media explore events or subcultures like this. I spoke with Hines and the other bike night planners about their community.
“And like he said, we're not gangs. You don't see gangs doing toy runs, escorts [for] funerals, paying for funerals, giving back to school drives, everything like that.”Herbie Hines, Founder of the Dayton Chapter of The Black Souls Motorcycle Club
Jonathan Nalls is one of the owners of Major League Sports Bar along with his brother Howard Mason and Sir Arthur Allen.
“Thursday nights are amazing,” says Nalls. “Herbie and I have been talking about a bike night since I've owned a restaurant. We are all in this for our city. It's really hard to put into words what you visually see on a Thursday night. The diversity of the crowd. Just the love and respect that everybody shows each other. We don't have to put on our pretenses because we are at work. And that goes for Blacks, whites…we wish we had some more Mexicans. Whoever is here can be who they are.”
“It's amazing to be able to see a large group of, for the most part, colored folks get in one area,” says J-Boogie, another Midwest Bike Night organizer. “Nobody's getting shot at. Nobody is fighting. We are not The Sons of Anarchy. Okay. We are not that, that's fiction. We like to give back to the community. That's what all this is about. We do bike or treat at one of the clubhouses for the kids every year following. Be a safe place for them to go. Do they trick or treat?”
“And like he said, we're not gangs. You don't see gangs doing toy runs, escorts [for] funerals, paying for funerals, giving back to school drives, everything like that,” says Hines.
“Each club is a family,” says J-Boogie. “We go to each other's kids graduation. You look up and you got a bunch of motorcycles coming to your daughter's graduation and people don't see it or understand it.”
Most motorcycle clubs in America are racially segregated, and some outlaw clubs known as one-percenters, like the Hells Angels, never patch in a Black, brown or female member.
“There are outlaw clubs,” says J-Boogie. “They will not allow a mixed person, let alone Black patch in. They won't do it. But our family here at Major League, we enjoy ourselves. It don't matter what race, creed you come from. You get embraced when you get here.”
Midwest Motorcycle Bike Night is very diverse. We saw white bikers with patches on their rags for President Trump, and we met women bikers, too, on Harley-Davidsons like Lady Soul and Platinum P.
“First of all, my name was Platinum P,” she says. “And then I got into a relationship with this guy and he was like, ‘You're going to have to drop the 'P'. We're not going to say what 'P' stood for. Yeah, we have fun. You know, we also ride, you know, from state to state. We do like, female rides. So it ain't just about this, it's about also going on the open road riding your motorcycle. So we do that.”
“They always want to see the bad side of a bike club,” says Lady Soul. “Just come over here and come into our world and see what it’s about.”
“Don't call my club a gang because we're not a gang. We're a nonprofit organization,” says Platinum P.
The Midwest Motorcycle Bike Night night takes place at the Major League Sports Bar. It's a restaurant on the corner of North Main and Seventh Avenue. Howard Mason is one of the owners.
“Me and my younger brother came in to Rooster's on Main Street. Rooster's was playing this country Western music. It was one white guy at the bar. The whole restaurant was full of African-Americans. One white guy at the bar. So I asked the bartender, I said, 'You know, you mind changing the music?' She said, 'No, sir, I can't change the music. Would you like to place and order?'
'No, I don't want to place an order. Let me see your manager.' The manager comes over and I said, 'Man, you know, this is country Western music and it's all African-Americans?' He said, 'Well, no, sir, I'm not going to change the station. Would you like to order something, though?'
'No, I don't want to place an order.' Me, my younger brother, Sir Arthur Allen. I said, 'Sir Arth, let's go!' Without a protest, right? He said, 'Oh, brother, you overreacting, man. You know, it's just...chill out. I love coming here.' I said, "Bruh, I'm gone."
Mason continues, “The next day, we start looking for our own sports bar. Basically, if we hadn't bought it, this place would just be sitting and rotting. And this place would be abandoned. It'd be another weeds everywhere. It'd be another one of those restaurants in the hood that that nobody kind of wanted to operate. But like Jonathan Nalls said, because we bought it, now it's a place for everybody, not just African-Americans. but everybody to come enjoy themselves, good food, socialize. And so, you know, we kind of continued a tradition that roosters did with the social, you know, kind of low cost menu and oh, we just don't play any country Western music here.”
“But I have to give gratitude and appreciation when it's due,” says J-Boogie. “So none of this will be possible without Major League. Yeah, we had Herbie. We put our heads together. We've been trying to do this for, like, the last two years. Without Major League, this could not be possible.”
“Back in the early to mid 2000s, there was a motorcycle club called Bad to the Bone. And they had every Sunday we went to their club and it was called The Bone Yard and it was one of the best experiences I have ever been a part of,” says Jonathan Nalls. “And it was every Sunday, just like this is every Thursday. So I tell Herbie and J-Boogie, I'm trying to bring the Bone Yard back. That same love, that same atmosphere where everybody was together and we were just having a great time every Sunday. So that is always my vision of the Black love and respect through us being together.”
“We used to meet up down there every Sunday,” says Herbie Hines. “Like you wake up, brush your teeth and like, man, you might be the first biker, first car down there,” says Herbie Hines.
“We were really excited to get to the Bone Yard every Sunday,” says Jonathan Nalls. ‘Because we knew what it was going to be and the girls was going to be there. You know, it was just a beautiful thing. So that has always been my vision to get back to that. You know, now that I am 56, I understand the good old days. When I was young, I used say I'm living the good days, but now I understand those were some great days. And I just want to make sure that everybody knows that, hey, we are all in this for our city and to, you know, continue to grow and make this into not something that's just happening in here. But we want everybody. We want your listeners to come hang out and feel the love that we feel, you know, to where they’re saying, hey, man, I don't know if I'm gonna make it tomorrow because I'm having such a great time tonight.You know, I just want to continue to hang out and and feel the love.”
Herbie Hines offers some advice to other motorists, “Basically, when you see bikers, please watch out for them. I mean, we had a lot of women that look at the bikes and swerve into us or run through a light and almost kill us. Please watch out for us. You'll never know if that's your family member that you're about to run into. I’ve been hit like three times. And I mean, we’ve seen accidents occur in front of us where we have to jump off our bikes every day. Like, just please respect and watch out for bikers. And if you see any biker doing anything wrong, roll down your window and be like, man, you need to straighten up and like help us too. We correct each other on the road.
When we do good in the neighborhoods and in our city, we're clubs. When something bad happens because one individual that ain't in the club is around us, we're called gangs. Gang members don't be police officers, they don’t be lawyers, they don’t be construction workers, electricians in a motorcycle club. You will see some of those out here every day. And to clarify that, we're not gang members, we're Black bikers. But at the end of the day, we’re just bikers.”