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How Oakland’s first African-American motorcycle club helped inspire a new TV show

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by Aaron Pruner from https://www.sfgate.com

“So I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, and I just kind of thought, well, what do I know?” showrunner Nichelle Tramble Spellman (“The Good Wife,” “Justified”) explained during Apple TV+’s press junket for “Truth Be Told,” the newest drama to hit the fledgling streamer’s lineup.

What does Spellman know? A lot, to be honest. And, while “Truth Be Told” examines the impact of media on public opinion and the ripple effect true crime leaves in its wake, the showrunner delves deeper, using the character of Poppy Parnell (played by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer) as an in-road to pay homage to her real-life hometown, Oakland. In the show, she examines big topics, like the class differences that exist in cities separated by a few simple bridges, and tells stories based on the nonfictional locals, like the real-life storied motorcycle club, the East Bay Dragons.

Parnell is a fictional journalist who begins questioning her role in the incarceration of Warren Cave (Aaron Paul). As her posh lifestyle and public reputation get threatened, demons from Parnell’s past bubble up, leading Parnell to venture to her old Oakland stomping grounds. Spellman found this locale to be perfect for reminiscing on her childhood, in effect highlighting the profound influence a long-running regional African American motorcycle club, the East Bay Dragons MC, had on her forming identity.

Now in its 60th year of existence, the East Bay Dragons are one of America’s first-ever all-black motorcycle clubs. The group, which initially started out as a car club in the late 1950s, rides customized Harley Davidson motorcycles (also known as choppers) and is a well-loved fixture of West Oakland. In “Truth Be Told,” Spellman illustrates the juxtaposition of that kind of East Bay and North Bay life.

“I like the idea of driving across the [Golden Gate] Bridge,” she says. “So it’s just like, you know, money Marin and then you go over [the Bay Bridge] and it’s funkier, more bluesy Oakland. So we played with that, visually. When we’re at the family bar, it looks different than it does in Marin, where it’s very crisp. The music and the soundtrack are different … just to kind of show all the facets of this one character with Octavia.”

Part of Parnell’s character is rooted in her father’s life. Parnell’s father Leander “Shreve” Scoville, played by “This Is Us” star Ron Cephas Jones, is a former Black Panther who has put all his energy into family — both his biological one as well as his thriving biker community which, according to Spellman, is directly inspired by the East Bay Dragons.

“I remember them fondly as a little girl because they used to have this black family day picnic every year up in Nolan Park, and that was huge,” Spellman explained. “You look forward to it all year. So they were like all these tough biker guys and everything else, with all these kids around and it was a big Bay Area event and they were kind of the backdrop of my childhood.”

The East Bay Dragons formed in 1959, during a time when the image of a black man riding a motorcycle could provoke a strong reaction. They nevertheless built up a positive reputation in the neighborhood, supporting the Oakland area while giving voice to the oppressed during a time before the civil rights movement really took off. Their friendship with the Black Panthers may have caused confusion for law enforcement, oftentimes putting the bikers in contention with police, but that bond placed the crew in the spotlight which energized members of the East Bay community.

The MC previously inspired the fictional motorcycle club The Grim Bastards in Kurt Sutter’s wildly popular FX series, “Sons of Anarchy.” However, the representation of the biker group featured in the new Apple TV+ series feels further developed. Instead of getting a passing look at Sutter’s all-black biker gang, “Truth Be Told” gives audiences a nuanced understanding of the familial connection this motorcycle club has with Parnell. That conflicted bond she has with her father and his crew makes this story component resonate. They aren’t called The East Bay Dragons in the show, but the group inspired by the real-life MC deeply anchors the plot.

For Jones, playing the biker and bar owner not only provided him a fully developed character to sink his teeth into — something he refers to as “a dream role” — the subject matter helped him tap into his own New Jersey upbringing.

“I grew up with the same exact story, and there were the same black biker movements going on,” he revealed. “My dad had a little bodega restaurant in Paterson, New Jersey, and he would keep it open because there was a bar across the street where they all would congregate and celebrate. There would be black bikers from all over the country that would drive all the way to the East Coast. I remember staying up late making hamburgers and hot dogs for these cats into the wee hours of the morning to feed these guys after they would come from the club.”

“Soul on Bikes,” a book written by East Bay Dragons’ founding member Tobie Levingston, provided insight for both Spellman and Cephas Jones, who acknowledge their shared memories of the club as all positive. And for an MC, especially one featuring all black men during a notorious time of civil unrest in America, the representation given to this East Bay community is an uncommon one. Add in the cultural differences between regions separated by a few simple bridges, and Spellman found a personal formula that ticked off all the narrative boxes for her.

“I hadn’t seen it on screen and I just thought it was such an interesting flavor to add,” Spellman continued. “Meeting the Poppy character, and if we stayed with her an entire episode just in that environment in Marin, you would just have no idea.”

New episodes of Truth Be Told drop every Friday on Apple TV+.

Join the Bandit’s Cantina

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JOIN BANDIT’S CANTINA—It’s cheap. It’s packed full of interesting and motivational content, projects, rides, you name it. We’re not trying to get on TV, we did that. We’re not trying to make a movie. I’ll leave that to the experts.

We just love women, the freedom to build anything we want and the freedom to ride forever. What could be better.

I’m working on Cantina Episode number 88 right now. Tons of content is archived every week.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CANTINA

–Bandit

House introduces Motorcycle Advisory Council Reauthorization Act

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Mike Gallagher (R-WI) along with Reps. Chris Pappas (D-NH), Harley Rouda (D-CA), and Troy Balderson (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation, Motorcycle Advisory Council Reauthorization Act.  The bill reauthorizes the Motorcycle Advisory Council (MAC) for six years and ensures national motorcycle organizations regain seats on the council.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), along with our partners ABATE of Wisconsin, ABATE of Ohio, Harley-Davidson, and American Motorcyclist Association, have been hard at work over the past month ensuring the future MAC membership is representative of the riding community.  This legislation clarifies the membership of MAC which now will include five highway engineering experts from state or local governments, one state or local traffic safety engineer who is a motorcyclist, one roadway safety data expert on crash testing and analysis, and one representative from each of the following groups: a national association of state transportation officials, a national motorcyclist foundation, a national motorcyclist association, a national motorcycle manufacturing association, and a national safety organization.

“As the feds address the vast roadway infrastructure issues and emerging technologies surrounding vehicles and roads, there isn’t a more appropriate time to re-establish the Motorcycle Advisory Council,” said Kirk “Hardtail” Willard, President of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.  “It was originally and effectively designed to give motorcyclists a voice with regards to the unique challenges we face on two and three wheels when it comes to roadway design.”

The MRF is encouraged that this legislation will ensure that motorcyclists will continue to have an open dialogue with government officials about the unique characteristics and challenges that motorcyclists face when they are not adequately considered or accounted for as infrastructure programs are being discussed and implemented. We want to acknowledge and commend the relationships that our state motorcyclist rights organizations (SMROs), specifically ABATE of Wisconsin and ABATE of Ohio, established with their elected officials through attending events such as our annual lobby day, Bikers Inside the Beltway.  This event, along with active engagement with members of Congress in their home districts,  helps the MRF identify the champions of motorcycle issues and achieve our goals.

“We are pleased that our elected representatives from the state of Wisconsin continue to lead the charge in advocating on behalf of the motorcyclists in the country,” said Steve Panten, Legislative Director for ABATE of Wisconsin, Inc. “I am encouraged that years of building relationships, both in our State and by coming to Washington, D.C., every year, continues to elevate our issues on Capitol Hill. We urge other SMRO’s to take the opportunity to do the same.”

The MAC, initially authorized in the SAFETEA-LU in 2005, allotted four of the ten members to consist of representatives from the motorcycling community from various state and federal motorcycle associations. In the FAST Act of 2015, Congress re-established the Motorcyclist Advisory Council in the Highway Bill to advise the Federal Highway Administration on “issues of concern to motorcyclists.” However, the MRF was disappointed the re-established MAC only included one seat for a representative of a national motorcycle organization.

The Motorcycle Advisory Council provides the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) with expert first-hand knowledge of motorcycle issues. “Motorcycle registration is at an all-time high, but this increasing popularity has brought with it increasing risks, such as fatal accidents,” said Rep. Gallagher. “Motorcycles require specific – and in some cases different – requirements of roads, and we need an open dialogue between the motorcycle community, infrastructure experts, and the federal government to discuss these challenges.”  The MAC serves as the only official forum for the motorcycle community to have an open dialogue with the federal government to discuss concerns with infrastructure design, issues with intelligent transportation systems, and other areas of safety affecting motorcycles on the road.

“With the number of motorcycles currently on the road, it is critical that the road designers and transportation engineers understand the way that motorcycles and motorcyclists interact with the roadways as well as other vehicles using those same roads,” said Ed Schetter, Executive Director for ABATE of Ohio, Inc.  “Motorcyclists need to be present to help recognize those needs and ensure that motorcycles maintain their place on the road and can be safely operated into a future where technology is creating more and more challenges.”

Senate Hearing – Highly Automated Vehicles: Federal Perspectives on the Deployment of Safety Technology

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November 20, 2019 – Senate Hearing – Highly Automated Vehicles: Federal Perspectives on the Deployment of Safety Technology

Today the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing entitled Highly Automated Vehicles: Federal Perspectives on the Deployment of Safety Technology. This hearing comes on the heels of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) board meeting yesterday regarding the investigation of a March 2018 crash of an Uber Autonomous Vehicle (AV) that resulted in the death of a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.

The NTSB released some startling revelations in their investigation of the 2018 deadly crash. Among those that the software did not properly identify the victim as a pedestrian, it did not adequately assess safety risks and the operator of the vehicle was watching a TV show on her phone and was not watching the road. Additionally, the NTSB cited an “inadequate safety culture” at Uber.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) applauds the NTSB and the U.S. Senate for holding public hearings on AV technology and safety concerns. The MRF is committed to fighting for the safety of motorcyclists as this new technology is deployed on our nation’s roadways. While we are hopeful that this technology can reduce accidents on our nation’s roads, we agree with the statement of Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) when he said of AV technology “I think a healthy degree of skepticism is a good thing.”

During today’s Senate hearing, it was especially important that two U.S. Senators specifically addressed the concerns of motorcyclists during the hearing. In a question directed to Joel Szabat, Acting Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation Senator John Thune (R-SD) asked, “In developing a regulatory framework for AVs can you speak to how other roadways users such as motorcycles are considered?” The Assistant Secretary responded by saying “Motorcyclists are well incorporated in the development of policy in the department.”

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) echoed Senator Thune’s interest in motorcycles when he said, “I am avid motorcyclist. The number one reason for accidents is a car hitting a motorcyclist or a car pulling out in front of a motorcyclist.”

Other Senators include Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) raised concerns about the current deployment of AVs without minimum standards from the federal government, “We need some standards.” In response, Robert Sumwalt, Chairman of the NTSB agreed by saying that “Whatever is working now is not working as well as it should.” We at the MRF agree that minimum standards should be in place as this new technology becomes more and more prevalent on the roads we all share.

Chairman Sumwalt of the NTSB closed the hearing with this statement, “I think that AV technology holds great promise to improve safety, but it has to be done properly.” We at the MRF could not agree more.

MRF President Kirk “Hardtail” Willard stated, “As a motorcyclist it offends me when bureaucrats are discussing various inevitable, emerging vehicle and advanced roadway technologies they default to classifying us as vulnerable and in need some sort of protection. I would rather and especially in the specific case of Autonomous Vehicles we be thoroughly considered and fully recognizable and therefore not needing extra protection. As with anything affecting motorcyclists this is another example where the Motorcycle Riders Foundation will demand we remain a significant part of the strategy for roadway users.”

You can read the opening statements or watch the hearing by clicking the link below:
Highly Automated Vehicles: Federal Perspectives on the Deployment of Safety Technology

About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders. The MRF is chiefly concerned with issues at the national and international levels that impact the freedom and safety of American street motorcyclists. The MRF is committed to being a national advocate for the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle and works in conjunction with its partners to help educate elected officials and policymakers in Washington and beyond.

America’s First All-Female Motorcycle Club

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Meet the ‘Motor Maids’

Motor Maids of America worked to convey a different image and create a community of women riders.

Motor Maids Inc., was founded in 1941 by Linda Dugeau and Dot Robinson. It was the first all-women motorcycle club in North America. As described in a 1986 Los Angeles Times article, this club was founded to show that “women who ride motorcycles can be above reproach.”

Today, the Motor Maids count more than 1,300 members across the United States and Canada, as reported by their website.

READ THIS FEATURE ARTICLE IN THE CANTINA – CLICK HERE

Join the Cantina today

Aurora’s self-driving system needed more motorcycle experience. So a biker club helped out

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by Sasha Lekach from https://mashable.com

The San Francisco chapter of the Iron Order Motorcycle Club doesn’t usually concern itself much with self-driving cars, but autonomous vehicle company Aurora recently spent the day driving around with the club’s bikers.

Aurora, the company co-founded by former Tesla Autopilot head Sterling Anderson, is developing an autonomous driving system it calls Aurora Driver. That system, like all self-driving programs, needs practice on the road, whether that’s in autonomous mode logging real-world miles on public roads, in a computer simulation, or being manually driven. Its perception system is taking in everything around it: pedestrians, bicycles, other cars, trucks, delivery vans, e-scooters, errant shopping carts, construction crews, and, yes, motorcycles. That data is used to predict and react to future scenarios on the road.

Motorcycle sightings aren’t rare, but to make sure the machines were more familiar and comfortable around this specific vehicle Aurora needed to devote a machine-learning day to this one vehicle type.

So the perception team gathered a group of six motorcyclists to simply drive around the Aurora vehicles. (Aurora isn’t developing the actual cars, but the tech that will work in a car to make it drive autonomously). The cars were in manual mode for the motorcycle testing since it just needed to collect the data. The motorcycle cycle club brought some volunteers and even some Aurora employees and one employee’s dad came out to ride the motorcycles.

Being a tech company, Motorcycle Learning Day (that’s what I’ve dubbed the special motorcycle event) wasn’t a free-for-all with revving and vrooming around. The data team wanted to collect specific information from a variety of scenarios that autonomous cars are likely to encounter in the real world.

First up was testing different “positions,” meaning motorcycles in the same lane as the car, in front of, behind, or next to the car. Then it was “approaches:” Oncoming motorcycles are different than motorcycles passing from behind. Motorcycles also ride in front of cars.

Motorcycles are quick and nimble, so the autonomous vehicle experienced different scenarios where the motorcycle approached in different ways (from behind, oncoming, in front) at different speeds. The cars also practiced stopping with a motorcycle in front, since that’s a different experience than with a sedan or other cars.

For the motorcycle aficionados with strong allegiances to certain brands, the best part was testing out on different types of motorcycles: an Indian Motorcycle, four Harley-Davidsons, a KTM sports dirt bike, and a Yamaha cruiser bike all rode around the autonomous cars. The best autonomous vehicles will know their Harleys from their Yamahas.

Motorcycle Learning Day wasn’t a one-and-done deal — the self-driving cars are never done learning, but this was like a mega-study session. Now the system has a robust data set about motorcycles and anything that looks and acts like a motorcycle on the road.

Wonders of the Bikernet Weekly News

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Motorcycles are Freedom Personified Forever

Hey,

This is a strange and wonderful week. Shit is happening fast. Shit is changing fast, and shit will go to hell quick if we all don’t get involved.

I didn’t intend this to be doom and gloom, but it just spilled out as I wrote. It’s time we all joined a motorcycle rights group or three and got our boots wet.

Here’s my code of the West: We live in the best of times. Our government needs to focus on the people, our freedoms and happiness not on trying to control everything or make everything safe as in Zero. It’s all about control and it won’t work, so let’s be happy and as free as possible.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE WEEKLY NEWS – Join the Cantina today

5-Ball Leather Photo Shoot Next Week

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Our new leather Bandit’s Bedroll.

I need to organize the photo shoot for next week. We have several new products that need to be featured on the web site.

New Male full sleeve Jack shirt
Details: New collar, collar snaps

5/8 Jak shirt details (just showing the new softer leather)

Women’s Hoodie Racy Jacket
Details: The hoodie, the pockets and external pockets

Woman’s Pit Crew Vest
Details: Basic details

Make brown trimmed Pit Crew Vest

Two Bandit’s bed rolls
Details: pockets, tool flaps.

One leather Bandit’s Dayroll

Speedway leather shirt sleeveless

I’m going to be busy with Markus Cuff, my grandson, Frankie, the lovely EM famous tattoo artist, Imogen, from the Great Frog Jewelry, and Maxine my granddaughter.

— Keith ‘Bandit’ Ball

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BEST RIDING GEAR – Shop Now

Weekly News and ROT Rally – join the Cantina

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What’s hip and what’s real?

We see it constantly around us. It’s one of the things I liked about being a biker. It was just me and my motorcycle. I wore what I wore for me and nobody else. Most of us looked like hell most of the time. Who cared?

Life is changing fast and in many respects I don’t like the business formula thrust on us by many companies. I try to keep Bandit’s Cantina and Bikernet simple and to the point, no games.

As I often say behind a bottle of whiskey. “Time will tell and shit will smell,” as told to me by a Richmond Hells Angel when I was a prospect.

READ THE WEEKLY NEWS BY CLICKING HERE

Texas ROT Rally hits a homerun

This is a ’70s style event where alcohol meets full-frontal nudity. Over 200,000 made the annual pilgrimage to the Austin area to party like it was 1999 and with a good number of them entering the rally.

The ROT is a throwback rally where the Harley faithful connect at the Travis County Expo Center for music, stunt shows, vendors and custom bikes.

READ THE ROT RALLY REPORT BY CLICKING HERE

Cantina Episode 85: It’s not over

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Bandit threw his long leg over his classic slim Le Pera seat and buttoned up his brown leather vest. He liked natural brown leather gauntlet gloves, vests and boots. He shifted his narrow glasses as the officer approached him in the Chowder Barge parking lot.

“Thank you,” she said, and for the first time her tone softened. She pushed a big boob against his shoulder and ran her hand up his inner thigh. “I’ll let you know how this investigation unfolds, and anytime you want to see me unfold, let me know.”

READ THE NEW ADVENTURE EPISODE by joining the Cantina with an annual subscription.