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Storytelling for Giving: The Black Tigers
“Its a way to come together in a family atmosphere and bond over the common love of motorcycles.” – Jimmy Lewis, Road Captain for The Black Tigers
It’s always about the ride and the rewards of solitude, you and your machine. Jimmy Lewis found the thrill even before he became a teenager.
“I always had an interest in motorcycling anyway,” says Jimmy. “When I was about 12-years-old a friend’s older brother who had a couple of dirt bikes. He let me ride one and from that moment I was hooked.”
Twelve years later, Jimmy bought his own motorcycle, a 1998 Suzuki GXR 600. A few years later he discovered there were plenty of others who had the same love for the bikes and he found a club where he could play with his passion, The Black Tigers Motorcycle Club. The club is a family-oriented club that promotes safe riding and fosters a spirit of goodwill and fellowship amongst its members.
“Around 1996, Rodney “Yoda” Jones, who is retired now, his wife, and a few other friends started the group in Baltimore,” says Jimmy. “Rodney’s nephew, Marcus “Shorty 1K” Johnson, who joined in 1997, is now the president of our club. All total we have more than 60 members, including a chapter in North Carolina. We’re about riding and giving back.”
To become a member of the group you better be ready to respect the ride and each other. “We have three tenets,” says Jimmy. “Respect, communication, and participation. If you decide you want to be a member of The Black Tigers you have to live by these tenets, respecting the members of the club like you would your own family, always communicating, whether it’s good or bad. If you need to step away from the club, to take time off, that’s OK, just communicate that fact. Plus, you’ve got to be able to ride, after all, we’re a motorcycle club,” laughs Jimmy. “And just as importantly it’s about participation, not just with the club meetings and events, but supporting our charities and each other.”
Giving is big throughout the bike community and The Black Tigers Motorcycle Club is no different, those on two wheels seem to have twice the heart.
“We do a lot of events and our charity work has expanded as we’ve grown bigger and bigger over the years,” says Jimmy. “Outside of our own events the club holds, we did a fish fry for the homeless last spring, an event that was held in the Fallsway, under the I-83 overpass. We volunteered our services there. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas time we also volunteer for the Bea Gaddy organization, handing out meals and supplies. Throughout the year we get different requests like riding in a church parade. Our former president, Wayne Keith Grissom, who passed away – his church always holds a parade and we’ve been riding in that parade for years. We also do escorts for kids and this year I’m proud to say we’ll be riding in the Morgan State University Homecoming Parade.”
Jimmy is familiar with Morgan State, having graduated from that college and playing football there from 1994 to 1997. And his love of the game has remained, he played Semi-Pro football for the Arbutus Big Red and the Baltimore Blazers (Baltimore Storm). Now among this other responsibilities, Jimmy works as a coach for Big Red, the oldest semi-pro team in the country. His natural leadership ability on and off the field, also has him serving in an important role for the Black Tigers.
“I’m a road captain for the club,” says Jimmy. “When we go on group rides, the road captain is responsible for overseeing the safety of the group. We have to be sure everyone’s bike is ready to go for one of our rides. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy and tell someone they can’t go because their motorcycle is not in good working order, or someone has old license plates or forgot to renew their registration. It does happen because, in this part of the country, we don’t ride year-round, so sometimes people forget to renew their license or registration. It even happened to me, remembers Jimmy. “We were doing a ride up to New York and I forgot to renew my registration. I didn’t realize it until right before the road trip and had to hop online and print out a temporary one just in case.”
One of the signature events for The Black Tigers Motorcycle Club takes place in November. It began as a yearly anniversary party and has expanded to be the biggest event of the year.
“It started off as a small party we would throw each year on a Saturday in November, at the Kappa Alpha Si Fraternity House in Baltimore, to recognize our anniversary. Over the years it’s grown from that house to the FOP lodges, and the last seven or eight years it’s been held at the Hunt Valley Inn. It started off as a party where you brought a canned good as your admission to help the needy. As time went on, more and more people would come and it grew from a one-day to a three-day event. Now people bring canned goods and clothing, the girl scouts come and sell cookies, we promote breast cancer awareness, support programs to help those suffering from domestic violence, and we even have a weekend blood drive.”
The event takes place this year from November 22nd to the 24th at the Hunt Valley Inn and will include a special party for the group, with a Michael Jordan theme, to recognize the 23rd anniversary for the club. Throughout the weekend there will also be vendors and bands, an event called Tiger Talk and there’s usually a special guest on hand as well. The other big event is what Jimmy refers to as, “the pajama jammy jam”, a special Black Tigers pajama party on Saturday night.
The Black Tigers also participate in a big event called Black Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “We go there every year, says Jimmy. “We host an all-white party called “Like Milk” at the House of Blues and that party has been a sell-out for seven years running.”
Tigers are honest creatures, as well as courageous and true to their place on this earth. The Black Tigers are true to their mission, to focus on safe riding, family, and goodwill. As Jimmy reinforces, it always is and always will be about the passion for motorcycles and the relationships built through the love of the ride.
“I get on my bike as much as I can, but not as much as I would like,” says Jimmy. “I like to get out there on the highways, the backroads, the mountain trails. I like to ride the twisties and the curves and the canyons. I love getting into the curves of a nice backroad. I love to ride, to help me forget everything for a while and just ride the bike with no destination in mind. There’s just something about riding a motorcycle, it’s one of those things you have to do to really understand what it’s all about.”
What the Black Tigers Motorcycle Club is all about is making sure the bike is something others recognize as a vehicle for freedom, fun, family and for finding a way to give. If you are interested in joining the Black Tigers Motorcycle Club, visit their Facebook page to learn more, (https://www.facebook.com/BlackTigersMC/).
This story as well as all of the others on our website are written by Mark Brodinsky, an Emmy-Award winning television producer, speaker, popular blogger, and published author. You can find more information about Mark on his website at http://markbrodinsky.life/