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Culture Porsche Taylor: Riding For The Greater GoodIn the fight for equality, the founder of Black Girls Ride Magazine is leading her pack to the front lines.

“I didn’t expect everyone to follow me,” Porsche Taylor said to me as we made our way through the press area and up toward the speakers’ podium. Behind her, a line of people followed, proudly waving Black Lives Matter banners and wearing matching t-shirts with “Black Girls Ride — Ride to the March on Washington” emblazoned on the back. None of us had press passes for the 2020 Commitment March in Washington, DC, but it didn’t seem to matter; Taylor was about to deliver her speech to thousands of people, and we were her entourage. Where she went, we went.

Only a few days prior, Taylor, founder of Black Girls Ride Magazine (BGR), was back home in Long Beach, California. She had just hosted her annual All Girls on Ground event that honors fallen riders, and she was packing for her cross-country trip. A far cry from a joy ride, this 2,700-mile route would bring together 100 women from around the country to arrive via motorcycle at the Commitment March, the latter organized by Reverend Al Sharpton. The event marked the 57th anniversary of the original March on Washington and the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now, nearly six decades later, women and men from around the country gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to continue the fight for equality and basic human rights.

How can I have a magazine named Black Girls Ride and we don’t stand up for injustices in the Black community?

Taylor knew that she had to play her part in this event. She had created BGR in 2011 to celebrate women in motorcycling, especially women of color. Now, with the murder of George Floyd fresh in America’s consciousness, and with police brutality escalating around the country, Taylor asked herself, “How can I have a magazine named Black Girls Ride and we don’t stand up for injustices in the Black community?” In the end, she chose to leverage her platform and organize the Ride to the March.

The ride itself was going to be grueling: nearly 3,000 miles in four days, all highway, through the South, with temperatures around 100 degrees. But Taylor wasn’t phased; a long-distance rider to her core, she has completed more than 30 coast-to-coast rides in her 17 years of riding. Plus, this time, she would be riding “Goldie,” her 2020 Indian Challenger that she had just gotten back from a fresh, custom paint job.

“This is the perfect merging of my soul in a machine,” she said of her new ride as she gave it a once-over. “It’s black because I’m a Black woman and I’m proud to be Black. The pink to accent my femininity — when you see the bike you know it’s a woman’s bike, but it’s not so overpoweringly pink that it’s too much. And the gold is because I’m living my life like it’s golden,” she said of the bike’s namesake color. “Every time you see me on this bike, I’m not sad; it’s hard to be sad on a bike this beautiful.”

The bike is truly an embodiment of its rider, down to the “PT” inscription and the hibiscus flowers painted on the side panels. These are an homage to her Hawaiian roots and to her grandfather, a motorcyclist for many years until he could no longer ride. “The flowers remind me that I’m taking him with me everywhere that I go,” she explained. “Even though he can’t ride anymore, he’s still on ground.”

For Taylor, being “on ground” is not something to be taken lightly. A seasoned rider, she has learned from her mentors to be diligent about start times and staying on schedule. “How you start is how you finish,” she says, “If you start the day purposefully on time and on schedule, you’ll have a good riding day.” Taylor also had to beat the sunset each day, which was no small feat when heading eastbound with 12 to 17 hours of riding ahead of you. “No one really likes riding at night,” she explained, “especially in the South, because they just don’t have well-lit highway systems.” For this ride, that meant kickstands up at 6 a.m. sharp.

The sun had not yet bothered to rise as Taylor rolled out from an empty Long Beach parking lot, flanked by two other women: “Big Chucks,” an EMT out of Oakland on a 2019 Harley-Davidson Road Glide, and Cicelli “She Boogie” Williams, a disabled Army veteran from San Diego on her signature purple Can-Am. In Albuquerque, the three would be met by Fran “Tiny Dancer” George, a retired Navy vet riding a 2008 Honda VTX1800N. Together, these women would become affectionately known as the “Golden State Ground Pounders,” and they would battle heat, traffic, and an increasing number of Trump supporters as they headed east.

For four days, the women stopped almost exclusively at gas stations. There were no twisty back roads, no casual lunches, no frivolous stops or detours. Despite prompt departures and average speeds of (conservatively) 80 miles per hour, the highways were riddled with construction that delayed their arrival each night. The dry landscape was disrupted only by the occasional wind farm, and the four women rode beneath the turbines like Don Quixote on a quest.

As they pulled into Pilot after Pilot, having lost sense of what state they were in, thoughts of the March weighed on Taylor’s mind. Shortly before leaving Long Beach, Reverend Sharpton’s team had reached out and asked her to address the masses. “I was having anxiety about writing the speech,” she reflected. “When you really think about this being the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, you think about Dr. King at the same podium that I stood at, and the folks who made their mark in the movement. It is definitely a sobering thought.”

Between work calls taken on her helmet Bluetooth as she rode, Taylor spoke with her mother, her mentors, and some of her closest friends for advice. But it was the two scheduled stops in Tennessee that cemented her decision to accept the offer. First, the women stopped at Little Rock Central High School, the first school in the South to be desegregated after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. Here, they met a security guard who had been working there since the school was desegregated. “She told us the story of a young Black student who was spit on by so many people in the community as she walked to school that her dress was dripping with spit by the time she got inside,” Taylor said. “[The security guard] was present for a lot of what happened back then, and it just brings it all into perspective.” Now it was no longer a question of whether Taylor would give a speech, but how. “My ride was heavy with thoughts of, ‘What am I going to say?’” she recalled. “How am I going to represent not just women, but our riding community, and Black women in general?”

The second stop was at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It was not Taylor’s first time at the motel, but, as she puts it, “Every time you go, you feel the moment. For me, it symbolizes what could have been. Dr. King was killed way too early, he had so much more work to do … It’s a symbol of an opportunity lost, of great potential, the loss of a great man, the loss of a great visionary.” She paused, then added, “It’s also a testament to how far we’ve come.” As she stood in front of the Lorraine, she considered Dr. King’s tireless efforts and thought about how civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis fought until his last breath. “Our elders are tired,” she reflected. “Our elders are ready to pass the torch. And so it is our turn to step up.”

At last, on Day Four, the women pulled into their hotel, exhausted and relieved. They were greeted by the smiling faces and warm welcomes of 100 women and a handful of men, all of whom had ridden from their homes across the country. The parking lot was filled with chrome and leather — mostly baggers and cruisers, with a sprinkling of sportbikes. Members of Taylor’s MC, the Steel Horses, were present, having helped her coordinate the event from afar. Each of these riders had faced their own challenges in arriving, but they came ready to march behind their leader — and in turn, behind the cause that drove her.

The morning of the March was the last of the early call times. The sunrise promised a clear day as riders geared up and rode in formation to the Capitol. The group arrived at the March as celebrities and walked straight to the speakers’ area, circling Taylor as if she were a rock star. A simple, “I’m with Porsche,” served as a rite of passage beyond the press pit. “It was an electric feeling to have everyone with their signs gathering together,” Taylor said, “Everyone had a oneness, a spirit of togetherness. It was peaceful, there were no issues, you could see folks from all walks of life.”

Speakers from Breonna Taylor’s family to Dr. King’s granddaughter took the stage in turn, and soon it was Taylor who walked to the podium. With her BGR sisters behind her and thousands of people in front overflowing into the reflecting pool, she began:

“We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams, women of color traveling across the land of the free. We are your mothers, your grandmothers, your aunts, your sisters, and your daughters. As I rode through Texas, I thought about our sister Sandra Bland, and how a simple traffic stop ended in her death. When the call to march was issued, we knew it was time to mount up. We ride unapologetically for Black lives. And we raise our throttle hand in support of those on the front lines of our struggle. We ride to ensure the future of our future leaders. We’ve come a long way, but our journey is not over …”

After the March, Taylor began to realize that people were identifying her as an activist. “I never really thought of myself as an activist,” she said, “but I’m happy to have that designation; it means I cared enough to do something outside of myself and for the greater good.” But she is the first to admit that although the March was a success, the fight is not over: “I’m hoping that those who were in attendance were inspired, and they return home and figure out how to become active in their communities.” Reflecting on the event, and the movement behind it, Taylor contemplated the words: all men are created equal. “They seem to be said so freely,” she pointed out, “but there’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining freedom.”

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