History, Harleys, Black faces and spaces

Moving through the Los Gypsies Nation clubhouse is like a short lesson in Black history.

Its walls are adorned with photos of club members, scenes from motorcycle rides all over North America, not to mention memorabilia and vinyl records. Herron Preston, a handsome 64-year-old man with long dreads, acts as a guide.

“This is William B. Johnson, and he owned the first African American Harley Davidson dealership, and he did it in the 1920s,” said Preston, Los Gypsies’ founder. “He wanted to race (bikes), and they said, ‘No, you have to do a shift.’ Harley Davidson (eventually) gave him a dealership.”

He keeps going. There are photos of Clifford Vaughs and Ben Hardy. They built custom choppers, including the famous motorcycles for the movie “Easy Rider.”

There are also some important pieces from the East Bay Dragons, the Oakland, Calif.-based Black motorcycle group that Los Gypsies embodies and honours. There is a photo of Tobie Gene Levingston, the Dragons’ founder, and a letter from the Dragons giving Los Gypsies their blessing.

History, Harleys, Black faces and spaces. Founded about a decade ago, Los Gypsies Nation is the largest motorcycle social group with an exclusively Black membership in Canada.

They are a 14-member unit that rides only customized Harleys, bikes that have taken each member years to build. There is also an associated women’s group, the Gypsie Queens.

Preston walks across the driveway, opens the garage door and lifts the covers off his…

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