As Myrtle Beach, S.C. kicks off its annual Black Bike Week this Memorial Day weekend, the NAACP announced that they would continue to watch for discrimination at the massive motorcycle rally.
The NAACP and local officials are bracing themselves for the nation’s largest gathering of Black motorcyclists that draws an estimated crowd of 350,000 to 400,000 including a legion of followers, exhibitionists, vendors who make it the fourth largest motorcycle rally in the nation.
For the seventh consecutive year during the Black Bike Week, leaders from the NAACP will host “Operation Bike Week Justice” to monitor police activity, traffic patterns and local businesses at the festival.
“We hope that this is the last year, but if the discrimination continues, we’ll return next year,” Rev. Nelson Withers, vice president of stakeholder relations for the NAACP and a native South Carolinian told the AFRO in a recent interview. “The NAACP is committed to ending injustice, unequal treatment and discriminatory treatment against all people, but particularly African Americans.”
Rivers said that, in past years, more than 40 percent of the businesses in Myrtle Beach have closed during Black Bike Week—but a majority of those same businesses remain open during the town’s predominately White-attended Harley Week. The latter festival is typically held the week before the African-American event.
“There’s only one time out of the year at Myrtle Beach when the majority of the visitors are African American and I guess for some people, once is too much,” Rivers said.
According to a NAACP news release, Myrtle Beach in 2009 enacted ordinances designed to limit both Harley Week and Black Bike Week. The regulations prohibited parking lot gatherings, landscape gatherings, loud mufflers and special events, and implemented curfew laws.
This year the NAACP will again monitor both events to see if those rules are being fairly applied to both events. The organization will again set up an incident hotline, on which attendees can voice any discrimination complaints.
In the past, the NAACP and other independent African-Americans have successfully filed discrimination lawsuits against the city of Myrtle Beach and local businesses for unequal treatment during the event. The NAACP said it expects the Myrtle Beach Police Department to train officers working during Black Bike Week as to how to manage crowds and use cultural sensitivity.
Black Bike Week Attendees can report incidents by calling (888) 362-8683. For more information on the NAACP, visit: www.naacp.org.