Ezy Ryders

On a bright summer day when the New York City concrete sweats transparent shimmers of heat, a rumble like thunder approaches. They roll in wearing deep black leather cuts and throwing blinding reflections off the shiny metal of the motorcycles when they turn and catch the sun. Someone lights up the barbecue and cues the hip hop blaring from the stacked speakers in the street, and the bikers descend to the party in style.

Adventure and brotherhood: this is what the biker searches for. They’re thrill-seekers and occasional hell-raisers, obsessed with freedom: freedom from the ordinary, from tedium, from rules, from society. White clubs excluded black bikers, so fuck it—they started their own. Like every family, there are dramas and even violence. The older bikers lament the loss of tradition as new clubs explode on the scene all the time. But there’s also a code of honor, and a profound loyalty to one’s brothers and sisters in the club. Clubhouses collect coats for homeless shelters and fill their saddle bags with diapers and baby wipes to deliver to needy mothers. They know what their neighborhood needs more than anyone and mentor young people to keep them out of trouble.

Ezy Ryders is the unexpected story of the New York City black biker. It’s been ongoing since 2014, when I first met a Trinidadian club in Brooklyn and they took me to a barbecue where there were hundreds of other riders. The project ballooned from there—after a period in which I was “prospecting” the scene myself. I’ve conducted interviews with ten bikers from a variety of backgrounds, and am currently making a book with their oral testimony and four years of photographs.

There goes Ezy
Ezy Ryder
Riding down the highway of desire
He says the free wind takes him higher
Tryin' to find his heaven above
But he's dyin' to be loved
Dyin' to be loved
He's gonna be livin’ so magic
Today is forever so he claims
He's talkin' about dyin' it's so tragic baby
But don't you worry about it today
We've got freedom comin' our way
Freedom comin' our way…

— Jimi Hendrix