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Stringfield Sisterhood

Hall of Fame Museum visitors infront of sign

Bessie Belles Riding Club pays homage to past while enjoying the present

August 9, 2023 (Story from August edition of American Motorcyclist)

By Keaton Maisano

It has been 30 years since AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Bessie Stringfield passed away, but her impact today is alive and well.

Honoring Stringfield and her legacy of breaking down barriers for both female and Black motorcyclists, the Bessie Belles Riding Club formed in 2021. For Tameka Singleton, national president of the club, Stringfield’s life is one motorcyclists can look to for inspiration.

“People kinda use the word rebel to describe her,” Singleton said. “Not rebel in a bad way, but just in a person that refused to live within this constraint of what society gives to you. I definitely love that about her because I see myself in that.”

While the women-only club is relatively new, its origins can be traced back nearly a decade. In 2014, the Bessie Stringfield All Female Ride was created, and grew quickly from its humble beginnings.

“In 2014, we started with six riders,” Singleton said. “At the end of it, which was in 2021, we were up to 400 riders.”

Stringfield famously picked her riding destinations by dropping a penny on a map, so it was fitting that Singleton and her fellow riders participated in the Penny Ride, the last of which traveled to Stringfield’s last known residence in Miami.

“It had become a job at that point of running the ride,” Singleton said on the decision to end the rides in 2021. “But I also thought about how I could preserve this aspect of riding with my sisters and still promote Bessie’s legacy, so we — another committee member and myself — developed the Bessie Belles Riding Club in 2021.”

Singleton said a lot of the current club members participated in at least one of the Bessie rides over the years, so they are well versed in Stringfield’s history. The club currently has around 30 members, which range in location from Philadelphia to Fresno, Calif.

In terms of growing the club, Singleton said the requirement for entry is simple: “If Bessie is part of your inspiration, you should be a Bessie Belle.”

Trying to build the club in Stringfield’s name, the club meets monthly, focuses on education and participates in rides — including traveling 48 states in eight days. Singleton — a former business education and marketing teacher — said it is important that their long-distance rides act as excursions and provide an opportunity for club members to learn and gain new experiences.

One of these experiences is a mandatory Safety Day for all new club members. Usually taking place on an Air Force base in North Carolina, members learn technical skills of riding, group formations and the latest information within the world of motorcycling.

“I figure if you stay educated,” Singleton said, “you will be a better rider, you’ll save your life, and you may be able to save others.”

Looking to the future, the three-year goal is to develop the club and navigate the challenges brought about by the geographical separation between members.

“We’re just getting started,” Singleton said, “but we definitely have some good ladies and good sisters that are ready to ride and ready to promote [Stringfield’s] legacy.”