By: Trisha Beasley
Photos: Kenneth Armstrong and Chi Force
A unity in the community weekend was held January 13th through January 16th hosted at Bigshow Auto Finishes, 2900 W. Broad Street in Elizabethtown, NC in efforts to bring the community together as ONE. Many preparations were made to bring a community to a breath-taking awe!
This ride has been ongoing for a few years, but this year something was a little different. As it will sound a bit like a name game, here goes! Fletcher “Bigshow” Collins of Dedicated Soulz MC has hosted this ride over those years. This year he was contacted by James “Noshow” Herring of Confederate Riders MC. Bigshow and Noshow began talking and it was evident that they both had a lot of the same hopes and aspirations for their community. They discussed issues about misleading information that ensues fear and misunderstanding and under and over misrepresentations of the facts. Well, they decided and agreed that it was their mission to mend some fences that were broken a long time ago. A few community forums, Bladen Online interviews, as well as many social media posts and invites later, they are here to make a change and be the leaders in the direction of that change.
The weekend schedule was quite packed. The 13th was the meet and greet. This was the beginning of the weekend and some people started camping out that very night. The 14th was exciting with a unification ride, which was mostly comprised of the two MC’s.
The 15th there was a seafood festival, camping, bonfire, and block party, all of which was hosted by Bigshow at Bigshow Auto Finishes. This night lasted until the early morning. It was a grand celebration with even more campers.
The final day of the planned weekend was the 16th. The Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday was the day of the annual MLK parade. The Unity Ride would follow directly after the final parade participants. In other words, they saved the best for last! Then for the final event, the entire community was invited to come back at Bigshow Auto Finishes and take part in a wonderful feast.
The remainder of the story will focus on the 16th, Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. We were all gathered after an entire weekend of unity for the finale, the MLK annual parade where we all showed Bladen County that this unity movement was built by the ROAR of 1000 bikers. The inspiration of one biker, the respect of another biker, as you all know, equals brotherhood and respect. There we all stood to ride, and, ride we did. There “We” are! And there is where “We” choose to remain!
Fletcher “Bigshow” Collins hosted the best and most heartfelt unification effort I have even witnessed. CBS News covered the event reporting that 1000 bikers were in Elizabethtown participating in the MLK parade. We saw motorcycle clubs, social clubs, car clubs, and independent riders from Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Robeson, and Sampson counties. These bikers and clubs united in Bladen County to lead by example as to how change really looks and feels! The entire weekend focused on the real reason of the MLK holiday and the “Dream” that many do not fully understand.
Please bear in mind that we are referencing a “Dream” that was made famous and copyrighted in a 1963 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since that time, no doubt, many strides have been made to further the accomplishment of the “Dream.” Yet, still today, we see biased information from the media and other outlets that aim to compromise the integrity of us all.
We can witness the power of the “I have a Dream” speech, but I imagine is hard for many of us to even adequately perceive the peril, struggles, and emotions of the adult in 1963. This “Dream” is in fact more than a half a century old. In times past the dream has moved forward. In other times, it seems to have moved backwards. A lot of people want to talk about the “Dream” but do you really know the sum of the important parts of this dream? It is filled with Love, Hope, and last, but not least, responsibility! I encourage everyone to read this fifty plus year old speech. You can watch and hear it here: goo.gl/fDBkDp or read the text here: goo.gl/u4Zz9v.
On January 16th, 2017, we stand and “ride” together with strength, pride, and humility as it takes a little of all these to love and respect each other as we love ourselves. Even as individuals, this is a hard task regardless of race. So, this day, we ride as HUMAN BEINGS, as BROTHERS and SISTERS, as CHILDREN of the FATHER.
Before the ride began, we all gathered to hear the route, directions, game plan and a prayer for the ride. What we heard was so much more! Bigshow called everyone over to listen. Come on “Bring it in” and we all gathered close to the side of the venue by the sound system. He said, “Look around. I know you see that all the faces are not the same color or shade, but we are here in unity for the same purpose. We are here to tear down the walls of division. Reminding everyone that this is not the final place for us to “ride.” We are all gonna leave this world and our hopes are to go to heaven after our work is done here. Then affirming that heaven is not separated in any form. There is no specific or designated heaven for races. We are all either going or not going to the same place! We need to get it right in our hearts now or how will we qualify to meet beyond the gates.” He also added, “You may see some things that you don’t understand. Some things that cause us to have fear, apprehension, and that are often a source of misunderstanding. I want you all to trust today, show respect today, and know that we are all doing something great today, all of us together!”
The point that was stressed was that we were all there for the same purpose and cause; “unity.” Unity is love and respect and that was the expectation of the entire weekend and guess what? That is exactly what everyone saw and felt the entire weekend! The love and respect was overflowing. I was so proud just to have been there to take part.
Everyone was encouraged to lift each other up and to be thankful for their brothers and sisters. Just as you all know; we are our brother’s keeper. Everyone was there to show the L&R towards each other. Everyone was there for the same cause, the same movement, the same accord; and that was “Unity in our Community!”
As well stated when we were all gathered there, we hope to be a light to other areas around us. In hopes that they rise to the challenge because we all know that “together we stand and divided we fall!” Bigshow went on to add that he wanted to give a shout out to Confederate Riders. He said upon meeting and talking with members of the MC; he learned that they have more in common than he realized. Our vision for unity is one of those commonalities.
Next he proceeded to cover the ABCs of the ride as typical for any ride, and of course, a prayer followed. This particular prayer was unique and heartfelt. Maybe I could define it as a special prayer. During this prayer; every biker, every friend, every person there joined hands; not only in a prayer of safety for the ride, but a prayer of unity. A prayer that would have our love for each other to continue and grow day to day and year to year.
The ride was spectacular! We were lined up six bikes wide practically tire to tire and we covered blocks and blocks with the ROARING THUNDER OF UNITY in every rev of the motors, in every corner of each turn, and every smile on each and everyone’s face. The ride continued back out of the main downtown area and back to the venue.
Upon our return the food was smelling sweet, the atmosphere was amazing, and the fellowship continued. The entire community was invited to this feast and it was wonderful. There were vendors, community members, young and old, and the entire spectrum of shades of the rainbow. All together making history right there in our little town making a great big difference!
At the end of the weekend celebration, people were discussing how good everything was and how they really hated for it to end and that we all probably felt like we needed to have Tuesday off to rest. We were strong in efforts the entire weekend and it was well worth it. Everyone reported that they had a great time and they would participate for next year, while also stating that these unions should be continued throughout the 365 days until the next MLK celebration.
There were numerous social media post from all involved; they all avowed the same thing. New friendships and new alliances were made, unity was well represented, and future fellowship plans were made. These newfound relationships, partnerships, and unions will help our community in endeavors to come, without doubt. I have already witnessed an alliance for an upcoming community event. These things should make us all proud to be a part of a “Dream” that we refuse to let go!
This was truly an event to remember. A precedent was set for our community; a beacon meant to light the path for others. Not to mention, one heck of a great time! Special “THANKS” was given to the many hands and feet that made it all possible.