Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club Hosts Convention in Hampton, Spreading Underrecognized Story and Helping Others – Daily Press
When Ken Thomas was a police officer in Chicago, he received a call to come to a housing project apartment for a wellness check. There, he and his companion discovered two young children, but their mother was missing.
The mother came in about 20 minutes later and they discovered she was on an upper floor of the building and was planning to kill herself, Thomas said.
Thomas and his partner did their best to convince her not to, pointing out the things she had to live for, like her children. Then, a year later, he saw her again. She was much better and he said she said to him, “Officer Thomas, you are my dream maker.”
The nickname “Dream Maker” stuck. That’s what Thomas continues to experience at the mostly black motorcycle club he founded about 30 years ago, which now has 113 chapters in 38 states.
That organization, the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers & Troopers Motorcycle Club, held its annual convention in Hampton this week.
Helping others is central to the club’s mission, Thomas said in an interview on Saturday. They also aim to tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, black members of the American cavalry who protected the west as the country expanded, beginning in 1866.
Club members come from a wide range of professions and have an average age of around 63.
“I’m so proud of these people,” Thomas said. “This organization has given these mature people something to do. It gave them a reason to live.
Nathan “Motown” Mack, the current president, rode his motorcycle for three days, including 18 hours in the rain, from El Paso to the convention. He said the club chose Hampton because of the needs of the community. This is one of the determining factors in their decision to choose a venue each year.
“We’re just here to help in any way we can,” he said.
More than 1,500 of the several thousand club members have signed up for the Hampton Convention. They delivered food to residents of Bay Creek Apartments, a low-income housing complex. They also donated $10,000 to the Virginia Peninsula Food Bank.
The Buffalo Soldiers also traveled to the Newport News Youth Detention Center to speak with minors as part of a 21-day program. Mack, who said he grew up without a mother or father and was the first in his family to graduate from high school, said he was talking about making good choices and doing the right thing.
They also distributed more than 550 book bags filled with pens, paper and other supplies, Mack said.
When Mack isn’t running a motorcycle club, he’s writing contracts for the military. He became involved with the group 15 years ago and says he was drawn to its positive mission and wanted to give back.
The Buffalo Soldiers name was chosen to keep a largely untold story alive. The soldiers were paid less than their white counterparts and their equipment was in worse condition, Mack said.
When a new member joins, they need to find out about one of the Buffalo Soldiers, said Lawrence “Captain Hook” Van Hook, the national chaplain. And they name a toy buffalo or a bugle after the person they have chosen.
But the story is complicated by the fact that the Buffalo Soldiers fought the Native Americans.
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“They just did as they were told” and carried out government orders, Mack said. It wasn’t “something they all wanted to do, [but] something they had to do.
Anyone of any race is welcome, Mack said. The club is also active in Germany, where there is interest as the Buffalo Soldiers served there during World War II.
Faith is also important for the group. Among the membership are many ministers and deacons who have to miss Sunday services as they return home, Mack said. So on Saturday morning, the last scheduled day of the convention, they held a Blessing of the Bike on the grounds of the Hampton Roads Convention Center.
“We just want to bless you all on your travels,” Van Hook said.
Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck, who was there to deliver a proclamation, thanked them for their impact on the community during convention.
“We love having you here,” he said.
Noble Brigham, [email protected]