More fantasy movie making. Like my previous pieces on Jennifer Teege (here) and Bass
Reeves (here), there so many untold stories about extraordinary black people that
beg for big screen treatment, you wonder why producers (especially in Hollywood) they keep making black rom-coms like the upcoming “The Perfect Match.”
I was reading about the remarkable Bessie Stringfield, who was known as the
“Motorcycle Queen of Miami,” and the
first thing that came to my mind was, of course, she would be a fantastic
subject for a movie.
Her story sounds like a screenwriter’s dream.
Born in Jamaica in 1911, her parents migrated to Boston,
but later died when he was five, and she was eventually adopted by a white Irish
By the age of 16, however, she taught herself how to ride
a motorcycle and it became a life long love affair after that.
At the age of 19 in 1930, she started a cross country journey (the first black woman to do so) through
all 48 states (remember Hawaii and Alaska didn’t become U.S. States until 1959) and later rode through Europe, Brazil and Haiti.
She earned money by performing motorcycle stunts in carnival
shows, although, of course, because of her race and sex, she endured endless
discrimination, racism and sexism. She was even forced to sleep outdoors or at gas stations, on her motorcycle, since hotels and lodgings refused
She was also refused cash winnings from track races she won.
During World War II, she worked for the U.S. army as a
civilian motorcycle dispatch rider, crossing the country from coast to coast, some 8
times. The only woman in her unit, she completed rigorous training maneuvers
and learned how to weave a makeshift bridge from rope and tree limbs to cross
In the 1950’s she moved to Miami where the local police
told her that “nigger women are not allowed to ride motorcycles.” But whoever told her that didn’t know Bessie, as she went on to form the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club, eventually owning
around 27 Harley Davidson motorcycles, and kept on riding until her death
She became a motorcycle legend, and, in 2000, the American Motorcycle Association created the Bessie Stringfield
Memorial Award to recognize “outstanding achievement by a female
She got married and divorced six times. What a woman!
So with all that, if you were making a film about Stringfield, who would you cast for the role?
First of all, you need a WOMAN for the part. I mean an adult,
mature actress who can be feisty and resilient, who understands being knocked down
in life a few times, and has gotten back up every time. Someone who’s
lived a life.
Which means that all those young, skinny, spoiled Hollywood
actresses whose only major angst in life is what weave to wear, are all totally
Also, NO Beyonce. And NO Rihanna.
My choice would surprise you, but the person who immediately
came to mind for the role is Mo’Nique.
Yes! Let’s face it – she has all the qualities I’ve mentioned
that would be needed for someone to play the role; and besides, have you seen her
lately? She’s looks fantastic after losing about 80 pounds thanks a strict diet and exercise regimen.
True, she does have a reputation for being… shall I say …”difficult.” But she could be a different person now, especially
since she hasn’t done much since “Precious.”
And, yes, you would need a strong
director to keep her from going off into her Mo’ Nique-isms, if you know what I
mean. But I think she would be perfect.
Who would you choose?