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Buying Power report: Blacks spend as economy grows
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The finding comes from the 16th annual edition of "The Buying Power of Black America" report. In 2009, black households spent an estimated $507 billion in 27 product and services categories. ...

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Harley-Davidson celebrates African- Americans' contributions to riding culture

By Tyrone Van Hoesen
(February 14, 2012) African-Americans' buying power extends to what may not be a well-known niche, motorcycles; Harley-Davidson motorcycles in particular, where the brand is number one in sales to African-Americans. 

In an effort to reach out to this market and to recognize and commemorate the contributions African Americans have made in shaping and sustaining Harley-Davidson as an iconic brand, the company is celebrating Black History Month by introducing exhibits that highlight and explore the evolution of African American motorcycle culture.

"African Americans have influenced and helped shape motorcycle culture throughout our history. Riding culture is seen differently today because of their numerous contributions to it," said John Comissiong, director of African American outreach marketing for Harley-Davidson. "We're number one in sales to African Americans, and not only are we very proud of our shared history, we're always looking for new stories to tell."

The event debuted February 10 at the Harley-Davidson Museum in its hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  A little known bit of history is that an African American, Benny Hardy, a custom bike builder, helped to create what is considered one of the most famous motorcycles in the world, Captain America, featured in the iconic motorcycle movie, Easy Rider.  Showcased in the main entrance to the museum is the custom chopper, Gorjus, built by custom bike builder Sugar Bear, who learned under Benny Hardy. 

Numerous exhibits feature history-making African Americans who have influenced motorcycle riding and culture including William B. Johnson, who broke the color barrier in the 1920s by becoming the first African American Harley-Davidson dealer, Bessie Stringfield, the first known African American woman to ride solo cross-country on a Harley-Davidson in the 1930s, The Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle club, and winners of the Iron Elite contest in addition to the hundreds of models, prototypes, and concept vehicles designed and built by the company since its inception in 1903 through the present.

In 2010, Harley-Davidson launched the Iron Elite section of its community website.  It is dedicated to African American motorcycle enthusiasts through its Iron Elite website, dedicated to showcasing the history and evolution of African American riders, stories, and custom bikes.  As part of the kickoff, winners of the Iron Elite contest were flown to the Milwaukee to attend the Museum events.   They are also featured in the Journey of the Iron Elite exhibit. 

The three-day media junket was an all-encompassing event that included the dealership experience where journalists were able to view dozens of models, run a motorcycle through its paces on the dynamometer, learn how the custom shop builds motorcycles to precise customer specifications, and sampled Harley-Davidson branded merchandise (which runs from helmets and gloves to luggage and jackets and seemingly everything in between). 

The event also included a tour of the Harley-Davidson museum and its Black History month tributes, the launch party where two new models, the Softail Slim and Seventy-Two were introduced and a tour of the engine and drive train factory where the heart of the motorcycle is built. 

Harley-Davidson plans to continue outreach to the African American consumer throughout the year via the Iron Elite website and participating H-D dealerships throughout the country will have smaller African American exhibits on display.  The brand also continues to attend and support numerous African American events around the country such as Daytona Black Bike Week, Atlantic Beach Bike Week and National Bikers RoundUp in order to meet riders face-to-face and to hear their stories. 

The company also plans to launch a 3-part online video series this year that chronicles the journey of African American riders as they discover the brotherhood and bond of riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles together and currently, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is prominently featured in the new Tyler Perry film, Good Deeds.

For more information on the museum and its exhibits visit For more information on Harley-Davidson's outreach to the African American community via the Iron Elite visit

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