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Documentary short on Bessie Stringfield, famed Black motorcyclist, premiering at AmDocs

The 23-minute feature covers one of America's most unique Black Catholic women, known for her cross-country rides during the height of Jim Crow.


A new documentary short film on the pioneering Black Catholic motorcyclist Bessie Stringfield will premiere this week in Palm Springs, California, part of the AmDocs Film Festival running March 21-25.

To Myself, With Love: The Bessie Stringfield Story,” a 23-minute feature from producer-director Diane Fredel-Weis. will screen on Friday, March 22, at Camelot Theatres alongside a slate of films that afternoon showcasing women overcoming adversity.

“In 1930, Jim Crow laws of racial segregation and discrimination made it exceedingly difficult and dangerous for African Americans to travel around the United States. But a courageous young Black woman with a yearning for adventure, took off from Boston on a motorcycle and rode across the turbulent country alone; not just once, but eight times,” reads a press release.

“This daring woman was Bessie Stringfield, who made her first treacherous cross-country trip at the age of 19 and later embarked on a colorful and barrier-busting career as a carnival stunt rider, WW2 Army dispatcher, and motorcycle club founder.”

The new film is executive produced by Sam Pollard, best known for his collaborations with director Spike Lee, including an Oscar nomination for “4 Little Girls” in 1998. More recently, he directed the acclaimed documentaries “Mr. Soul!” (2018) and “MLK/FBI” (2020). He is joined on “To Myself With Love” by executive producer Gabby Revilla Lugo (“Palm Springs,” “Saint Judy”), and producers Beth Hubbard (“Summer of Soul”) and Kim Dawson.

“Stringfield showed more mettle and courage than I have ever seen of a motorcyclist,” said Pollard. “This documentary recognizes her important contribution to riding as an African American. [It] is a must-see for anyone interested in the ground-breaking achievements of this dynamic lady.”

Consulting on the film were stakeholders from the Bessie Stringfield All-Female Ride, inaugurated in Stringfield’s honor in 2014 in Florida. There, Stringfield spent the last several decades of her life, continuing to ride well into her eighties—including to Mass on Sundays—and was dubbed the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami.”

“We have been very fortunate to have met and interviewed people that knew Bessie, including the executor of her estate,” said Fredel-Weis. “We teamed up with the 300 women motorcyclists who participated in the recent Bessie Stringfield All-Female Ride as a tribute to the enormous impact Bessie is still making today, many years after her passing.”

Born 113 years ago this month, Stringfield is said to have been the first Black woman to ride solo across the country and was one of several civilian dispatch riders for the U.S. Army during World War II. She was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.

The new film on her life was completed last year, with post-production handled by MOCEAN as the film began to receive the first of several film festival invitations—including AmDocs this month, and screenings in April at the Boston International, Pasadena International, and Florida Film Festivals.

Tickets for the AmDocs festival are available online, with sales ending on Thursday. More information on upcoming screenings of “To Myself With Love” can be found on the film’s website.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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