Video Montage by Timeline
THE CURIOUS HISTORY OF BESSIE’S VIRAL VIDEO
“Meet Bessie Stringfield, the Black Motorcycle Queen of Florida” is a short, lively video montage posted on Facebook and other viewing platforms. The video has a curious and controversial history:
- In late December 2016, a roughly 2 1/2 minute video was produced and posted by Timeline, a small indie company, as a companion video to an article about Bessie. The article cited my book “Hear Me Roar” as the source of the info on Bessie. However, the video omitted the citation. The video, which was the first of three to be posted, was fun to watch. However, I wondered: Why was it produced and posted without my prior knowledge?
- This first video opens by declaring that Bessie is a “rebel icon.” It was a massive hit, going viral with 20 million views. Based solely on the view-count and comments on this brief video drawn from a single source (“Hear Me Roar”), Facebook and Wikipedia deemed Bessie a “public figure.” I wondered: Which label is more misleading: “rebel icon” or “public figure?”
- In 2017, Timeline posted a second version of the video, shown above. The second version includes the missing citation of “Roar,” corrects some factual errors lost in translation, and includes a frame of Bessie and me together with mention of our friendship. And, to show how Bessie’s legacy lives on, the second video includes one frame of a modern-day group of black women riders. This second version of the video is posted on this website, above.
- Afterward, the video’s journey got strange when a third, seemingly bootleg version was circulated on social media by a different group of African American bikers. This third version was selectively cut to remove certain frames.
- Gone were the photo of Bessie and me and the caption noting our friendship. The modern-day black women riders were also cut out!
- Instead, the different group of African American bikers inserted several frames of itself with its club colors in view. In the biker community, the wearing of colors, typically with a large patch or insignia on the back of a jacket or vest, indicates strong allegiance to one group.
- To the global community:
- The altering of the second video exemplifies how some super-fans of Bessie have gotten so carried away with the power of her story that they have appropriated Bessie to suit their own agendas. (Refer to Home Page for “Bessie grabs.”)
- Such cuts and insertions run counter to the spirit of Bessie Stringfield. These fans do not grasp the irony of their action. In life, Bessie was an independent woman who would not tolerate being pulled in any direction which she herself did not choose.
- In death, Bessie is voiceless to prevent manipulation of her memory. Therefore, it’s up to me to call it out when I see it. Bessie Stringfield and her legacy are not possessions that belong to any one group.
- All three videos are still in circulation on social media. The second version, posted above, is the only authorized version which is complete, factually accurate, and which reflects the true, expansive spirit of Bessie Stringfield. Enjoy!