Black Sunday revs up racing community for a worthy cause
By Kenya Vaughn Of the St. Louis American
It would be definitely be a stretch to call auto/drag racing the next black national pastime. However, the men and women of the United Black Drag Racers Association make sure that at least once a year, the growing African-American fan base has an entire weekend when they can collectively enjoy the sport, car culture and each other.
The 2008 edition of Black Sunday will take place September 12-14 at Gateway International Racetrack across the river in Madison, Ill. For nearly 15 years the festivities have provided bonding opportunities for those folks who love fast bikes and cars.
“It’s unreal,” said James “Wolf” Wilford of the United Black Drag Racers Association. “I’ve have people come and say, ‘I didn’t know that this many black people will come together for drag racing.’”
The event started out an opportunity for bragging rights between black drag racers in the St. Louis area. It has grown into a full-scale nationwide auto and motorcycle festival, where enthusiasts reunite on the track.
“Before racers would come and just race,” United Black Drag Racers Association President Darrell Williams said. “But now it is more of a giant bracket race, with cars from all over the country competing for a purse.”
Through Black Sunday, United Black Drag Racers Association also offers an educational outlet for the sport with a hands-on show and tell.
“Basically, we are trying to get the concept of racing professionally in the black community,” said Williams. “So we can get youngsters to start racing at an early age and compete on a national level and get sponsors like all of the big guys that race.”
The mission to teach and inform the next generation of future drivers on the logistics of racing was a major element of presenting Black Sunday each year. Several of those “junior dragsters” have grown up through the event to become participants in the main event.
“We looked at how many young black children actually see black race car drivers,” said Stan Pickett of the United Black Drag Racers Association. “It was something that we just wanted to expose them to.”
While most would think the African-American fan base for autoracing is tiny, the more than 20,000 that come out to support Black Sunday each year prove otherwise.
Motorcycle races, hydraulic “hop” contests and car shows are also included in the Black Sunday Weekend. Live entertainment (this year by the band X Factor) and a church service are among the scheduled activities.
“If they like fast cars and fast motorcycles and would like to be in good company, it has turned out to be the place to be,” Wilford said. “We’ve had people who were coming in from the highway. They didn’t know what the event was, but they wanted to be there because everybody else was going.”
But it’s not just about the cars and bikes.
“Black Sunday is a car show, family reunion and fashion show all wrapped up into one, and it’s definitely a family event,” Willliams said.
Not only does Black Sunday draw thousands of motorheads from across the country, but the event pours thousands of dollars back into the St. Louis community.
It’s a good time for a good cause, as the profits from the weekend’s event are distributed to local charities. Funds are filtered back into the community through organizations such as Mathews-Dickey and Herbert Hoover boys and girls clubs, Faith House and Better Family Life.
“We put the proceeds back into the community,” Williams said. “That’s what we love the most.”
Last year they also worked with Ranken Technical College, which matched them for a $10,000 scholarship that helped a student pursue an education in engineering.
“It’s a totally different concept,” said Williams, “It’s unique that all of these blacks can come together through drag racing and have a good time.”
But don’t let the name fool you. The United Black Drag Racers Association insists that the event is not just for people of color.
“We don’t care if you come from Mars,” Williams said. “The event is open to you, and you can come race.”
Black Sunday sneak preview
Next Sunday (Sept. 7) starting at 9:30 a.m. The United Black Drag Racers Association will have a preview of some of the cars and bikes that will take place in the Black Sunday weekend. Interested parties can get a taste of what to expect in the parking lot of at Harold’s Chicken Shack, 525 Lincoln Hwy in Fairview Heights, IL 62208
Black Sunday 2008 sponsored by the United Black Drag Racers Association will take place on September 12, 13 & 14, at Gateway International Raceway (700 Raceway Blvd in Madison, IL). For more information call Darrell Williams at (314) 968-1720, James “Wolf” Wilford at (618) 593-4226 or Geno Sharp at (314) 427-2641.