Mickey Stewart came to the San Francisco StoryCorps booth on August 15, as part of a community partnership with Friends of Negro Spirituals, an Oakland-based group that continues and holds the tradition and heritage of spiritual songs.
Mickey came with stories rich with culture and history. He talked about San Francisco’s North Beach during its heyday of the “Beat” era and also when the Fillmore District, once known as “Harlem of the West,” was a lively and thriving black-owned jazz mecca before the city’s redevelopment plan targeted some 60 square blocks and forced the removal of 200 black-owned businesses. The plan affected more than 13,000 Fillmore residents, mostly African American. After redevelopment, block after block had nothing but large empty lots where buildings had been razed.
Mickey recalled some of the happiest times of his youth spent near old Fillmore, street like the Chicago Barbershop, Red Shoe shop, and Kansas City Bar-be-cue.
He fondly recalled being present when all the music filled the clubs with musicians such as John Coltrane, and others. He said the street “was lined from one end to the other with jazz clubs, stores and restaurants,” and recalled how it all changed “when they started redevelopment. We lost control of that area.”
When he’s not working on cars or spending time with at least one of his eleven children or his wife – they’ve been married more than 30 years – Mickey keeps himself busy as a member of the Bay Area Desperados, a black motorcycle club.
He described what it’s like to ride a motorcycle and how many people don’t realize that “blacks ride big bikes,” adding “The average bike you see blacks riding on, they’re sitting on about $40,000.”
He’s also experienced a little danger as well. He remembers one time he was run off the road. When the driver pulled over to see Mickey sprawled on the ground and saw that Mickey was not injured, “the driver took off.”
It’s apparent this father of 11 loves his bike.
“When the sun hits that chrome on a motorcycle, there’s nothing like it.”