With “motorcyclist,” the word “gang” usually follows, along with visions of Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin as the rough bikers in the movie The Wild One. NACCP President Karl Brinson, however, informed us about the Ruff Ryders who are on a mission to serve-Richard Felton (aka Rico), Eric Jenkins (aka Showtime), Jason Timmons (aka Jabo), Torreno Cobb (aka Reno) and Maalik who did not give a last name.

They’ve been together since 1988.

“Ruff Ryders is a lifestyle,” said Rico. We want to work with the urban area; we’re here to help the community. We’re unlike any other type of entities that ride motorcycles-we’re about giving back to the community. I came to Ruff Ryders because they help the community and they look out for the kids. We’re trying to give the kids something positive and a positive role model, more or less-someone they can look at and say, “They’re cool,” but we are still doing our thing.

“We will be surprising two families, one in Austin and another on the South Side. We decided the Ruff Ryders do a lot of things on the South Side, so we wanted to bring our good cheer to the West Side as well.”

Jabo noted, “We are kicking this off to be a yearly thing. We have been involved with Pembroke, Ill., one of the poorest communities in the United States, and as we keep growing, we can spread to more families.”

(Pembroke is 70 miles south of Chicago with a population of 2,784, primarily African-Americans. There are no buses, trains, telephone service and the roads are paved with sand and gravel. Many of the homes are shacks with dirt floors and no running water.)

Maalik said, “I went to high school on the West Side, worked with various church ministries on the West Side. Now I want to re-establish myself more on the West Side.”

“We’re on a new direction trying to give back to the families and communities throughout Chicago,” added Showtime. This is our first annual drive we are putting together and want it to be a yearly thing. Hopefully it will grow and grow where it will touch more people. A lot of us are fortunate and a lot of us are not, and it’s good to give back and with someone who is needy, you feel extra good, especially in today’s society.”

Reno observed, “I work for the City of Chicago, and I see a lot of misguided teens on the streets. I often talk with some of them. One thing I find is they just don’t have any positive guidance, so my interest is to show people something positive and give a chance to do something other than hang out on the streets. We want to show people there are positive things to do because I’m seeing things are getting worse with the youth. There is no guidance, no parents, many are living with grandparents and the grandparents are elderly and can’t keep up with them. So they need to see people who are close to their age doing something constructive-with a family atmosphere and having fun.”

Rico stressed that they are not a motorcycle “gang.” They are hardworking men in various professional positions. The group notes they weren’t angels growing up, but they know what it takes to come to the community and relate to the kids. If you have not been there, the young people don’t want to talk to anyone. They need someone who speaks their language.

Ruff Ryders understand that biking can be exciting to impressionable youngsters and doing the stunts and biking activities catch their attention. Ruff Ryders have a stunt team based in Chicago, and each chapter has a stunt team. Currently Ruff Ryders have chapters in 49 states and many foreign locales, including Amsterdam, Paris, Canada and the Ukraine.

The family in Austin will be annouced December 27, 2007 and the nature of the gifts are a secret.