Breaking barriers, one 10-mm socket at a time.

People graduating in 2020 may have a much different graduation experience than those who came before. Still, they’re putting on their graduation masks, caps, and gowns, and moving down their new paths in life. Take Paris McGowan, a brand-new graduate of the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute of Orlando, with a specialization in Harley-Davidson

She’s a Black woman motorcyclist who grew up in a family of riders in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mom rides, her dad rides, and other members of the family do, too. Watch this video and you’ll see an adorable photo of tiny, eight-year-old Paris sitting on a GSX-R, grinning so big it almost hurts your heart. She’s clearly having the greatest time any eight-year-old ever had, so is it any surprise she became a rider when she got older? 

Not just any rider, though—a history-making one. With her graduation, McGowan is now the first-ever Black woman to graduate from MMI as a Harley-Davidson technician. It’s a barrier she’s very proud to have broken. When people see her, she may be a lot of things they’re not expecting. However, she says that people soon learn that with bikes, she definitely knows what she’s doing. 

"There are a lot of Black female Harley riders, or just Black female riders in general," McGowan said. "We need to be shown more. My mother, who is a strong, proud Black woman, rides her own motorcycle. I have aunts and cousins who all ride together. I mean, we just did a female unity ride for Labor Day. I believe there were at least 300 or more female riders out there, and it was incredible." 

More than anything, McGowan says, she wants women and girls—especially women and girls of color—to see her, and also hopefully see themselves. Motorcycling is for everyone—and wrenching is for all of us, too, if we want it to be.  

There’s a difference between just seeing or saying these words and actually seeing someone living that life. McGowan did it for herself, but she also hopes to help normalize the idea that women of color can do absolutely anything, from working on the quintessential American motorcycle to anything we put our minds to. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t belong. Ride away, achieve your dreams, and prove them wrong. 

Sources: YouTube, KSDK