OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The East Bay Dragons will go from a bad-ass black biker club to respected community leaders Tuesday night when the Oakland City Council presents the group with a resolution commemorating their founding 55 years ago.

Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid will honor the group, believed to be one of the first all-black biker clubs in the country, when it was formed in East Oakland. The resolution praises them for “being a positive social outlet for African-American men in Oakland,” along with its local activism. “The East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club, when dealing with a community often battling negativity and violence, have remained a symbol of positive community activism, and pride within Oakland and within the African American community.”

However, the biker club was not always a symbol of peace. In 2011, a member was gunned down in front of the club’s headquarters on 88th Street and International Boulevard. A similar killing occurred decades earlier. In a first-person history written by its founder, Tobie Gene Levingston, he describes the early turmoil the club faced following the murder of one its members and the retaliation that followed.

“One of our member, Z, got himself shot and killed on the street corner right out in front our clubhouse late one Friday night,” Levingston wrote in Soul on Bikes: The East Bay Dragons MC and the Black Biker Set, published in 2003. “Z didn’t meet his maker alone. He took down one of their boys too, the ones that set out to kill him…In a blink of the eye, the shootout ended. Z got shot in the head, and the gunman never made it back to his car. Two black men lay face down on the sidewalk. Blood everywhere. One their guys and one of ours. Both gone.”

Later, he adds having no previous knowledge of the events leading to the shootings. “God knows I’m not one to judge another man over what he does or doesn’t do with his life. We aren’t saints here; we’ve all had our ups and downs.”