'12 O'Clock Boys' Explores Baltimore's Rebel Dirt Bike Pack's Allure, Motivation
Janill Gilbert stashed this in The Young
In the blighted neighborhoods of inner city Baltimore, lined with abandoned buildings and broken down cars, the loud, rhythmic, menacing choir of dirt bikes and four-wheelers can be heard cutting through the silence.
Ranging in age from teenage boys to men in their 30s, the large pack of illegal dirt bike riders race, weave and perform acrobatics at high speeds through the streets with almost celebrity stature. They are known as the 12 O'Clock Boys and people line the sidewalks with their smartphones and iPads to take in their spectacle.
The 12 O'Clock Boys' name comes from the group's trademark maneuver: speeding down the street with the front wheel of their bike pointing straight up, like the hands on the clock.
The 12 O'Clock Boys are the subject of a new controversial film by the same name that came out last month. The film explores the attraction and motivation behind the urban dirt biker group through the eyes of Pug and a few older members.
The film follows Pug for three years, from a precocious 12-year-old on the shy side of puberty to an edgy, often angry, teenager, hardened by circumstance. It details Pug's primary aspiration in life, which is to become a 12 O'Clock Boy.
The 12 O’Clock Boys have been described as many things -- a fearless pack, a gang, a menace, troublemakers –- but according to Nathan, they are not only “rebels,” but also “mentors” and “children.”
"It's not necessarily the right kind of out, but it is an out for a lot of kids in Baltimore," Nathan said. "It's actually a kind of edification for a lot of kids in Baltimore. It's kind of like Boy Scouts or something in the context of what gangs can really be in Baltimore and what violence can really be and what can be."
For its size -- Baltimore City as a population of roughly 621,000 -- Baltimore is one of the most violent crime and drug ridden cities in the country. There have been 28 homicides so far this year.
"You gotta be careful out there, people get shot, sometimes for no reason, just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time," Pug said.
To him, the 12 O'Clock Boys are his role models and mentors.
"They taught me to stay in school, do all my work, pass my classes. They just taught me to focus on school, don't worry about bikes all the time," he said.
Pug said he wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up. He is bright and ambitious enough, but the road out of these rough Baltimore streets is lined with more obstacles that even the most skilled 12 O'Clock Boy could maneuver.
"He's a really smart kid, and I think he's pretty resourceful too, so I would hope that he would put it all into school, if he can. That's what I always tried to tell him," Nathan said. But "there's no easy out."
Is it dangerous to ride a bike that way?
Yes, and they are a hazard to others riding in that style, but also to consider is this is offering young males a way to burn off some energy without getting into worse trouble ie violence, gangs, guns. I think they should really work with these kids, and get creative, maybe block an area off once a week so they can ride, or come up with a dirt area, encourage safety, ie helmets.
Or a park? Isn't this how skateboard parks got started?