Members of the bike messenger community came together in Tompkins Square Park on Friday to mark the naming of a bench for bike messenger and photographer ‘Fast’ Eddie Williams. Friends featured in his 2004 photo book ‘Bike Messengers Life – New York City‘ joined Eddie’s son Nagi, daughter Koko and dozens of working messengers for the service. The beautiful weather allowed for a fitting sun set over the bench that sits opposite the big tree on the south side of the park, a longtime gathering spot for New York bike messengers.
Williams, who died in September of 2016, came to New York from the West Indies in the late 1970s and fell in with messengers from his part of the world that were making a name for themselves on two wheels. His catchphrase from his native region, “Take it easy My Youth,” was printed on the memorial plaque, vis the Parks Department‘s Adopt a Bench program. It was sponsored by perennial NYC messenger bag company Manhattan Portage with the help of Williams’ old friends Kevin ‘Squid’ Bolger and Takuya Sakamoto.
Bolger, who co-owns Cyclehawk messengers and has been on the road since 1992, told us he carries Williams’s book with him and is working on a website “where we give people the book and if they find themselves in it we ask them to tell a little story about the picture.”
Nakamoto is a fellow photographer who started messengering in 1998 and began to document his life on the road after meeting Williams in 2000. Though his photos have received their own acclaim, he proudly told me that “I am Eddie’s copycat.”
Representing the new generation was Brandon Lockfoot, a recent arts graduate of Cooper Union who organizes the upcoming Happy Fun Time XIII in memory of deceased messengers. Asked about Williams’s influence on his own photography, he said, “Eddie was the original dude and he had his own book. That’s why he was always coming to me like, ‘My Youth, come over, lemme look at your stuff,’ and he always inspired to make books and that’s what I’m doing.”
Towards the end of the service, Williams’s daughter Koko sang along with a guitarist and everyone took a moment to contemplate their shared loss. After the applause, local messenger race organizer Kyle Thompson announced that the sign-up was open for the night’s Friday the 13th Alleycat, run after dark every Friday the 13th. With the sun setting over us I asked Hodari Depalm, former owner of Checker Couriers, what he misses most about his friend. “Eddie had a lot of wisdom,” he said. “He was definitely an older brother to us all. A good dude.”
‘A Bike Messengers Life – New York City’ can be purchased here.