Nov 032012

By David Smallwood & Jan Emanuel-Costley

Like pioneering Black motorcyclist Bessie Stringfield traveled cross-country delivering classified documents for the Army during World War II, Jan Emanuel-Costley today rides the nation’s roads on her Harley to raise money for breast cancer research.

For three years, Jan, who goes by her road name “Sunny The Diva,” has spearheaded annual motorcycle fundraising treks with fellow lady biking enthusiasts for her non-profit organization, Divas For A Cure “DFAC” (

The three rides have covered over 25,000 miles and raised $123,200 for M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center in Houston, Texas.  Harley-Davidson, the leading name in the motorcycle world, was the primary sponsor of the rides.

Stringfield, the first Black woman to ride across America on a motorcycle, was 16 when she learned to ride, as was Emanuel, in Oakland, where she grew up.

At 16, Emanuel was also diagnosed with a small cancerous cyst on her head that was removed, but returned later when she was 18, along with ear and jaw pain, and was removed again.

At 22, Sunny found the lump between her armpit and breast, but the doctor at the hospital she called said not to worry, she was too young to have cancer and wait to have it checked out at her next gynecology appointment.

After three months of pain, the lymph node area got inflamed and tender to the touch and when she called again, she says they said, oh, that’s definitely not cancer because cancer doesn’t hurt, and by the time cancer hurts, you’re almost dead.

“I was at work, but decided to just go to the emergency room anyway,” says Emanuel.  “The doctor said I needed to schedule a mammogram immediately.  The look on his face was tragic.

“After the mammogram he walked in and said you have breast cancer and we need to schedule you for a mastectomy.  His bedside manner left a lot to be desired.  I told him I was only 22, I came in the world with two breasts and I’m going to leave the world with two breasts, and you better figure out how to do it.”

Emanuel joined a study using newly developed laser techniques in conjunction with her hospital. The treatment worked, her breast was saved, and she hasn’t had a problem with it since.

Sunny The DivaBut Sunny, now 51 and married with four adult children, says her positive outcome was a result of early detection and her persistence that something was wrong.

“According to statistics, White women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, while minority women are more likely to die,” Sunny says.  “Black women normally take too long to do follow-up, to get tested, don’t have adequate medical insurance, and we’re not educated.  We’re definitely not pro-active and it’s still a hush-hush kind of disease.”

When Emanuel turned 28, she went into cardiac arrest and had a stroke.  An aunt, Mary Clemons, who was also her godmother and with whom she lived for part of her adolescent life, was her caregiver during this period.

Sunny says, “My aunt came over and took care of me, changed my bandages, helped me use the bathroom, nursed me back to health, cooked, helped me with the kids, made sure I went for my checkups –– the whole nine yards –– but never once did she say she was sick herself.  When she finally told us something was wrong, she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.

“The doctors said the cancer she had was 95 percent curable had she caught it early, but it had advanced from her breast to her arm into her neck and into her brain.”

Jan was in the room with her aunt when she died.

“It was such a life-altering experience,” she recalls. “At around the same time, someone dared me to ride my motorcycle across country.  I said, not only will I ride across the country, I’ll get some other women to ride with me to raise money and we’ll donate it to a cancer foundation for research in my aunt’s name.”

A Room at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center dedicated in the name of Divas For A CureEmanuel says she picked the M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center in Houston, Texas to receive donations because they are leaders in cancer research (currently ranked number one in the nation) and in treating minorities, especially African American women.  M.D. Anderson graciously agreed to name an exam room in its breast cancer center in honor of Divas For A Cure.

Emanuel in 1999 started her website,, as an online motorcycle forum for women interested in the activity.  That site spawned, which provides information on the annual rides.

Because she rides a Harley, Sunny approached the company to ask for their support, and they obliged. (On her website there’s a section titled “Why A Harley?” followed by a one-sentence answer, “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.”)

“We’re very excited about supporting their ride for the third year and supporting their initiatives to increase awareness and prevention of breast cancer; it’s a tremendous cause for us,” says Harley-Davidson spokesperson Karina Jaramillo. “We facilitate our relationship between the divas and many of our local dealers so they can come out to different dealerships during the course of their ride and do fundraising activities.”

A small group of women are selected to ride in the event each year.  The inaugural ride in 2006 was 8,600 miles from San Francisco to New York and back in 22 days. Eight divas started, and Sunny was the only one who finished, but $25,000 was raised.

“I quickly found out you should limit cross-country riding to just a few divas,” Sunny says.  “Anybody who calls themselves a Diva is going to probably have a personality, so with eight divas, there were some conflicts. Mix hot weather, motorcycles and long distances, and it becomes volatile, especially over 22 days.”

She repeated the event in 2007 to prove that the initial success was not a fluke.  This ride, with five divas, went 7,300 miles from Oakland to Maryland and back, and raised $50,000.

The 2008 ride  was 6,000 miles from New Jersey, down to Atlanta, up to Canada and back, and raised $35,000.  There were only four divas riding this time – Costley, the organization’s vice president AJ Coffee, Cynthia Marcy, and Elaine Thomas.

“It’s a very hard ride,” Sunny explains.  “Most people when they sign up think of a nice little leisurely cross-country tour – make stops, take pictures, shop.  It’s not like that.  After riding all day, all you’re looking for is a shower and pillow at Motel 6, Motel 4, even Motel 2 – you don’t care at that point!” she says.

USBCF, NJBSMC & the Motorcycle Community united in the effort.

The divas ride almost 500 miles a day, between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to avoid nighttime riding hazards, and have to keep to a strict timetable to honor their Harley-Davidson dealership appearances.

They are accompanied by members of the Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle club –– Sunny is married to the former national president of the organization, Thomas Costley –– and they are followed by a support van that carries their clothes, supplies, and food.

“People sign up to ride with us for a leg or two and they pay a registration fee, but after a (short) while, they’re like, ‘this is crazy, this ain’t no fun! All we’re doing is riding and sleeping!’  But I say, ‘And raising money!’  That’s the important thing,” Emanuel says.

It is very taxing on the body and finances to maintain an annual cross-country motorcycle trek, so in 2010 Emanuel and Divas For A Cure took some time off from the annual breast cancer run to recoup and reorganize.

Barb’s Harley-Davidson is a woman-owned dealership in Mt. Ephraim, NJ.  Barb and her staff actively support the community on all fronts. They were diligent in their efforts to help support Divas For A Cure and in 2010 took up the helm to support them on a local level.

In 2010, Barb kicked-off the First Annual Barb’s Harley-Davidson Divas For A Cure Breast Cancer Ride to help continue the efforts.

Sue, KC, Sunny & Cindy

It is with the united efforts of Barb, her staff and the motorcycle community that DFAC can continue to make a difference.

In 2011, Sunny found another lump, so without hesitation she sought medial advice from a Breast Surgeon.  The surgeon determined that a lumpectomy would be necessary. Her advice was simple. Let’s not fool around with this. The surgery was slightly delayed due to a pre-existing heart condition.  The surgeon removed four growths and surrounding tissue.  The pathology report came back – “all margins clear.”

Jan Emanuel-Costley aka Sunny The Diva

The surgery was a success and Emanuel was back on her iron horse in no time.


Big RedAnd yes, it’s 2012 and she is still rolling.   Emanuel averages about 7 – 10,000 miles a year on her iron horse.


So, if a woman on a bright red Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic with pink bling on her helmet passed you on the highway – it was probably “The Diva.”


2012 Solo Ride

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May 312012

Three years in a row, I road across country with a group of women and men raising money for Breast Cancer Research and promoting Early Detection.  Each year, I also do a local Breast Cancer Ride from Barb’s H-D to continue our efforts to promote Early Detection and support the cure in our community.

This year I decided to take a “Solo Ride” just for me.   Sometimes, you’ve just have to step out on “Faith!”  My scheduled journey would take me through New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.



Sunny The Diva


On Friday April 27th, I departed New Jersey headed for my 1st stop (Northern Virginia Buffalo Soldiers Annual).  My husband (TC Costley) road with me to Virginia.  For the first time, I was leading the way and I was a bundle of nerves but TC insisted that I had to do it all the way.  Well, you can’t wear the title “The Diva” and not rise to the challenge.  So, off I go on my “Little Red Bike with White Walls with TC’s trailer in tow.”

Before getting on the road, TC gave me a real lesson on safety checks, tire pressure, trailer tire pressure and how to change the tire.

We sat down and reviewed the map of my route. TC insisted I become familiar with reading a map and paying attention to road signs and mile markers.  He reminded me of the miles of road I had already traveled and assured me that I could do it and that he was very confident in my riding skills.

I had my motorcycle serviced at Barb’s Harley-Davidson where I know they take good care of their customers, so I knew my horse was ready and now so was I.

TC & SunnyWe arrived in Virginia on Friday afternoon and fellowship with a few friends in the motorcycle community.  We went to the NoVBSMC Annual Barb-B-Que and as always we were in good company with old friends.  This is where TC and I parted ways.   He said our goodbyes and headed back to New Jersey.  I was truly on my own and there was no turning back for me at this point!  I would spend another night in Virginia to attend the dance with the soldiers and then depart Sunday morning on my own.  I can’t imagine what he was thinking on his ride home but I could not sleep from the anxiety of beginning this journey alone.

Well, 5:00 AM  Sunday morning came way too soon!  It had rained the night before and the ground was still wet and the fog made the sky hazy and cold.  I was prepared for every riding condition but hoped not to have to use any rain gear.  I dressed in three layers of clothing, put on my reflective water proof jacket, heavy jeans and waterproof over-pants.  I loaded the trailer, grabbed a cup of coffee, wiped down the bike and was ready to roll.  I took a big breath and paused to ask for God’s Blessings.  I never ride without prayer and giving God praise but then that’s just me!

I turned on my iPod, checked my map which was taped to my windshield bag with some trusty “Duck Tape” and turned on my GoPro to record the moment.



TC and I have a rule when we ride – we put in the 125 miles before we stop to eat and if we are feeling really good, we wait until lunch time to make the daylight count.  After riding 2.5 days (1,674 miles)  I arrived safely at my sister’s home in League City, TX.

Pam & Jan


Click here to view a few of the photos on my journey


After having a wonderful time visiting with my sister and friends I received a phone call from my Grandmother.  I knew right away by her voice that something was wrong.  She told me my mother was in ICU in Atlanta and it was not looking good.   I called TC and told him the news.  Without hesitation, TC told me that Atlanta was an easy ride for me from Houston, TX – almost a straight shot.  Thunderstorms had already delayed my return to New Jersey but now all I needed was to be at least a day ahead of the storm.   Sunny & Goldrush

Goldrush “Our Best Man” stopped by to see me before I hit the road.  He has been a good friend to both TC and I over the years.

I said my good-byes to Pam and Ruffus, loaded up the trailer and  was ready to roll again.  This time, time was of the essence.  My mother’s condition was unsure and I didn’t want to waste much time.

While en-route to Atlanta, I stopped in Alabama where I was greeted by our good friend “Smokey” from the Montgomery BSMC.  Smokey and some fellow clubs in the motorcycle community were on a mission helping provide support to a Homeless Shelter and Food Pantry.  The fellow bikers were full of questions and praise.  We took pictures, shared a few laughs and I was off on the road again.

I was locked and loaded and made it to Atlanta in 1.5 days (850 miles). I arrived ahead of schedule to Atlanta.


I sent out an SOS to a fellow Soldier “Billy D” and while waiting for him to arrived I had the pleasure of meeting a “Fellow Survivor.”  Pat was just finishing up chemo and her good friend Janelle introduced us after striking up a conversation with me.

Janelle said, she couldn’t help but notice me in pink, on a bike and pulling a trailer.  We laughed and exchanged information.  Pat and Janelle work together as Flight Attendants.   Pat said, Janelle had been a great support during her battle with breast cancer. It is good to meet women who support each other in good and bad times.


Sunny & Billy D in Atlanta, GA

I was greeted by Billy D from the BSMC of Atlanta.  Billy D and Lady P opened the doors of their home for me to shower, rest, relax and to meet my Grandmother and Cousin before escorting us to our hotel.  Not knowing what was ahead of us we were very thankful for their generous hospitality.

Lady P and Billy D have been supporters of Divas For A Cure since our inception and we remain forever friends.

Billy D escorted us to the hotel and helped up get settled.  The next day we were able to finally see my mom in ICU.  It was a bitter sweet moment.  We spent  Mother’s Day with Mom and it helped to brighten everyone’s spirit.

The ride home to New Jersey was long.  My Solo Ride was nearing an end.  I left Atlanta early in the moring 6 AM to be exact.  After four gas stops and 500+ miles I was in Petersburg, VA with only 300 miles to go – I decided to take in on in!

Once again, TC celebrated me with a confident sound in his voice and told me, “Okay,  if you feel up to it – press on!”  A few more gas stops under my belt I called him to update him on my status.   It would be dark and I don’t see well and have a rule that I generally don’t ride past dark.   TC told me he would meet me at the Cracker Barrel just after I crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge” and escort me home.  I was relieved.

Sunny The Diva 2012


My Final mileage. (New Jersey to Houston TX then Atlanta to New Jersey) Total miles: 3,355.

The journey was worth every mile.  I can now cross this off my “Bucket List.”


The Diva Embarks on a Solo Ride

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May 072012

Sunny on Solo Ride 2012It’s not often you get the opportunity to take real advantage of having some time off from work.  Well, I decided to challenge myself to a long distance journey, so I embarked on a little “Solo Ride”  (New Jersey to Texas).  This journey would take me through 9 states  ( New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas),  averaging approximately 565 miles a day.

Below is a highlight of the route (not exact) but close.

So, the journey begins…

The trip was magical.  The weather was almost perfect and my motorcycle performed outstandingly.  I was pulling my husband’s trailer so, I was very hesitant in the beginning but once I got into the groove it was smooth sailing.  There were people on the road who gave me the thumbs up and those who honked their horns and waved.  Truckers who gave me the right of way and some who simply stared at me in amazement.  I had to pinch myself a few times too!

I was able to pace myself so that I could enjoy the scenery and the ride.  It was one of those times when you wished you had someone along to share the evening with but glad you didn’t so you could just enjoy God’s blessing without any interruptions.

I check-in by phone with my husband (“TC”) at each gas and rest stop.  I also sent a text to my family and friends so, I would not be delayed by having to call everyone with my status.

Well, now that I’m all rested, relaxed and my trailer is full of goodies, I will have to make the trip back.  So stay tuned for more updates.

Barb’s Harley-Davidson

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Jan 252012

Sue & Barb

Looking for a motorcycle?  Need your bike serviced? Want to learn to ride?

Barb’s Harley-Davidson is a women owned dealership and employs a team of some of the best folks in the business! Friendly, courteous service. Great prices and good deals.

Barb’s Harley-Davidson®
926 Black Horse Pike
Mt. Ephraim, NJ 08059
Phone: 856.456.4141
Fax: 856.456.2013

Celebrity Divas That Ride!

 Women Riders  Comments Off on Celebrity Divas That Ride!
Oct 012011

Did you know . . .

  • Queen Latifah, Singer, Actor, Entertainer
  •  Danna King, News Anchor – KPIX-TV 5 San Francisco
  •  Camryn Manheim, Actor – “The Practice”
  •  Catherine Bell, Actor – “J.A.G.”
  •  Glodean White, wife of the late soul singer Barry White
  •  Wynonna Judd, Singer, Entertainer
  •  Cher, Singer, Actor, Entertainer
  •  Pink, Singer, Entertainer
  •  Angelina Jolie, Actor, Entertainer
  •  Alanis Morrissette, Singer, Entertainer

Nancy Marshall

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Oct 012009


“Another Survivor’s Story

 I’m a nurse at a breast surgeon’s office in Las Vegas. I’ve been there 9 years, I had my annual mammogram. It showed microcalcifications left breast need a biosy. The doctor didn’t think any thing of them they didn’t look malignant, but I still needed a biopsy. The doctor said “You know your mother dying of breast cancer at 46 really puts you in a high risk group.” I knew I needed an MRI. So, I got the MRI and low and behold a spiculated lesion 1.5 cm shows up in the right breast, and needs a biopsy. The doctor does an ultrasound and another exam feels nothing. I got the biosy left breast fibroadenoma, right breast ductal carcinoma in situ. I go for a partial mastectomy with sentinel lymph node biopsy. They find a 3 cm invasive ductal cancer already srpead to a lymph node. I did chemo and 33 treatments of radiation, go on the anti -estrogen pill for 5 yearrs, (Arimadex) and now its been 1 year – 9 months.

“I’ll tell ya there was an angel sitting on my shoulder that day.”

I just started riding alone and l love every minute of life!

I've never felt better. Had it not been for the MRI, I would of gone another year thinking the right breast was okay.


Deborah A. Harpe

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Nov 062006

“One of the earliest memories I have with my mother was leaving our home one dark and rainy night.  I remember staring down at my sister’s bare feet wondering why we were leaving with such urgency.  We walked five houses down to a neighbor’s house to use the phone.  I didn’t realize that my mother was phoning for help or that my father was hurting her physically.” – Excerpt from letter written by my daughter.

My story is about triumph and victory over extremely painful and debilitating domestic violence; physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. I divorced my ex-husband in 1988 after 11 years of abuse.  After the divorce, I focused on raising my daughters, alone, with no child support or family support. It took three jobs to make ends meet.

My daughters are now grown, 27 and 28 years old. I am the grandmother of three beautiful grandchildren. Despite the challenges, I am determined to succeed and reach my goals and dreams.  One of my goals was to earn a Master’s degree which I completed in 2005.  Furthermore, I am seeking a program, and plan to pursue a Ph.D. in the area of Leadership and Change.

Besides education, I have always had a passion for motorcycles.  My father raised my sister and me with a love and respect for motorcycles!  He was an avid and skilled rider.  At 50 years of age, I took the MSF course, received my license and “hit the road.”  I have never looked back. My current bike is a Honda Shadow 600. My dream bike, however, is a Harley!

In addition to my most recent challenge as caregiver for my 27-year old daughter living 4 years with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Dementia, I am developing a business plan for a corporation that will be female owned and operated. In my role as CEO, supported by my daughters in executive leadership roles, our mission is to help other women survive and triumph over abuse through economic empowerment.

Life is not always easy or fair; however, we must be strong, positive, and gather support from family and friends. We must be determined to
Lastly, as with all of us, I have faced many challenges in my life, some very painful, however, my faith, courage, confidence, sense of humor, family and friends, have kept me going. keep on keeping on! It has been my deep faith in God which has kept me strong throughout my life.

Wendy Harris

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Jun 032006

I was first Diagnosed with border line diebetes in Nov 04, so I went on a diet and lost 50 lbs to control the diabetes instead of taking insulin.

I was feeling great about myself, then I went for a my yearly mammogram in April. I was then diagnosed with breast cancer on April 27, 2005.

My husband and I could only look at each other and cry. I decided after taking a few deep breaths that I did not want to die young (52 at the time). So we decided to have the mastectomy, reduction and the tram-flap. That was done on Sept 2, 2005. After the surgery, of course you have to tolerate those horrible drains but mine left me with continuing seromas in my abdomen for several months.My first thought was “why me and why would God do this to me after I just got healthy?” Well breast cancer does not care what you are or who you are. I first went in for the lumpectomy in June 05. They also removed 3 nodes (1 was cancerous). After 6 weeks I went back to the surgeon thinking everything was fine and I could go back to work. Wrong!  We were told they found more cancer.

On Dec 2nd during my nipple reconstruction, they had to remove a huge seroma thru my stomach again. That led to more drains, which put me back to the hospital on Dec 14th with a very serious stomach infection under the drains. And so the story goes that I was finally able to return to work Jan 23rd, 2006. God Bless my husband! If it was not for his strength and his support, I really don’t think I would have come throug this. He was there for every drain that needed emptied, every tear that needed to be wiped away and every bandage that needed changed. He is truly a blessing in my life. The Avon Walk was an experience that I will never forget. Even though I did not walk the full 39 miles, I prayed that every step I took was that much closer to a cure!

My husband (GOD BLESS THIS MAN) while I was recovering, rebuilt my bike into A custom Breast Cancer bike. The Avon Fondation has agreed to let me ride in the Sunday opening ceremonies leading the pack of volunteer vans and trucks. It is pearl white,pink pin stripes and I have betty Boop on the back fender made up in jeans,pink t-shirt and a pink wrist band. She is saying you go girl! the tank is done up with a ribbon and the words ‘I survived breast cancer”

The Road Divas of Distinction, Motorcycle Assoc.

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Mar 012006

The Road Divas of Distinction, Motorcycle Assoc. was formed in January 1999. The association is the brainchild of our President-Frankie-AKA-Torch-Tomlinson, a women passionate about riding her Harley Davidson Springer Softail. A lady of sophistication, class, an extraordinary flair for fashion, with vision for herself and other lady motorcyclist. Frankie wanted women motorcyclist to be colorful, tasteful and dignified in motorcycle apparel. Looking back, Frankie took cues from the original Road Diva, the Honored Beside B.”Queen” Springfield, a daring pioneer motorcyclist. Dressing for style in 1928, in full makeup, regal apparel and a confidant air, she rode her Indian Scout motorcycle.

Torch - President

Torch - President

I am one of the founding members (Vice Pres.-Janett Tillery-AKA-Smooth)


We strive to keep and maintain high standards in our personal appearance, assisting women in the art of motorcycle riding, building a sisterhood with all women who have a passion to ride and supporting various charities. Meeting new people and making friends everywhere is a joy and a pleasure.

To receive the admiration and thumbs up as we are riding leaves us speechless. My greatest joy is watching a beginner get their license, after taking one of our motorcycle courses.

Duchess, Thunderkatt, Torch, Smooth


Duchess - Vice-President, Torch - President, Smooth - Sr. Vice-President