Cowgirls Of Color: This All Black Women Rodeo Team Are Looking To Change The Game

Cowgirls Of Color
Pinky, Pennie (in background) and KB calm their horses before riding in the grand entry. Photograph: M Holden Warren

In a field dominated by white men, four black women are inching their way towards competing with the best.  Selina “Pennie” Brown, Sandra “Pinky” Dorsey, Kisha “KB” Bowles and Brittaney Logan make up The Cowgirls of Color, an all black rodeo team.  They’ve been around for two years, competing in African American competitions with hopes of transitioning into mainstream contests.

Cowgirls of Color
KB works to control Yankee Girl during the barrel relay Photograph: M Holden Warren
Cowgirls of Color
Only one member of the Cowgirls of Color competed in rodeo events as a teenager. “I was the only black person there,” she says. Photograph: M Holden Warren

 

The Guardian recently profiled them on their amazing journey thus far:

When they first started riding as a team just two years ago, “we were terrible!” says KB. “But I wanted to master it. I wanted to compete on a larger scale where I [could] make money.”

Selina “Pennie” Brown, Sandra “Pinky” Dorsey, Kisha “KB” Bowles and Brittaney Logan met through a veteran horseman, Dr Ray Charles Lockamy, at a riding event in Maryland. Despite being relatively new to the sport, they decided to form a women’s team to compete in the Bill Pickett rodeo, with Lockamy as their coach. Only Pinky had competed in rodeo events as a teenager. “I was the only black person there,” she says.

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Sandra ‘Pinky’ Dorsey and Sandman after the evening show Photograph: M Holden Warren
Cowgirls of Color
Kisha ‘KB’ Bowles untacks after the evening show Photograph: M Holden Warren
Cowgirls of Color
‘In my community, so many people don’t believe that women ride. Not just women, but black women.’ Photograph: M Holden Warren

 

Like most equestrian sports, rodeo has always been mostly white. Black cowboys competed in rodeos from the 1940s, but tales of corrupt scoring and judges literally turning their backs on black contestants proliferated for decades thereafter, stalling the growth of the sport among black riders. Black cowboys who entered rodeos “would be discriminated against in ways that were supposed to be subtle”, says Carolyn Carter, the general manager of the Bill Pickett rodeo. In 1968, the legendary bull rider Myrtis Dightman was advised to “turn white” if he wanted to claim the top prizes.

Since then, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) hall of famer Fred Whitfield has won multiple world titles and become the first African American all-around champion, amassing millions in prize money, while Bill Pickett’s six-city tour has become a mainstay on the rodeo scene, a feeder for black riders into traditional events where almost all the contestants are still white.

Cowgirls of Color
KB, Brittaney, and Pennie pack up their trailers on the morning of the Bill Pickett invitational rodeo Photograph: M Holden Warren
Cowgirls of Color
The Bill Picket rodeo is the country’s only African American rodeo Photograph: M Holden Warren

Though a few pro cowgirls, including Kanesha Jackson, are inching closer to that milestone, there is still a perception problem outside the rodeo community, says Pennie, 44. She runs a not-for-profit youth organization in Washington DC that’s become increasingly focused on educating children about horses. “In my community, so many people don’t believe that women ride. Not just women, but black women.”

Read The Guardian’s full article on these amazingly #BeyondClassicallyBeautiful women!

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