Beyoncé Honors Black Cowboys and Cowgirls

Black cowboys have been a significant part of the history of the Western Frontier in the United States, dating back to the early days of the cattle industry in Texas.

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Beyoncé's Honors Black Cowgirls & Cowboys
Beyoncé on a silver horse in a promotional image for her album “Renaissance.” (Mason Poole)

Beyoncé is using her platform and influence to celebrate the often-overlooked history and culture of Black cowboys, cowgirls, and ranchers in America. Through initiatives by her BeyGOOD philanthropic foundation, Beyoncé is providing support to Black equestrian programs across the country.

BeyGOOD Executive Director Ivy McGregor said the goal is to “amplify the beauty, strength, and storied contributions of Black Cowboys, Cowgirls, and Ranchers” whose “legacy has always been part of our shared, rich American history.” Too often, this significant piece of Black heritage has been erased or marginalized.

Beyoncé’s latest album “Renaissance,” elevates these themes by embracing and reclaiming the culturally diverse roots of country music. The blues, pioneered by Black artists in the 1860s, laid the foundation for what became country and country-western over time. Many Black guitarists, singers, and musicians like Lesley Riddle and Rufus “Tee Tot” Payne made invaluable contributions to shaping these genres alongside White artists.

With “Renaissance,” Beyoncé both honors this complex history and reimagines country music through a contemporary lens freed from confining genre boundaries. It’s a powerful statement recognizing how Black and Indigenous people’s influence has always been present, if often unacknowledged, in the artistic fabric of America.

The BeyGOOD Foundation’s Black equestrian initiative, along with Beyoncé’s Ivy Park Rodeo clothing line inspired by Black rodeo culture, represent a broader mission to erase demeaning stereotypes and uplift the generational artistry, athleticism, and self-expression found in Black communities. For too long, their integral role has been diminished or made invisible.

This intentional focus on the Black equestrian experience is poised to create more opportunities and representation for Black riders, ranchers, rodeo performers, and others working with horses. It’s an overdue celebration of the Blacks who have carried these traditions forward for centuries against marginalization.

Leading Black Equestrians

Black equestrian programs promote diversity in horse-related activities, aiming to honor Black equestrian history and culture while increasing representation.

Here are some notable individual Black equestrians and organizations:

Zoie Brogdon

At just 18 years old, Zoie Brogdon has already made a name for herself in the equestrian world. She started riding horses at the age of 9 and by 2021, had racked up numerous prestigious wins including the USHJA Zone 10 Individual Gold medal and Reserve Champion at the USHJA National Championships in the jumper divisions.

Brianna Noble

This 28-year-old trail rider founded the Urban Cowgirl Ranch in Oakland, California with the mission of exposing mainly People of Color from urban communities to horses and farming. In 2020, Noble gained global attention when photographed riding her Appaloosa horse “Dapper Dan” with “Black Lives Matter” written on its hip at a protest against police brutality. She has since started an equine program called Humble to further engage underprivileged youth.

Stephanie Kallstrom

As a Canadian show jumper and an Afro-Peruvian transracial adoptee, Kallstrom is helping bring racial diversity to the sport. She grew up around horses, riding her first pony at age 3 and leasing her first horse at just 10 years old. Kallstrom, who traces her heritage to Nigeria, has succeeded at local and national levels while working to promote inclusivity, including pursuing her judge’s credentials.

Kaitlyn Nicely-Harvey

With equestrianism in her blood, Nicely-Harvey was introduced to riding at age 8 by her grandmother Terry West, one of the first African American female jockeys. Following in West’s pioneering footsteps, Nicely-Harvey has collected prestigious wins like the 2019 Laura Pickett Award and 2018 MHSA Hunt Seat Medal while teaching out of Pickwick Stables in Maryland.

Jen Spencer

The Toronto-based creator of the Instagram account ‘Black Equestrians’, Spencer is using her platform to increase the visibility of Black riders and celebrate Black equestrian excellence. An accomplished equestrian herself who has won awards through competition, Spencer is uplifting the Black equestrian community globally.

Community organizations are also playing a vital role in promoting Black equestrian heritage. The Compton Cowboys nonprofit introduces urban Black and Brown youth to horses through their Compton Jr. Equestrians program. Also, the Black Girl Equestrians aims to make English riding more accessible by providing lessons, scholarships, and mentors for Black women and girls.

These individuals and groups are inspiring a new generation to embrace the rich legacy of Black cowboys, cowgirls, and ranchers integral to America’s Western history and culture.

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