It’s what Fort Worth is all about: culture, history and opportunity at Cowboys of Color

Bob Booth/Bob Booth
·2 min read

The corrugated metal stands at Dickies Arena vibrated to the beat of Ginuwine’s “Riding My Pony” as the notes from Armond Vance’s fiddle pierced the air.

His music blends genres of Hip Hop, R&B and classical to create his own unique sound. He added country to that mix at Monday’s Cowboy’s of Color rodeo at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

Cowboy culture wasn’t something Vance was familiar with growing up in Ohio. Nor was he aware of this history of Black cowboys like how one in four Cowboys in the Old West was Black.

The Cowboys of Color Rodeo highlights Black, Hispanic and Native American contributions to cowboy culture. The event was founded 30 years ago by cowboys Cleo Hearn and Jim Austin, who also co-founded the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum.

It features all the usual rodeo events from bronc riding to mutton busting, but Austin said its importance lies in its ability to showcase the richness of cowboy culture in the Black, Hispanic and Native American communities.

Steer wrestling was introduced to the rodeo by legendary Black Cowboy Bill Pickett. There’s a statue of him wrestling a steer to the ground in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

“We were here, but Hollywood stole our history,” Austin said. He added that events like Cowboys of Color get kids interested in the history of Black Cowboys.

Rodeo competitor Cedrick Offord said it’s a dream to compete at the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. He said the Cowboys of Color rodeo is exposing more people to the history of Black cowboys, and showing children not familiar with the sport that rodeo has a place for them too.

Vance said the Cowboys of Color Rodeo is a reflection of what Fort Worth is all about. The fusion of different cultures, peoples and backgrounds are all part of what make Fort Worth special, he said.