New York Daily Photo Analytics

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Black Cowboys

If you are looking to visit the Federation of Black Cowboys in Howard Beach, Queens, be prepared for some circuitous circumnavigation. Even neighbors showed initial moments of puzzlement when I asked for precise final directions. The street address of 83-11 Conduit Avenue will not help you at all, since the facility is on Cedar Lane, with one entrance on Linden Boulevard.

I was quite elated when I finally found the entrance signs; I knew this would not be a typical Sunday afternoon in New York City. And it wasn't. I was greeted by a handful of men in cowboy gear. Geese were wandering the property and a horse was being shod, while others were busy with various stable duties.

The Federation of Black Cowboys currently has 34 members and over 40 horses, stabled on 24 acres, leased from the city since 1998. The ranch, Cedar Lane Stables, was part of a larger property, a vegetable farm owned by Herman and John Brockman. From the NYC parks website:

The Federation of Black Cowboys was formed in 1994 when a group of diverse men came together out of their common love of horses and their desire to share the forgotten legacy of the Black West. African Americans played an immeasurable, yet often forgotten, role in the settling of the American frontier. Many African Americans made the journey west after escaping slavery, while others moved westward in wagon trains after emancipation.

Many more moved during the exodus of 1879, when many African Americans, convinced that the end of Reconstruction meant the end of their chances for a successful life in the South, relocated to states such as Texas and Oklahoma. By the closing of the American frontier in 1890, there were 500,000 African Americans living in these two states alone. Many of these frontier settlers found employment as cowboys, a position essential to the economies of many western states.

The non-profit organization, headed by Edward J. Dixon, has a primary goal to expose black children to the art of Western horsemanship, the skills required to properly care for a horse, and the historical role of the black cowboy in the old West. See their website here. This is done through regular instructional programs, work release programs, prison visitations, parades, lectures, block parties, rodeos, and showdeos :)

Note: I have a relationship with this world beyond photographs and a story. If you are curious about my friends in common, go here and here. My business activities are revealed here and here.


Beth in NYC said...

Great post! I've heard about these guys and have seen a couple of TV segments about them and they're doing a great thing. I'm glad you were able to find the place and pass on the info - I'll need to head over there someday soon.

Anonymous said...

Good job on this, Brian. I bet a rodeo or a showdeo would be a lot of fun.

Mary said...

Anonymous in this case is Mary. I accidentally stored it before I got my name typed.

Thérèse said...

Really unexpected of course for New York City!
These initiatives are great.

Anonymous said...

I have become intrigued with the history of the Black Cowboy. So much so, that I will be taking my grandsons to The Bill Pickett Rodeo in Sept. 2011. Please continue to educate us.