First Black Rodeo Comes to Mississippi - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 07/05/03

First Black Rodeo Comes to Mississippi

By Joanna Gaitanoglou

The crowd went "buck wild" Saturday night at the Mississippi Coliseum for the first annual Mississippi Black Rodeo. Many cowboys took on the dangerous sport of bull and buck riding. Rodeo organizers showed the crowd that the American cowboy comes in all colors.

Cowboy Steven Gabriel is holding on for dear life as he rides bare back on a wild horse. Gabriel says he's had his share of injuries.

"I done had a broken leg, couple cracked ribs, and lost a tooth," said Gabriel.

Despite the close calls, Gabriel keeps coming back for more.

"I don't think about it," said Gabriel. "I just try to get the job done and thank the Lord he let me go again."

Many cowboys learn at an early age how to handle a horse. Nine-year-old J'Derius Trigg of Brandon captured second place in the best youth rider competition. What does he think about horses?

"Kind of cool to me," said Trigg, with his cowboy accent.

About 80% of the competitors at this event are black. Mississippi's first black rodeo is showing the public that cowboys come in a variety of colors.

"I was a full-grown young man when I went to my first black rodeo," said rodeo producer Frank "Penny" Edwards. "I did not know there were black cowboys."

Edward, founder of the Texas-based Real Cowboy Association, says he and Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson wanted to bring a black rodeo to Jackson to show others how dynamic the cowboy culture can be.

"Black cowboys have always been around. We have Hispanic cowboys here. We got Asian cowboys here. We've got cowboys of all colors here," said Edwards. "It's one of the wonderful things in America that's going on."

Edwards hopes this rodeo becomes just as big as the Dixie National Rodeo.

"I think that it's been a learning process for everybody, and everybody is excited about it," said Edwards.

Saturday night's crowd almost filled the Mississippi Coliseum to capacity. The cowboys hope to round up more enthusiasts for next year.

The Real Cowboy Association produced the rodeo. It was sponsored by the Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors.

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