Compton used to be filled with cowboys. See how one mom brought them back.

When you think of Compton, California, a few things come to mind.

You might think of rap legends N.W.A. and their three-time-platinum album "Straight Outta Compton" or the Los Angeles suburb's history of violent crime and gang wars in the 1990s.

But odds are, you don't think of cowboys. Until now.


Ivory McCloud and his friend Mike Jones ride along a path under power lines in Compton. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

Before Compton was anything, it was a cowboy town. And for many residents, it still is.

The city has undergone multiple transformations since its incorporation in 1888. It's been majority white and majority black, and now the population is majority Hispanic. But the horses have remained a constant.

"My dad was a cowboy. I'm a cowboy. I grew up in Compton. I live in Compton," horse trainer Ivory McCloud told the Associated Press.

McCloud and Jones ride down a street in Compton. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.  

Richland Farms, one of Compton's four neighborhoods, is zoned for agriculture and always has been. In fact, when Rev. Griffith D. Compton donated land to create the city in the 1880s, he specified that Richland Farms be used that way.

Today, the backyards in this semi-rural section of Compton are still large enough to keep horses and other livestock.

"In our neighborhood, there's about 400 homes, a couple hundred horses, and some goats and cows and chickens," Richland Farms resident Mayisha Akbar told the Associated Press.

Akbar moved her family to Compton more than 30 years ago, namely so her kids would have room to ride horses.

She grew up taking care of animals in Harbor City, another semi-rural town about 10 minutes south of Compton. As an adult, she was raising her family in Torrance, California, and working as a real estate agent when she came across Richland Farms and never looked back.

"I was looking for property for an investor and came to Compton ... and thought it would be a wonderful place to raise my own kids, so we moved over," she said. "But then [I] realized that the community was much different from where we had come from."

Mayisha Akbar greets a horse at the Compton Jr. Posse facility. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

Just as her family arrived, Compton took a turn for the worse. Gang and drug violence reached its peak. Parents and grandparents in her community were desperate to offer their kids safety and support. Akbar invited many of the children over to her house and started teaching them about horses to keep them busy and out of trouble.

As word spread about the project, many suggested Akbar officially form a nonprofit so she could accept donations to keep the good going. In 1988, the Compton Jr. Posse was born.

For nearly 30 years, the Compton Jr. Posse has served this diverse community.

Through the organization's year-round programs, kids learn about riding, equine science, nature, and the outdoors. They even get involved in community service. The programs are available on a sliding scale, and Compton Jr. Posse has served thousands of kids in its 28-year history. This summer alone, more than 300 kids attended sessions!

Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

The young riders groom and care for the horses.

Adrina Player, 9, places a lead on a horse. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

They clean out and manage the stalls.

Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

They prepare their minds and bodies for the work ahead.

Kids exercise prior to riding horses at the Compton Jr. Posse Youth Equestrian Program. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

And get to work learning the ins and outs of this challenging, competitive sport.

Photo courtesy of Compton Jr. Posse/Facebook.

There are also opportunities for students to participate in competitions and put their science knowledge and new skills to use for their community and country.

Compton Jr. Posse participants have advocated for equal access to the outdoors in Sacramento and represented the U.S. at the World Ranger Congress in Arusha, Tanzania and the International Conference of Outdoor Interpretation in South Korea. Jr. Posse riders have competed in countless regional and national competitions.

"Part of what happens when you are in a program like this, especially competing in horse shows, is that it takes you into communities that don't look like your own community," Akbar said. "So the people that we engage and develop relationships with are people that can help them with their future careers and help them go to college."

Nathan Allan Williams Bonner riding Cuba in a competition. Photo courtesy of Compton Jr. Posse/Facebook.

That's right, Compton Jr. Posse continues to support students after graduation.

22 CJP alumni are enrolled in college this semester. Each semester they stay in school, they're eligible to earn a scholarship from the organization. Many also return to Compton Jr. Posse during summer breaks to teach the next generation of riders.

"We encourage them to come back and pay it forward," Akbar said. "Last summer we hired 26 of our alumni students to come back and work our school camps."

Photo courtesy of Compton Jr. Posse/Facebook.

The cowboys (and cowgirls) of Compton are remarkable young people carrying on the tradition of their city's deep agricultural roots.

The lessons they learn and skills they build with the Compton Jr. Posse (like patience, persistence, confidence, and trust) will carry them to bold, bright futures. Possibly on horseback.

"They're just kids," Akbar said. "They want to belong. They want better for themselves and their families. Our program has opened their eyes to possibilities."

Photo courtesy of Compton Jr. Posse/Facebook.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


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