The Cowgirls of Color put a fresh spin on America's long history of black cowboys.

The Cowgirls of Color are the real deal.

This isn't some kind of novelty act; these black women are ropin', ridin' athletes, competing in the Bill Pickett Rodeo, the nation's only touring black rodeo competition.

The team consists of four Washington, D.C.-based women: Kisha "KB" Bowles, Selina "Pennie" Brown, Sandra "Pinky" Dorsey, and Brittaney Logan.


Photo by M. Holden Warren, used with permission.

Pennie Brown, 44, started horseback riding less than two years ago.

She was introduced to a few black cowboys that a mutual friend knew through Washington, D.C.'s go-go music scene. Yeah, seriously.

After years of friendship, one of the cowboys reached out to Brown and asked her to join an all-female rodeo team he was putting together. Brown had zero experience on horseback, let alone with a rodeo. But she was athletic and down to give it a try.

"I had no idea of anything equestrian related. I had no fear. No knowledge of how horses hurt people, I was just clueless," Brown says with a laugh. "I didn't get a chance to see a lot of the things that a lot of people say create fear for them. It just made it super easy."

While other members of the team had  more experience riding and competing in equestrian competitions, Dorsey was the only one with rodeo experience. Luckily, revered horseman Ray Charles Lockamy agreed to train them and get the Cowgirls of Color working as a unit. The small team competes in the relay, an event featuring fast laps around the ring and baton passing, similar to the 4x100 in track. It's about speed, it's about accuracy, and after watching men dominate the event for years, it's about time.

Brown competes in the barrel relay. Photo by M. Holden Warren, used with permission.

While the Cowgirls of Color may be newer faces on the rodeo scene, they join a long line of black cowboys.

The original cowboys of the American West weren't all Clint Eastwood dopplegängers.

Black riders tamed wild or rowdy horses that hadn't been ridden. There are stories of other black cowboys working as chuck wagon cooks, feeding riders on the trail. The Buffalo Soldiers, the all-black Army units formed in 1866, carried on this tradition, capturing livestock thieves, protecting settlers heading west, building infrastructure, and participating in domestic military campaigns with Native Americans.

Even one of pop culture's most famous cowboys, The Lone Ranger, may have been inspired by Bass Reeves, a black deputy U.S. marshal.

A portrait of Bass Reeves. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

While black cowboys were common, black rodeos were created out of necessity.

Early rodeo events were segregated, and life for black rodeo performers was a challenge.

"There would be separate rodeos for blacks and whites," Vincent Jacobs, an 80-year-old former rodeo performer told the BBC in 2013. "It was hard, real hard — they would only let me perform after all the white people had been led out of the arena."

While the professional rodeos were never "officially" segregated, many of the venues enforced Jim Crow laws. Even decades later, the sport is still slow to inclusivity.

Left, a calf nears the end of a rope during the Black Cowboys Association benefit rodeo in 1984. Right, members of the Black Cowboy Association kick back at the same event. Photos by Todd James/Associated Press.

"Rodeo has been slow, I would argue, in just feeling like a welcoming place to some of the rodeo participants," Tracey Owens Patton, a black rodeo expert from the University of Wyoming told Georgia Public Broadcasting.

So black rodeos began, and so they remain. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, often touted as "the greatest show on dirt," is in its 32nd season. It's named for Pickett, a legendary cowboy who traveled the country performing ranch-hand stunts in the early 1900s.

Image via Library of Congress.

Today, the rodeo delivers black western history and fast-paced entertainment by black rodeo performers to audiences across the country.

Programs and organizations like the Cowboys of Color Rodeo and the Atlanta Black Rodeo Association have kept the sport alive and audiences on the edge of their seats since 1971 and 1991 respectively.

Steven Gabriel was among 350 cowboys from Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas who competed for prize money at the National Black Rodeo Finals in 2004. Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images.

Since their formation two years ago, the Cowgirls of Color have competed in a handful of competitions and hope to be there when the Bill Pickett Rodeo returns to Washington, D.C., in September.

In many ways, their mere presence is an achievement and vital act of resistance.

"I love [riding with the Cowgirls of Color], especially when you have people who are totally shocked that black people, let alone women, ride horses and compete in rodeos," team member Brittaney Logan, 29, says. "I've learned so much under Ray's leadership, and I only hope to get better and continue competing."

A cowgirl (unaffiliated with Cowgirls of Color) goes for a ride. A Photo by M. Holden Warren, used with permission.

They're another page in the long and storied history of black riders. While the number of women continues to grow, it's still a male-dominated sport.

A cowgirl (unaffiliated with Cowgirls of Color) competes in ladies steer undecorating, the women's version of steer wrestling. Photo by M. Holden Warren, used with permission.

They're a group of professional black women, pushing back on stereotypes and competing in a sport few are brave enough to try.

"Riding is not just about getting on a horse and going," Dorsey says. "You have to become one [with your horse] and know everyday you will learn something new about riding and about yourself. It's not something to take lightly."

Dorsey, Brown, and Bowles soothe their horses before a competition. Photo by M. Holden Warren, used with permission.

Their grit, enthusiasm, and athleticism are inspiring a new generation of kids to dream big and work hard, even when the odds are stacked against them.

Young competitors look on. Photo by M. Holden Warren, used with permission.

"It's just amazing to be amongst a whole 'nother world of black people," Brown says. "If you can just imagine how many people you currently know in your life, and then you're introduced to this cowboy community, it's like a whole 'nother world. For me, that in and of itself is just amazing."

So win or lose, the Cowgirls of Color have achieved something great.  

See these impressive women in action in this short video.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

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The story of Patricia and Leslie "LD" McWaters dying together might have both of those elements, but it is also tragic because they died of a preventable disease in a pandemic that hasn't been handled well. The Michigan couple, who had been married for 47 years, both died of COVID-19 complications on November 24th. Since they died less than a minute apart, their deaths were recorded with the exact same time—4:23pm.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

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Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

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via Elliot Page / Instagram

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