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.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Officer Stagg meeting Sherry Smith on WISH-TV.

Indianapolis Police Officer Jeff Stagg selflessly maintained the roadside memorial of Shelby Smith, who had been killed by a drunk driver. He picked up trash and placed little plastic flowers, figurines and rocks around it to keep it presentable. Though Shelby died nearly 22 years ago, Officer Stagg didn't want her to be forgotten. And now, his act of kindness won't be forgotten either.

Passerby Kaleb Hall (@kalebhall00 on TikTok) noticed the officer cleaning up the site and asked him what he was doing here. Kaleb had already thought the behavior a little uncharacteristic, "a cop cleaning up trash in the hood," so he went over to inquire.

After explaining that Shelby's memorial was in his patrol area and that he guessed her family had moved away, Officer Stagg told Kaleb, "no one's keeping it up anymore, so I just wanna make sure it stays kept up."

Stagg had noticed the memorial had become surrounded by overgrown grass, weeds and trash. After driving past it every day, Officer Stagg thought enough was enough.


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."