Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Compton Cowboys ~ By: Andrea Downing

 By Andrea Downing


If you lived during the time of the Watts Riots in the 1960s, or if you knew about the 1992 L.A. Riots, or you happen to live in L.A., you may know Compton as a rather rough area where gang violence rules and drugs are easy to find.  But out of that, a woman by the name of Mayisha Akbar started a group called the Compton Junior Posse, and from that in turn, another group was born—The Compton Cowboys.  While the Junior Posse has now been succeeded by the Compton Junior Equestrians, both groups have the same aim—to give children and young people something meaningful with which to b I e occupied and to keep them off the streets, away from crime.  The Compton Cowboy’s motto is “Streets raised us, Horses saved us.”

The collective’s ambition is to show their community a different lifestyle, one that revolves around farming and ranching —Compton has a semi-rural area known as Richland Farms. The youngsters who joined the Junior Posse did not only ride but had work to do—caring for the horses, keeping the stables clean and tack in good condition. Yet at the same time, these groups were letting other African American kids know that despite the written westerns, TV programs, and movies depicting almost always white cowboys (Morgan Freeman in The Unforgiven comes to mind as a rare exception), it didn’t have to be that way, and wasn’t in the past. In fact, after the Civil War, it is estimated that about a quarter to one-third of cowboys were freed men.

Today, the Compton Cowboys have made inroads into many fields. A few are in equine sports doing rodeo and bull-riding and so on. In that area, they are obviously at a disadvantage riding rescued horses for the most part, often against well-trained steeds that might have cost as much as 50K. Their gear isn’t up to par, either. Other members are in entertainment, music, fashion, and food, while the group itself has appeared in ads for products as diverse as Adidas, Boot Barn, Guinness, and Ariat. You can see these ads on YouTube. The ads obviously help fund the running costs of the group, who also rely on donations and grants. They take part in parades, and in the recent past have been riding in the marches for Black Lives Matter and George Floyd.

For a detailed story and fuller picture of the Compton Cowboys, read The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America's Urban Heartland by journalist Walter Thompson-Hernandez. To donate, go to          

For photos, go to




Patti Sherry-Crews said...

I love this so much! Someone sent me a video of them riding in during the protests and that was the first I heard of this. Thank you for including links to their Instagram account. I enjoyed see the pictures. Very impressive! And also thanks for link of where to donate.

Andrea Downing said...

Hi Patti, so glad you liked this. I was a bit sad that I couldn't get any public domain photos; I did write to their publicist but never received a reply. Still, it's good for people to know about them if they hadn't seen them before.