(The Washington Post) – The image of the American cowboy throughout movies and television is largely that of a tall, middle-aged white male with a gruff exterior, most likely hailing from Texas. The cowboys of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo contradict all of the above, as they represent black men (and young boys and girls) from all parts of the country–including the South Side of Chicago, Los Angeles, the East Coast and parts of the Midwest. They ride for a largely forgotten legacy.
They come tattooed, pierced, with and without southern drawls. They are pastors and police officers and businesspeople, belying stereotypes of what a traditional cowboy looks, acts, and sounds like.
Lu Vason, the creator of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, himself was a jovial man from Berkeley, Calif. without the traditional waistline or background of a cowboy. He worked as a barber before starting a life in the rodeo. Honoring the unflinching Bill Pickett, who was the first black cowboy movie star and the originator of “bulldogging” technique in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Vason picked up the proverbial reins and created a space for a different kind of cowboy legacy. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was created in 1984. Vason died in May, after years battling heart disease.