Locals Keeping Alive Black Cowboy History, Lifestyle
SACRAMENTO OBSERVER — The Loyalty Riderz club is preserving the lifestyle in a way that honors the past and, with a tip of a cowboy hat, gives a nod to the future. The word “cowboy” originally was a derogatory term, club President Gregory Bradley, Sr. points out, coined back when whites commonly called Black men as “boys” regardless of their age.
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
The Black cowboy legacy won’t ride off quietly into the sunset if a local group of horse enthusiasts has anything to say about it.
The Loyalty Riderz club is preserving the lifestyle in a way that honors the past and, with a tip of a cowboy hat, gives a nod to the future.
The word “cowboy” originally was a derogatory term, club President Gregory Bradley, Sr. points out, coined back when whites commonly called Black men as “boys” regardless of their age.
“We invented the cowboy and Black people got so good at it, then whites, they wanted to be cowboys now. They tried to steal our history.”
Bradley founded Loyalty Riderz in 2019 alongside his wife Phyllis Bradley and three other couples – Dan and Rhonda Doris, Lela Randolph-Lacy and Roy Lacy and Fred and Zena Perres.
“We wanted to initiate a cowboy and RV group that stood for something other than just hanging out and wearing matching outfits,” said Randolph-Lacy, who still participates with her husband despite having moved to Texas.
“We make it our business to be loyal. That’s what being Loyalty Riderz is all about. No matter how far, we are there for each other.”
The name is an acronym for principles that guide group members’ action and interaction: L – loyalty riders; O – open heart to serve; Y – yeehaw first; A – always supporting; L – love, laughter and learning; T – trustworthy; Y – you matter; R – road without limits; I – in it to win it; D – doing us till we’re satisfied; E – excellence; R – ride horses and RV’s; Z – zest for the cowboy life.
“We wanted to represent the cowboy lifestyle, which is fading, and to have family and friends that we could be loyal to and trust to enjoy events, campouts, etc. We wanted to be a part of a group that would also strongly support the community and extend to children the cowboy and RV experience,” Randolph-Lacy said.
The group meets monthly and sponsors rodeos and riders in events in the Bay Area and Southern California.
“We go to as many rodeos as we can. We take our motorhomes and we have our horses behind us in trailers,” Bradley said.
There’s a big campout in August in Valley Springs that they invite people to. The group also attracts attention, and potential members, through its website and social media.
Local duala Kairis Joy Chiaji said a video she saw on Facebook grabbed her attention.
“I saw Greg and some of the other guys, they were out trying to round up some cattle,” Chiaji said. “I saw that and said, ‘I want that. How can I be down?’ I reached out to Greg and he was like, ‘Well, first, we got to meet you and see your horse.’”
Chiaji was ultimately voted in.
“There’s two sides of Loyalty Riderz,” she said. “There’s the social club, which is the trail rides, the barbecues, the dances and just Black folks having a good time being ourselves. Then there’s also the community engagement side. When there’s a community event, we will show up in our colors. When the event calls for it, and we’re able to, we can get there with some horses, and have kids come out and meet horses and learn about them.”
Horse ownership isn’t a requirement for membership.
“We are RV owners,” Randolph-Lacy said. “So most of what we do is travel and camp out, and support rodeo and cowboy functions, which is so delightful.”
“A lot of people don’t have horses,” Bradley added. “Some people ain’t never going to get on a horse, aren’t going to own a horse and are scared to death of horses. But they know their roots are from that and they just like the lifestyle and hanging out with real people.”
Bradley was born in Marlin, Texas, where his family still owns 500 acres.
“We all come from a little town in Texas, but I’m the only one who is keeping our history together,” he said.
Black cowboys played a key role in American expansion into the West, but their story is often downplayed or untold.
“They needed these guys, these cowboys, to maintain the ranches and maintain their plots,” Chiaji said. “Especially when folks started moving north and beef cost a whole lot more in the north because it was hard to get folks that were skilled, but also expendable, to drive cattle cross country. Cowboys were in high demand and after emancipation; of course, they had to be paid.
“Being valuable to society at that level and having some income, they had more freedom than a lot of Black people did at that time. Even if there was still heavy discrimination. People were able to have their own properties, their own animals, their own things and those skills stayed and our people have always had an attachment to equestrian activities. But when you’re not really accepted in the mainstream, you’ve got to create your own.”
Today, the Bill Pickett Rodeo, named after the pioneering Black bulldogger, carries on the legacy and showcases Black cowboys. As does the Black Cowboy Parade in Oakland.
“If you’re not given a place at the table, you build your own table,” Chiaji said.
Loyalty Riderz will be setting up tables, literally, on Saturday, May 20, as they host their annual dinner and dance. The sold-out event is a fundraiser for the group’s youth programs.
Such programs are an aspect close to Dan Doris’ heart. After a spinal injury, he doesn’t ride anymore. While he can’t physically live up to the group’s motto of “Stay in the saddle,” he’s helping the next generation to do so.
“My biggest thing now is to try to take the inner-city kid and introduce them to the western lifestyle,” Doris said.
The community has been pretty receptive, said the former high school and community football coach and official.
“I was actually considered one of the best officials in Northern California before my accident,” Doris said. “A lot of kids still know me as ‘Coach Dan’ and a lot of those kids now have kids. They tend to listen when I talk to them. They tend to trust me because I’ve never disappointed them.”
He has helped support a few young people who now compete in rodeos. One young man was awarded a rodeo scholarship to Texas A&M and turned professional earlier this year. Doris points to Blacks who are leaders in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Professional Bull Riders events.
“We’re all over,” he said.
Blacks’ historical contributions, he added, should not be forgotten or erased. Doris also thinks tearing down statues of white people from those eras is a bad idea.
“Our grandkids aren’t gonna know about what happened to him,” he said. I don’t think we should tear down a reminder. Let America know what you did. When you tear them down our great-grandkids will not know what [people] did. My dad, he always says the best part of the story is the part they don’t tell you.”
For more information, visit loyaltyriderz.org.
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