DENVER (CBS4) — The National Western Stock Show was seen marching down Colfax Avenue Monday morning, but its celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life ended across town. Black cowboys and cowgirls filled the Denver Coliseum for the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo — a tribute to African American history in the West.
“I hear black people say ‘We see this stuff on TV, but we never see anyone who looks like us,’” said Brian White, “So, we’re bringing this stuff to you!”
Before White became co-general manager of the Bill Pickett Rodeo, the Oklahoma native was a bull fighter for 24 years. He can’t remember a time before he dreamed of the Rodeo.
“When you’re the minority cowboy, people kind of look at you like… you’re out of place. I can’t think of a day when I was not in love with horses and being a cowboy,” said White.
That piece of Western tradition has always been a part of who White is, but it’s a history he says many African-Americans don’t realize belongs to them, too.
“The black cowboys weren’t always put in the movies. If they were, they were cooks or had menial tasks to do. But they were ranchers, cattlemen, explorers, trappers, miners. That history didn’t always get told,” said White.
He says the Rodeo allows him to educate young, black cowboys and cowgirls on their contributions to the west, all while showing them they can be part of the Stock Show.
“Everyone involved in rodeo needs to make sure they’re helping cultivate a new generation of cowboys. Pretty soon, people will stop worrying about you being a black cowboy. You’re just a cowboy,” said White.