On Las Amigos Ranch in Phoenix, Ariz., ranch hand Ramontay McConnell knows exactly where his heart lies.
“She honestly is my first love. I have to say so,” McConnell said about his beloved white horse, April. “I’ve had her since she was born. She’s always been a sweet girl.”
McConnell has been “cowboying” since he was a kid growing up in Kansas City, Mo. He came to Arizona with the plan of playing college football, but life on the ranch pulled him in. He quit football to focus more on rodeo.
Riding alongside McConnell is Ricky MaGee, who grew up in the South. He fell in love with horses at a young age and started “cowboying” 15 years ago.
“You grab everyone’s attention because it’s definitely not something that anyone expects. Where I come from, there’s not a lot of black cowboys that you meet,” said MaGee.
He faced discrimination as a black cowboy but nevertheless persisted to live the cowboy life he loves.
Both McConnell and MaGee come from different parts of the country for different reasons to Arizona. These two black cowboys are keeping African American cowboy culture alive with help from the Arizona Black Rodeo.
Every year, AZ Black Rodeo showcases local and national African American rodeo competitors with roping and riding skills. The rodeo brings in thousands of fans every year to celebrate Arizona Black Cowboy culture.
“All eyes are on the white cowboys but I’m here to let them know black cowboys are here and we are all across the world,” said McConnell.
The term “cowboy” in America is traced back to the history of the black cowboy.
“The term ‘cowboy’ came from the blacks. They brought them from Mississippi into Texas and they had to ride the bucking horses and tame them,” said Chaz Jackson, President and Founder of Buffalo Soldiers Chapter of America. “And they would say ‘Go get that cow, boy.'”
The Buffalo Soldiers were the name given to African American cavalry regiments in the late 1800s.
“The Buffalo Soldiers were cowboys. First of all, they could ride. They could shoot. They had to hunt for their own food. They were chasing white outlaws,” Jackson said.
The Arizona Black Rodeo returns on Saturday, March 10, at Rawhide in Chandler.