Save The Date … Oct 27, 2012 Cowboys of Color National Finals Rodeo

Join us for our Cowboys of Color National Finals Rodeo at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, October 27, 2012 at Mesquite Rodeo just 15 minutes east of downtown, Dallas, Texas. Cowboys of Color Rodeos is the largest multicultural rodeo tour in the United States.  These rodeos offer individuals of all cultures an opportunity to compete and win cash prizes for competing in their favorite sport.  These rodeos are held indoors in air-conditioned comfort in large arenas giving many up and coming competitors a chance to see what it feels like to experience a professionally produced rodeo.  Many of the rodeo heroes of today Fred Whitfield, Bud Ford, Wendell Hearn, Danell Tipton and Corey Solomon to name a few … came up through the Cowboys of Color Rodeo program.  Cowboys of Color Rodeos are produced by Living Legend, Cleo Hearn, a professional cowboy since 1959, and his family.  The Cowboys of Color Rodeo theme is “Let us educate you while we entertain you … let us tell you the wonderful things that Indians, Hispanics and Blacks did for the settling of the American West that many history books left out,” said Cleo Hearn.  The Cowboys of Color Rodeo Tour runs from January through October each year.

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AFRICAN AMERICAN WESTERN LEGENDS: YESTERDAY Henrietta Foster Williams – Aunt Rittie (1822-1926)

Women in general, and especially minority women were often forgotten or left out of the history textbooks. Although rarely acknowledged in the past 100 years, in recent times, more and more stories of daring and successful women are seeing the light.

In the American West, loneliness was the primary challenge as many women were left alone on ranches or farms to cope with whatever came along while their fathers, husbands and sons were off herding cattle, riding fence or serving in the military.

Over the next month, I will be sharing a few excerpts of “She-roes” both past and present from stories highlighted in the new book “Western Legends: Yesterday and Today…African Americans 1798 to 2009,” I hope you enjoy them and want to learn more about these dynamic women.

Henrietta “Aunt Rittie” Foster Williams was born in Mississippi and brought as a slave to the Mexico territory along with her sisters. Texas Coastal Bend ranches were peopled by a unique cultural blend of Europeans, Irish, Africans and Mexicans.  Although sold as a slave to a ranch west of Victoria, she was a rare ranch person in her time, a woman who worked cattle with men. She went out to the cow camps riding sidesaddle and bareback on her white horse.

Aunt Rittie never received any formal education but she was smart and gained skill with herbal remedies as a midwife and taught others the skill. Although small in stature she never backed down from a challenge. During a time in history when few women owned property, she bought land in Refugio, Texas for twenty-five dollars by paying it out a quarter a week.

Henrietta Foster Williams is only one of the fearless African American women of history and today who created her own destiny during difficult times. February is a great time to learn more but March is also Women’s History Month so there is plenty of time to find out about these incredible women.

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In the vast lands west of the Mississippi River during the 1800’s, individuals and groups traveled the plains, conquered the mountains, built large ranches and forged towns in beautiful and desolate places. As the American West grew and evolved people from various walks of life continued to make their mark on the collective history of all Americans.

The following is an expert from the book “Western Legends: Yesterday and Today…African Americans 1798 to 2009,” I hope you enjoy it and want to learn more.

Herb Jeffries entertainer, first Black Singing Cowboy movie star, Lead Singer of the Duke Ellington Band, television actor, songwriter and author hardly sums up the life and times of this legendary renaissance man. Born in a Detroit ghetto to an Irish mother and a Sicilian father, Herb Jeffries is not African-American at all. After his father died in WWI, Jeffries’ mother married an Ethiopian jazz enthusiast. He was heavily influenced by his stepfather’s passion for music, and Jeffries knew that his 4 1/2 octave range would be his ticket to future success.

At 19, he auditioned for a club owner to play in an all-black jazz band in a Detroit night club. When the man questioned Jeffries’ racial make-up, he spontaneously capitalized on his dark Italian features and claimed he was “Creole.” It was a split second decision that would affect the rest of his life.  Later discovered by Louis Armstrong he began playing with a series of Big Bands and that eventually led to his movie hero status, Duke Ellington years, opening his own Jazz Club in France then returning to America to continue entertaining on stage and television.

If you want to find out more about Herb Jeffries and other successful African American individuals check out this book on Western history. The 31 individuals highlighted there attest to the fact that courage, determination and a dream can carry you to a new place. Remember whenever possible give the gift of literacy.

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YESTERDAY: Blacks and Spaniards Settle in Texas (1528)

There is no story of exploration more exciting than that of shipwrecked survivors of the Narvaez Expedition: Cabeza de Vaca, Castillo and Dorantes, and a slave Estavanico. A Moor, Estavanico was the first black (known by name) to set foot on what became Texas soil. Washed ashore near Galvaston Island in 1528, these four wandered inland and were capture by Indians. Estavanico’s gift for  languages and natural remedies allowed him to communicate and heal the afflicted. His influence grew and eventually the four adventurers were freed and able to leave the tribe.  The first Europeans to cross the American Southwest, it was eight hard years before Spanish soldiers found them near the Pacific coast of Mexico in 1539. They were escorted to the viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, in Mexico City, where they recounted Indian tales about seven cities of gold. The three Spaniards returned to Spain to tell of their adventures but Estavanico was sold to Mendoza and remained in Mexico City. Later Mendoza ordered Estavanico to guide Spanish forces back north in search of the seven cities.

Estavanico and Indian guides went ahead of the force of 300, to the Indian pueblo of Hawikuh. Thinking the Zuni Indians would be as friendly as those in his past experience, Estavanico ignored a warning not to enter the village and was killed. When the 300 heard of his death and fearing for their own lives, they turned back. Estavanico’s explorations discovered no streets of gold or houses of diamonds, but he had discovered something much more valuable … the land we now call Texas and New Mexico.

When Spain colonized Texas, blacks were among the early settlers and were given land to farm and ranch.

By 1791 blacks numbered 24 percent of the 4,000 plus people in Spanish Texas. The social structure was such, that despite slavery in eastern and southern parts of America, freed blacks were accepted socially and could work in professions or skilled trades, and marry whomever they chose. Records reveal that interracial marriage was common.

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