Hollywood has lengthy fostered a love affair with Westerns and cowboys, however historically the depiction of cowboys has been white – insert John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and numerous different white actors. Nonetheless, Netflix’s Concrete Cowboy brings the story of “city” Black cowboys to life, shining a lightweight on the importance of Black cowboy tradition, a story not often seen on display screen, in addition to Black fatherhood. The brand new movie facilities on the Fletcher Avenue City Using Membership, a neighborhood of Black cowboys that has existed within the North Philadelphia space for over a century. The story is instructed by the lens of father and son duo, Harp (Idris Elba) and Cole (Caleb McLaughlin), who’re at odds with one another however discover frequent floor by their shared love of horses.
The final time Black cowboys have been the topic of their very own film was Mario Van Peebles’s 1993 movie Posse. To know why Black cowboys are not often seen on display screen, we now have to return to early Hollywood. Western movies have been massively widespread within the early 20th century and have been chargeable for the whitewashing of America’s notion of cowboys, despite the fact that historians estimate that one in 4 cowboys have been Black. These narratives erased any semblance of public consciousness of Black cowboys, regardless of the existence of actual, outstanding Black cowboys, such because the all-Black unit Buffalo Troopers, or Bass Reeves, who’s the real-life inspiration for the fictional character Lone Ranger.
Throughout the cultural heritage of Black cowboys are significant points of Black historical past and identification. These are tales crammed with delight, pleasure, willpower, and wealthy, familial traditions which were handed down by generations. These are tales which have survived enslavement, Jim Crow, racial trauma, discrimination, institutionalized racism, and rampant gentrification – why do not we see them in popular culture?
What’s most compelling about Concrete Cowboy is its give attention to Black fatherhood, one thing not often delivered to the forefront on tv or movie. When Black fatherhood is explored, writers often default to adverse stereotypes and tropes that play into the parable of the absent Black father, despite the fact that Black fatherhood is enduring, as Black fathers are an concerned and defining presence within the lives of their kids. Concrete Cowboy depicts Black fatherhood from the vantage level of authenticity, vulnerability, and hard love (assume Black dad extraordinaire Livid Kinds, Boyz n the Hood), evidenced within the alternate of tears, laughter, and different tender moments akin to Harp (Elba) admitting his shortcomings as a father, or in telling Cole (McLaughlin) the story of why he selected to call him after John Coltrane. By way of horsemanship, the 2 mend their relationship and be a part of forces to battle for the horses, the land, and for the tight-knit neighborhood of city Black cowboys they maintain so expensive.
Concrete Cowboy making it to the display screen is a step in the correct route for the illustration and visibility of Black cowboys in TV, movie, and in actual life. Hopefully, the movie will spark viewers to be taught extra concerning the journey of Black cowboys all through historical past, in addition to the numerous thriving Black equestrian communities that stay throughout US cities immediately.
A robust scene towards the top of the movie exhibits the Fletcher Avenue City Using Membership mounted on their horses, taking a remaining trip, and Harp (Elba) says passionately, “Dwelling ain’t a spot, it is a fam. That is what makes us cowboys.” This second is one which exemplifies the power and perseverance of Black cowboys and their affect on Black identification and tradition.
Though, Black Cowboys have been erased from each America’s reminiscence and creativeness, the resilience of Black cowboys lives on, leaving a legacy for future generations to admire, respect, and, most significantly, to advocate for the preservation and recognition of the contributions of Black Cowboys.