While Zydeco music played over the loudspeakers last Saturday afternoon, contingents in the 44th annual Black Cowboy Parade made their way down 18th street to Adeline.
With onlookers lined up on both sides, a 15-year-old girl astride a brown horse came into view, but instead of a cowboy hat and jeans, she wore a print skirt in a vivid African print skirt in blue hues that also draped her ride.
“You make your horse look good, girl,” the announcer said to encourage her.
After the music, this is the first clue that this parade is different. Mixing Creole and ranch culture, this parade clearly celebrates Black history — but there is an intimacy, a familiarity that marks this as a true community event. Everybody seems to know each other.
“If you see something you like, give ‘em a clap,” the announcer says as the Skyline Titans drill team performed. “ They been comin’ out here many years. …If you see something you
like, give ‘em a holler.”
West Oakland resident Bernardine Green has never missed a one of the 44 parades. Her companion, Jim Titus has come for 32 years. The couple who brought their own chairs to stake out space by the parade route looked forward to the vendors and the food. “Whatever and corn,” Titus said with a smile.
But, Florence Valentine, who said she grew up with several of the organizers, came for the dancing horses. “I try to come every year.” she said while skimming a brochure about the Black Cowboys.
“When the horses do their performance, I try to get as close (to them) as I can.”
The Skyline Titans drill team, Prescott Circus stilt-walkers, McClymonds High School Warriors, Oakland Military Institute and Chocolate Platinum Soul Square dancers were among the performers. Dressed in white cowgirl hats and white fringed jeans, the ladies snapped fans to punctuate their move led by retiree Patricia Lowe.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sported a cowgirl hat as well, and was among the community groups and businesses supporting the parade including California Waste Solutions, the Hudson Funeral home, The Girl Scouts of Northern California, Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Program, Roy’s Auto Metal Shop and F.H. Daley Chevrolet.
Astride beautiful horses and wearing period uniforms from the 1800s were the Buffalo Soldiers representing the historic 9th and 10th Cavalry of the U.S. who had driven all the
way from Seattle, Wash.
Eventually, the cowboys danced their horses. Most adept was Gregory MCdowell on his horse, Dancing Beauty.
Bringing up the end of the parade was San Jose’s Royal Andaluz, a group of Hispanic riders on horse, ponies and pulling a two-person cart, accompanied by their own band, playing, of course, ranchero music.
Sitting on the grass, a boy of about 8 years old told his friends, “I’m gonna have fun, today. I’m gonna have super-duper fun.”
California Waste Solutions (CWS), which provides residential and commercial recycling services in the City, also joined in the festivities. Its premier collection truck followed suit in the parade as the driver waived to onlookers as he passed. Under the Oakland Recycles umbrella, CWS also provided attendees with important information on how to recycle and