Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2021
Netflix's 'Concrete Cowboy' Highlights Black Cowboy Culture In Philadelphia
According to historians, approximately 1 in 4 American cowboys were actually Black, which goes against everything we know about the traditionally whitewashed Western movie genre. Netflix’s new drama Concrete Cowboy is ready to change that narrative.
The film follows Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) a 15-year-old boy from Detroit who is sent to live with his estranged father Harp (Idris Elba) in Philadelphia. Over the summer, the rebellious teen bonds with the community of Black urban cowboys his father belongs to.
Concrete Cowboy premiered last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival and is currently available for streaming on Netflix. It’s based on the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Gregory Neri, which centers its fictionalized tale around the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club in Strawberry Mansion and the Philly riding tradition that has existed for more than a century.
In an interview, Neri shared that he first became aware of the nonprofit riding club in 2008 after receiving a link to a Life magazine article about them.
“The first image I saw was this Black kid on the back of a horse in the middle of the inner city in North Philly,” remembered Neri. “I had the reaction most people have, which is: ‘What is this? What’s going on here?'”
Real-life members of the Fletcher Street Riders appear in the film. Ricky Staub, who is from Philadelphia and also co-wrote the film, and co-writer Dan Walser, conducted two years worth of research to build relationships and get to know the community in order to authentically tell their story, as reported by Shadow & Act.
Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, founded by Ellis Ferrell, is devoted to providing horsemanship experience in the inner-city while engaging and empowering the youth. They are self-funded and recently launched a GoFundMe to help preserve the heritage of this historical site. The city of Philadelphia is currently building on their land, and the club is now in search of a new permanent home.