Last year, Philadelphia saw 2,326 shooting victims, the highest ever recorded. In this context of violence, young people are increasingly turning to the arts. Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club in search of a safe haven, according to its founder, 83-year-old Ellis ‘El-Dog’ Ferrell.
The club is located in an inner-city neighborhood that is poor. It offers young people the opportunity to learn how to ride and care horses. It also teaches life skills and promotes academic excellence.
The club was founded from a long tradition among urban black cowboys. After the civil war, a cowboy job was no longer available to black men. Many went to the north to find more lucrative ranching opportunities.
Ferrell started working with horses after a stint in the army, pouring all of his earnings into buying nags destined for the knacker’s yard at auction, and teaching neighbourhood kids how to ride. In 2004, they became a non-profit and could accept donations for the community work Ferrell and generations to come of black cowboys have done for decades.
“I want to give these kids something to do and keep them off the streets,” Ferrell told Positive News. “If they got nothing to do, they might get into trouble.”
Black children riding horses let them know that it is possible for them too
In the above photograph, Yasin – a young volunteer – walks a horse named Victory down Fletcher Street. It’s a regular sight: the horses being ridden through the city’s streets and parks.
“A lot of these kids have never seen a real live horse before. The only time they see people riding, it’s white people,” Ferrell said. “Seeing black kids riding horses lets them know that they can do it too.”
Main image: Nathan Morris
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