The fact that I used to work at a horse farm came up in conversation over dinner the other night. Adek told me about the black cowboys of Northern Philly, homeboys wearin’ Jordans on horseback, ridin’ through dilapidated hoods, hookin’ up abandoned houses as stables. It was some of the best shit I’ve heard in awhile. So here’s what I found on ’em…
Martha Camarillo has documented the phenomena first in a Life magazine cover story, then a book and documentary (in progress) called Fletcher Street.
Here’s the synopsis offa her site:
“In the heart of downtown Philadelphia, among abandoned buildings and impoverished neighborhoods where drugs and unemployment pervade, is a place called Fletcher Street. A block that upon first glance looks just like all the others, that is, until you see the horses and hear their hoof beats.
Horses? In the middle of the ghetto? Surprisingly, yes. They have been here for years, when the African American community thrived in Philadelphia, before drugs and unemployment steadily encompassed healthy neighborhoods and they disintegrated into urban war zones.
Despite it all, the horses have stayed, and they have because of the small, passionate, dedicated group of men determined to reclaim their neighborhood and their children. In this fight, they use the one thing that they know, love and trust, the horses.
Conventionally perceived as symbols of social status and privilege, horses have long been an integral part to the Fletcher Street community. The horses of Fletcher Street, with names like; Red Pony, Champ, Power, White Chick, One Eye and Easy Like Sunday Morning, provide the unique window into Fletcher street’s brotherhood. And they, like their owners, have their own cruel experiences, many of them saved from low-end auctions and slaughterhouses.
They are diamonds in the rough, young men and horses, and small everyday accomplishments build strong bonds among steeds and riders. The relationships between man and animal fuel an immense source of pride, accomplishment and sense of worth and reveal astounding, arresting and contradictory testaments to pre-conceived notions and theories that encircle the young black male in America.
Among the visual and emotional juxtapositions, are common themes that run through most stories of family; love mixed with discipline, laughter tinged with disappointment, pride in one’s own, and those that are specific to places like Fletcher Street; kids without homes, absent father’s and drug addicted mothers, 12 year olds with wrap sheets, grown men who have lost too much to the streets, isolation, and the absence of belief- in themselves, their city, their country.
In the background of Fletcher Street, looms gentrification. As outside economic interests increase their influence, old neighborhoods give way to bulldozers and new money. Unless Fletcher Street can stem the tide, there is a good chance that this hidden segment of American culture will slip away for good.
Fletcher Street fascinates, frustrates and inspires. Rich personal stories interwoven with the community’s struggle to retain its identity and future will challenge perceptions and shed light onto a neighborhood worth saving.”
Give ’em some money, yo!
Conjured by o~ SeMeN SPeRmS ~o on January 14, 2009