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The new Netflix movie “Concrete Cowboy,” starring Idris Elba, touches on the urban African-American horseback riding culture in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A 15-year-old boy from Detroit is sent to live with his estranged father. He learns all about the local urban cowboys of the area.
For horse trainer Erin Brown (a.k.a. “The Concrete Cowgirl”), Philly’s Fletcher Street Stables was the birthplace of her successful career. And it has become the launchpad for her larger mission: to preserve the legacy of the Black cowboy and create a hub for the community.
Erin serves as executive director of the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy (PURA), founded in 2019 by her late friend Eric Miller and the team behind the Netflix film. “I knew the ultimate goal for Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy — to bring back what Fletcher Street was for me growing up,” she says. “Before, it was once a safe haven and a place where the community can learn, grow and come around and ride horses. I didn’t have money, my mom didn’t have money.”
Erin’s current project is to establish a permanent home in the city for the horses and for the community. “We’ve been working with the city and the parks and rec department and have a site picked out. It’s absolutely amazing — on one side is a residential neighborhood and the other is a park with nature trails,” she says.
She noted that not only would the facility include stables and provide riding lessons, it also would offer after-school tutoring, programming for veterans, and pet therapy. Erin says, “We’ve been taking one of our miniature horses over to the hospital to be with cancer patients and terminally ill patients. We enjoy making other people happy.”
The Netflix film helped bring attention to their cause, but Erin says she is hoping the world continues to see what their mission is in order to preserve this culture. She says, “Not only will it benefit our horses, but it’s going to benefit the children of Philadelphia. Our kids need recreation. Not all kids want to play basketball. Not all kids want to play football. Some kids want to ride horses.”