Arts & Entertainment

Wild West Comes to Elizabeth

Left to right: John Wright, Ruby Johnson, Sponsor Kim Nesbitt, Gloria Moore, Heather Bradford, KKesha Morse, and Cliff Johson, Federation vice president. Credits: Fran Sullivan
Left to right: Ellis "Mountain Man" Harris and Eric "Little Red" Jackson Credits: Fran Sullivan
Posing with Assemblyman Jamel Holley are Lillie Faulk and Jean Taylor Credits: f

ELIZABETH, NJ – The Federation of Black Cowboys and Cowgirls brought a bit of the Old West to Flora Street, November 7, with a show of horsemanship, lassoing, and other traditions of the cowboys and cowgirls.

“This is for us,” said the Federation’s president Kesha Morse. “Inner city children need as much information as they can get to inspire pride in their heritage.”

The Federation is a non-profit organization of horse enthusiasts who travel all along the East Coast, bringing the story of African-American cowboys to schools, churches, and community groups. The organization also runs a summer camp in Howard Beach, New York. Morse discovered her love for all things cowboy in, of all places, Brooklyn. Her father, Ward Price, was a cowboy who led trail rides in Prospect Park, but when Morse turned on the television, she didn’t see any African-Americans on television westerns.

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“When I learned that one-third of the cowboys who settled the West were African-Americans, I thought here’s something else no one knows about.”

According to Morse, African-Americans brought with them to the West herding skills developed in Africa and passed down generation to generation.  

Added Rev. Edward S. Townsend of Mt. Teman AME Church, who is no stranger to cowboy ways because his father was one, “It is important for us as African-Americans and Caribbean peoples to know our heritage. Our young people don’t know there were African-American cowboys and what they brought to the West along with the Europeans.”

Horsemanship wasn’t the only skill demonstrated. Cowboys also had to eat. Chuck wagon cooks Ellis “Mountain Man” Harris and Eric “Little Red” Jackson were there to talk about cooking in the open using coal and wood. While some of their special dishes are familiar mealtime items such as macaroni and cheese, candied yams, cornbread muffins, ribs, and peach cobbler, others such as rabbit, squirrel, deer meat, oxtail, don’t make it to the average dinner table.

The event, billed as a Family & Friends Day, also included foods, horseback rides, and demonstrations of cowboy skills.

“This is important for the community,” said newly elected Assemblyman Jamel Holley. “We need to appreciate the contributions of African-American cowboys and cowgirls. This event brought together elected officials, community leaders, and churches, all on board.”

The Federation of Black Cowboy and Cowgirls is headquartered in New York, and can be reached by calling 718-925-0777 or email

The Family & Friends Day was sponsored by the new Zion Baptist Church and Nesbitt Funeral Home, along with the Office of Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, Council President Patricia Perkins-Auguste, Councilman William Gallman Jr., and newly re-elected Board of Education Commissioner Charlene Bathelus.



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