Frank Rizzo’s Racist Legacy Is Blocking Black Students From Learning How to Ride.

My name is Erin Brown and I am the executive director of the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy (PURA). We are in search of a new, permanent home for the Urban Black Cowboys, their beloved horses and most importantly for the youth and community that we serve. 

There is a location that fits our mission – 298 N. Daggett Street (currently a Bocce Court), in the Cobbs Creek section of Philadelphia.

A little known history is that Frank Rizzo, the notoriously racist police chief whose racist brutality was rewarded by his constitutes  (and a small group of self-hating Black folks) of Philadelphia by electing him mayor, gifted this Bocce Court to a small group of white men in this neighborhood – our neighborhood.

I met with the Commissioner of Philly Parks and Recreation in 2019. It is my understanding that in order to occupy a city building, one must have an actual organization, along with a nonprofit status to obtain a lease. We have both. The current occupants have neither.

The neighbors have been trying to secure this location for their community, to the point of spray-painting their protests on the garage doors of the building.

Racist legacies have to end. Our city’s leaders have a responsibility to confront and end them. Removing sculptures and paintings that attempt to lionize rabid racists in one step. But, there are many more that go beyond symbolism.

As Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man.”

Horses change lives. Philadelphia needs more programs such as ours and our friends at Work to Ride stable, in the community for youth and adults. Facilities in central locations, such as the N. Dagget Street building, should serve the neighborhood by creating a welcoming environment where the community can learn, express themselves and stay out of the streets. A new permanent home for PURA at 298 N. Daggett Street would provide precisely that. 

Politicians frequently lament about lack of out-of-school-time (OST) opportunities for the youth our city is the best at neglecting. Having a stable and learning the art and science of horsemanship can be a positive part of our collective legacy here in Philadelphia.

 History

The Urban Black Cowboy has been living throughout neighborhoods in the City of Philadelphia for over a hundred years. From the early 1900’s through the late 1950’s, horse drawn wagons delivered ice, milk and produce to residents throughout the city. Horses were no stranger to Philadelphia streets and while modern vehicles replaced those delivery routes, the Urban Black Cowboy remained. 

Fletcher Street Stable is one of the first urban stables and is now one of the last standing homes for the Urban Black Cowboy, a bastion of critical values: family, friends and horsemanship. Over the years, generations of urban youth wandered into the barn, learned to responsibly care for horses, and how to ride. Some went on to compete locally and in other states in equestrian events. They became a part of an environment giving them refuge from some of the rougher areas of the city. The following video will explain more about the current need and the impact horses have had on the Philadelphia community: This American Life: Horses in North Philly 

Fletcher Street Stable is now under threat from the constant encroachment of gentrification developers and their plans for senior housing in 2020. This plan would wipe out a vital historical equestrian landmark, the Fletcher Street Stable, along with much of the history of The Urban Black Cowboy.

In August, 2019 Hollywood came to Fletcher Street Stable to film the movie, “Concrete Cowboy” based on the legendary historic Fletcher Street Stable and members of the Strawberry Mansion community. The film featured a celebrity cast, starring Idris Elba, Method Man, Caleb McLaughlin, Lorraine Toussaint, Jharrel Jerome, and Byron Bowers; produced and directed by Ricky Staub, Dan Walser, and Lee Daniels. 

Prior to making the film, producers Staub and Walser visited the stable frequently listening to endless stories of the history of the Urban Black Cowboy, and sadly of the many stables that were, but are no longer. 

Producers Staub and Walser realized the important history that Fletcher Street Stable represents within the community it serves and in January 2019, in collaboration with Staci Hagenbaugh (locations manager), Ryan Spak (developer and CEO of Spak Group), the late Eric Miller from Fletcher Street, and a team of associates from the law firm, Cozen, O’Connor, and myself, Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy (PURA) was founded.

PURA is a non-profit 501(c)3, an outgrowth and extension of the original Fletcher Street Stable. PURA was founded to continue the legacy of the Urban Black Cowboy by continuing to provide hands-on equine experiences. One of PURA’s missions is to preserve and educate the public on the history and culture of Urban Black Cowboys in the city of Philadelphia with a museum as a part of its new home. The new stable will host several programs such as: 

Each of the backyard stables throughout the city all served the same purpose, fostering the love of horses. The stables serve as a safe haven for neighborhood children to learn responsibility, work ethic, and horsemanship.

It is important to us to not only preserve our history, but also to bring a rich lifestyle, positivity and education back into our neighborhoods. Not only is the Bocce Court location surrounded by schools, churches, a recreation center, and community filled with children, it’s also easily accessible to the public and backs up to Cobbs Creek Park making it a safe location for our horses from traffic and for program participants and visitors. This will be a place for anyone interested in horsemanship. Please visit PURA’s website:

We are asking support from the community and current administration to rectify this present usage. PURA is a non-profit 501(c) organization with the credentials to lawfully use this location. Visit our website: https://www.thepura.org/

Please support PURA and the community. The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection will not be disappointed.

Sincerely,

Erin Brown


Erin S. Brown | Executive Director Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy 333 E. Lancaster Avenue #201 Wynnewood, PA. 19096 267.977.3747
[email protected] www.thepura.org
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