Concerned Citizens for the Development of North Fontana founder and organizer of the San Bernardino County Black History Month Parade for 52 year is Recognizing Phenomenal Women near and far.
SAVE THE DATE SAT. FEB.21, 2020, FROM 10AM TO 12NOON EXPO TO FOLLOW, STARTING ON THE CORNER OF SUMMIT AND CITRUS AVE PROCEDING SOUTH TO SIERRA LAKES PARKWAY TO HOME DEPOT PARKING LOT WHERE THE EXPO BEGANS.
Please contact us at http://www.concernedcitizens4nofontana@gmail and email your story and a photo for the media about a Phenomenal Women that we should know about to be recognized and honored in this year’s parade.
This year’s Grand Marshal is our Phenomenal California State Treasurer Fiona Ma. Fiona Ma (born March 4, 1966) is an American politician and Certified Public Accountant who has been serving as the California State Treasurer since January 7, 2019. She was elected to this post on November 6, 2018 with more votes than any other candidate for Treasurer in the state’s history. She served as a member of the California Board of Equalization from 2015 to 2019. Ma served in the California State Assembly (2006–2012) and on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (2002–2006).
A member of the Democratic Party, Ma was the first Asian American woman to serve as California Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore,] the second highest ranking office in the California Assembly. Ma is also only the second Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to be elected to the Board of Equalization. She was selected as Chairperson of the California Board of Equalization in 2016, ordered three external audits of the agency, and helped lead the biggest reforms for accountability and efficiency in that agency’s history
Life on the Saddle
Sharon Braxton was presented the first annual Trail Blazer lifetime achievement award. She still remembers the butterflies she felt before her first competition. “I was concentrating on not letting my hat blow off,” she says with a laugh. “The horse was running all over the place. So, it was not a good day. I started taking lessons after that.”
What blossomed in the decades that followed her inauspicious start was an illustrious career that extended across multiple sectors of the equine industry. Braxton was one of the first female African American barrel racers in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. She’s also a decorated trick rider, horse breeder, rodeo announcer and riding exhibition organizer.
A native of West Virginia, Braxton moved to Southern California in the late 1960s and spent her first paycheck to buy a stallion named Socks. As a child, she was always bringing stray animals’ home — much to her parents’ chagrin — and had always dreamed of one day owning a horse.
“I can look into a horse’s eye and it’s almost like looking into their soul,” Braxton says. “There’s just something about the beauty of the animal.”
When Braxton first started riding, she didn’t have the money for lessons, so she taught herself by attending exhibitions and observing the industry’s premier horsemen compete. “I would go to horse shows and never saw anybody of color there,” Braxton says. “But my take on it was that horse doesn’t see what color I am. It’s all up to me how far he and I can go together.”
The Black West
Though historians estimate that one in four cowboys was African American, their presence has been ignored in history books and popular culture. The image of the lone cowboy — commonly depicted as a white man on horseback — remains a popular and potent symbol in American culture. But the contributions of the black cowboy were instrumental in shaping the American frontier. Former slaves skilled in roping and rounding up
longhorns were the lifeblood of the burgeoning cattle industry in the post-Civil War era. In Southern California, black horsemen traversed rugged cattle trails and worked as cowhands on Spanish ranchos as far back as
Christopher Columbus’ arrival in America.
Decorated trick rider, horse breeder, rodeo announcer and riding exhibition organizer, Sharon Braxton, was one of the first female African American barrel racers in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. Photo by Amanda Lopez.
Women were also in on the action. Cowgirls like Stagecoach Mary — the first female African American postal carrier in the United States — had a reputation for being a gruff, pistol-packing rider who skillfully navigated dangerous terrain and brutal weather to deliver the nation’s mail. Black women also fulfilled another important role in the Old West. They were the keepers of history and cataloged the stories of their communities.
“The frontier came to symbolize all that was American — individualism, courage, excitement,” says Willian Loren Katz, author of “The Black West,” which details the contributions of black cowboys, soon to be released in an updated edition. “These ran counter to the stereotypes of black people, so they got dropped in favor of the John Wayne cowboy type.”
Though it was rare to see people of color on horseback — Braxton says her coworkers looked at her like she “had two heads” when they learned of her cowgirl identity — she says people in the tight-knit horse community recognized her desire to excel and offered her the help she needed to succeed.
Braxton has made it a point to return the favor many times in her career by assisting and mentoring others. For example, she helped a young music promoter named Lu Vason bring his nascent all-black rodeo to Los Angeles.
The All-Black Rodeo
Vason had attended a rodeo in Wyoming in 1977 and noticed there were no cowboys of color competing in the arena. He envisioned organizing an event that would recognize the contributions of cowboys of color. That’s how the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo came to be.
The competition was named after the legendary William “Bill” Pickett, an African American cowboy who invented bulldogging — a stunt where riders leap from a galloping horse to wrestle a steer to the ground — and who taught celebrity cowboys like Tom Mix and Will Rogers the tricks of the trade. In 1989, almost 60 years after his death, Pickett became the first African American inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
Vason had successfully launched his all-black rodeo in Denver and wanted to bring the event to cities across the country. He met Braxton through Charles Samson, a world-champion bull rider from Compton, and she agreed to connect him with the manager of the Los Angeles Equestrian Center where she had just produced her own riding exhibition — she even hired a limo to take him to his meetings.
“The frontier came to symbolize all that was American — individualism, courage, excitement. These ran counter to the stereotypes of black people so they got dropped in favor of the John Wayne cowboy type.” W I L L I A N L O R E N K A T Z , A U T H O R O F “ T H E B L A C K W E S T “
In 1986, the Bill Pickett Rodeo rode into Griffith Park and featured 150 riders from 20 states, including Samson who was himself inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1996. “That rodeo was the biggest one he had,”
Braxton says. “One of the things that I think that’s been instrumental in promoting horses to people of color is the Bill Pickett Rodeo.”
In July, Braxton was presented the first annual Trail Blazer lifetime achievement award at the G Look Cowboy Ball for her contributions to the equine industry. Rhodes, who considers Braxton “her favorite cowgirl” and mentor, was on hand to film her acceptance speech at the event. At 72, Braxton has fully retired from riding but
stays active by volunteering her time teaching the next generation of cowgirls and cowboys at various riding clinics across the Southland.
“I just love the opportunity to share with adults and kids that want to learn,” Braxton says. “When you learn how to ride properly it opens up a brand-new world for you.”