In recent years, it has become more of a mainstream discussion about the Black horse-riding scene. Although Black cowboys are not completely unheard of, thanks to notable cowboys like Nat Love or John Ware, social media has helped showcase black excellence in many ways, including lack horse riders. Instagram videos of Black cowboys and girls taking a stroll down Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, or Philadelphia streets are shared more often than they used to be. When you get pass the sheer awe of seeing an 800-2000 lb. horse and a black person riding on the back, you will probably ask, “Where did they come from?”
Concrete Cowboy can offer a possible answer, which is “Five blocks down the street.” There are urban horse riders, and while they have always been around, they are starting to get more notoriety. Black riders rent stables in the city to shelter their horses in the community as seen in this film’s depiction of a real community in Philly known as the Fletcher Street riders.
The film begins with Cole, the protagonist played by Caleb McLaughlin, being dropped off by his mother to the front stoop of his estranged father’s home. She has come to the end of her rope after Cole is expelled from school. As seen before in films, like “Boys in the Hood,” the mother must try one last thing before running out of ideas to help her Black son navigate the world he is trying so hard to survive.
Cole is angry at the world, likely feeling abandoned and lost, in this pseudo-rural area carved out by the Black horse-riding community. He begrudgingly spends his first night on his father’s couch with very few words said between the two, except a clear shock from Cole when he finds his living room roommate is a horse named Chuck. After trying and failing to find shelter elsewhere, including with an old friend named Smush, played by Jharrel Jerome, he finally goes back to live with his father, Harp, played by Idris Elba. They still do not exchange many words or necessary conversations about Cole’s abandonment issues, that comes later, but Harp does put him to work in the stables.
While the film progresses well through the stages of relationship repair between Cole and his father. We also see several other threads being briefly shown in the near two-hour film. There is gentrification, gun violence, insight into being a black boy in America alongside the black father-son abandonment scenario. While some are more well done than others, the film does a good job reaching into the actual community it is trying to depict.
As more scenes develop, we see more of the Fletcher Street rider community, and it turns out the film uses some real members, including Cole’s love interest, Esha, played by Ivannah-Mercedes, and a cowboy with a physical disability known as Paris, played by Jamil Prattis, who helps Cole on his first real day of working the stables where he learns that “hard things come before good things.”