The new Netflix movie “Concrete Cowboy,” starring Idris Elba, tells the much-neglected story of Philadelphia’s urban cowboys, whose stables are threatened by gentrification.
For horse trainer Erin Brown (a.k.a. “The Concrete Cowgirl”), who is appearing in the Red Wing Heritage spring ’21 “Out of Fashion” ad campaign, 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.
Brown 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. Together, they aim to raise $2 million to build a new facility in downtown Philadelphia.
“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,” said Brown.
She noted that not only would the facility include stables and provide riding lessons; it also would offer after-school tutoring and programming for veterans, as well as pet therapy. “We’ve been taking one of our miniature horses over to the hospital to be with cancer patients and terminally ill patients,” said Brown. “We enjoy making other people happy.”
Why it’s vital to preserve the legacy of urban cowboys:
“There used to be about 30 what we call ‘backyard stables’ and a most are gone now because of gentrification. You used to see horsemen giving kids rides on the street or in the park. We established PURA to build something that can’t be taken away by redevelopment.”
The impact of the Netflix film:
“It’s helped bring us some attention. But I’m hoping the world continues to see what the actual mission is, to preserve this culture.”
On partnering with Red Wing:
“They reached out to me through Instagram and I thought it was an amazing opportunity. I didn’t know the brand at first, but I like the boots. They’re so versatile.”
Life in the spotlight:
“I’m very low-key and laid-back and private. So all of the media stuff, it’s so overwhelming that I rarely get to enjoy it.”
Recent riding accomplishments:
“We have a younger horse who is a Top 10 World Champion. It was something I’ve dreamt of doing, competing in [the World Show], and it finally happened [last year]. His name is Commander of a Dream.”