When you think of the Western lifestyle, you might not think of Los Angeles. The Compton Cowboys are the wonderful exception.
Started by a close group of friends—Randy, Tre, Keenan, and others— the Compton Cowboys use the cowboy life to offer the youth of South Los Angeles a non-violent alternative to gangs. The Cowboys strive to act as role models for younger generations and show them that it’s not only acceptable to be different, but it’s actually powerful.
“The gang stuff is so deep. But the horses can help,” says Randy.
The Cowboys believe in the power of horses because horses give more meaning to the value of life. When children grow up in poor living conditions, they don’t see their lives as valuable, which can make it easier for them to see other lives as lacking value. This can lead to more killings and gang violence. Randy explains that having to care for another creature shows people the value of life.
“Like something that breathes and you’re responsible for [it]; you have to make sure you give it water and then you have to make sure it eats,” he says. “So then when you’re in the world and you are interacting with humans, that translates over.”
Youths in gangs or with the potential to join gangs need mentors, according to the Cowboys. That’s what they try to be for the younger generations around them.
“I don’t just want to be the kid that got out; I want to be the kid that got out and came back to show other people the same route, you know?” says Tre. “I thought that I was reinventing the wheel until I started finding mentors. So I just want to come back and be a mentor. I think that’s what a lot of us need, you know?”
Many of the Compton Cowboys themselves have experienced tough situations and made it through, and they want younger generations to know that better lives are possible. Being role models and helping children see they can make changes in their lives are some of the Cowboys’ major goals, and they’d like to see the program stick around for years to come.
“I want to see this program be stable, have stability,” says Keenan. “I want my kids, and their kids, to be able to come to this exact location and experience what I experienced from my childhood to adulthood. That’s success. Success is keeping these hay bales to a certain level. Success is having the proper funds to keep the water on, to feed the nine horses we have now. So my vision of success for this program is two years from now, we have 25 horses back here, 50 kids in the program. I just want this program to thrive.”
For the full interview with the Compton Cowboys, check out Boot Barn’s blog.
Photo and video courtesy Boot Barn.