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Myrtis Dightman: The Jackie Robinson of Rodeo

Dightman never finished higher than third in the world standings despite his skills and showmanship. He retired in 1989 after a 30-year career. In 1997, he became the first living African American to be inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

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Rodeo Sign Courtesy Jakob Owens Via Unsplash

Myrtis Dightman Jr.

Despite what television westerns and American lore demonstrate, 1 in 4 of the real-life trailblazing, sharpshooting, horseback-riding cowboys were Black.

While Texas ranchers went off to war, their slaves maintained the cattle herds. It was then that they learned to tend cattle, a skill that would make them invaluable in the post-Civil War era. The cowboy lifestyle would soon came into its own in Texas cattle country. It remains a way of life today, especially for Myrtis Dightman (1935–).

Born in Crockett, Texas, Dightman is an esteemed cowboy and a pioneer bull rider. His father, Myrtis Dightman Sr., was a Hall-of-Fame bull rider who broke the color barrier in 1964 when he became the first Black cowboy to compete in the National Finals Rodeo. Dightman Jr. was raised on a ranch and quit school at age 15 to work there full time, alongside his brother, after their father’s death.

Living the ranch lifestyle, cowboys and rodeos piqued Dightman’s interest at an early age. Yet he always found it odd that there were “so few Black cowboys competing in rodeos.” And that, he later said, was the main reason he “jumped into the rodeo arena.”

Dightman first participated in the Prairie View Trail Ride in 1957, which had been established that year to promote Black western heritage. From 1958 to 1960 he worked as a bullfighter. In 1960 he began as a bull rider, competing more than five times in the world championship bull-riding competition. In 1966 he became the first black cowboy to qualify for the Professional Rodeo Association National Finals.

As the competition years passed, he would come close to, but not touch, the championship title. This wasn’t because he wasn’t qualified, or  that the bulls’ their bucking was stronger than his ride. According to Dightman, “The championship title would disappear from my grasp each time a judge put the pencil to the paper.”

Years later Dightman would ask a fellow cowboy what it would take for him to win a world title. His friend offered: “Keep riding like you’ve been riding and turn white.”

Dightman would go on to qualify six more times, finishing third in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Standings in 1967 and 1968. He also won the Calgary Stampede in 1971. The following year, he won the bull-riding competition at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and finished seventh in the world in the Professional Rodeo Association National Finals.

Dightman never finished higher than third in the world standings despite his skills and showmanship. He retired in 1989 after a 30-year career. In 1997, he became the first living African American to be inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Despite the covert racism Dightman endured during his years on the rodeo circuit, he never lost his inner drive. He made it possible for future Black cowboys to participate in national events, and win.

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Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

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Grieving & Growing: A Healing Garden in West Oakland Is Helping Bereaved Loved Ones Glow Again

As a natural order of the human condition, we cannot escape death. Akin to life and living, death and dying are a part of our journey as spiritual beings having a human experience here on Earth. One thing we know for certain is that we will all lose someone we love or someone who loves us. And, yet still, as natural as death is, the pain and sorrow we endure when losing loved ones is beyond compare and often ridden with heaviness, regret, despair, confusion, guilt, and self-blame.

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Courtesy of Chanae Pickett
Courtesy of Chanae Pickett

By Chanae Pickett

As a natural order of the human condition, we cannot escape death.

Akin to life and living, death and dying are a part of our journey as spiritual beings having a human experience here on Earth. One thing we know for certain is that we will all lose someone we love or someone who loves us. And, yet still, as natural as death is, the pain and sorrow we endure when losing loved ones is beyond compare and often ridden with heaviness, regret, despair, confusion, guilt, and self-blame.

And when our loved ones are taken from us before their predestined time as a result of excessive use of police force, gun violence, homicide, suicide, among other unanticipated traumatic encounters, our shock, bereavement, and grief reactions become compounded, exacerbated and challenging to weather.

Is it possible to heal from the suffering that comes with grief and loss, which often feels endless, cyclical, and labyrinthine? Is there a way out? A way through grief?

While serving as a Psychiatric and Psychological Care Specialist in the United States Air Force, I evaluated, counseled, and intervened with patients at the Travis Air Force Base who were deemed a danger to themselves and others. These experiences profoundly shaped my understanding of mental health.

Despite my background as a Mental Health Technician, the sudden loss of my younger brother to suicide following our father’s unjustified killing by police while unarmed with his hands up in a church parking lot left me with feelings of professional failure and personal shame. These tragedies forced me to reevaluate my priorities, leading me to focus more on making a genuine difference in grief processing, community building, and communal healing.

Driven by my brother Immanuel aka Apollo’s artistic legacy, ancestral guidance, and our shared grief, my family and I founded the Long Live Love Foundation in West Oakland’s “Ghost Town” on June 13, 2020, to honor our dearly departed.

For, the love we hold for our ancestors lives long and for all time. Using my brother’s music and message of love as guiding principles, our missions are to offer a safe supportive communal healing space for those coping with loss and to empower survivors through indigenous, holistic and alternative restorative tribal ministry practices and vital resources.

One of our cornerstone projects is our Long Live Love Healing Garden. A sanctuary for healing, this serene space hosts wellness weekends, drum circles, yoga, and various events, offering solace and respite for those navigating grief and celebrating life.

This year I’ll be the Master of Ceremonies for our much-anticipated 5th Annual Apollo Carter Legacy Weekend on June 8th and 9th in which performers and artists from all walks of life unite for a celebratory weekend overflowing with music, poetry, spoken word, song, dance, and other performing arts. Our Open Mic Stage is a magnet for talented artists eager to express themselves, their hearts, and their spirits, beckoning them to dazzle the community with their unique gifts.

RonKat Spearman of Parliament Funkadelic will be blessing our stage on Sunday, June 9th, as well as other local bands. We’ll be spreading the joy further by gifting the community with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables courtesy of Oasis Community Farm. It’s a celebration of talent, community, and wholesome goodness! To buy a ticket, sign up to perform, donate, join us in our mission, and learn more about our work and how you can support our cause, visit us at longlivelovefoundation.com.

About the Author

Chanae Pickett is co-founder of the Long Live Love Foundation in West Oakland.

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Commentary

Opinion: Will Verdicts Help Black Voters See the Truth?

The news of Trump’s historic 34 guilty verdicts are about a week old. Has it sunk in that the man who insists on being the Republican nominee for president is the former president known officially as CFDT34? If the name sounds like a dangerous radioactive isotope, it is — to our democracy.

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CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.
CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.

By Emil Guillermo

The news of Trump’s historic 34 guilty verdicts are about a week old.

Has it sunk in that the man who insists on being the Republican nominee for president is the former president known officially as CFDT34?  If the name sounds like a dangerous radioactive isotope, it is — to our democracy.

CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.

We need to say CFDT34 aloud as a constant reminder. Too many Americans are in denial. Or just lying.

Especially, CFDT34 himself.

Trump insists it’s all a “fascist” witch hunt, but the verdicts were based on an avalanche of evidence. The defense failed to refute the statements of the National Enquirer’s David Pecker who admitted his role in the Trump campaign to catch, then kill, stories that threatened Trump’s candidacy.

The defense didn’t even attempt to explain Hope Hicks, an ally who delivered the damning testimony that Trump knew about the arrangement to pay off Daniels. Hicks was in tears telling the truth. The defense never countered.

And then there were the checks and invoices and ledger entries, that spelled out the whole scheme. The payments were lies, called “lawyer fees” but they really were reimbursements to attorney Michael Cohen who had used his own money to pay off Daniels.

Minor stuff? Not when done with the intent to violate election law. The payoff was intended to influence the election and it became an illegal campaign contribution as well.

And the hero is New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the African American man who led the prosecution. Bragg got justice for all voters denied the truth in 2016.

Contrast Bragg with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla). the key African Americans lying for CFDT34.

Scott and Donalds lack the courage to honor the rule of law. Rigged case, they say.  Never should have been prosecuted. Where was the crime?

All of it baloney.

Prior to the historic verdicts, there was some historic polling.

Black voters were seen as abandoning Democrats, with Biden scoring just 70% of the vote. Four years ago, Biden was at 81%.

CNN called the pre-verdict polling the best results for the GOP among Black voters since Nixon.

The age breakdown is more telling. Black voters aged 50 and up were about 85% for Biden. Those who recalled civil rights battles were holding steady for Democrats.

Among Black voters under age 50, a new divide was revealed.  A reported average of polls showed young Blacks were 27% for Trump, with Biden at 64%.

Nearly a third of young Blacks were for Trump prior to the verdicts. But what would young Blacks think now? Would they back a person like Trump, a man who comes with racist baggage like the Central Park 5 saga, and is now a convicted felon?

I haven’t seen new data yet. But with Biden and Harris stepping up their attention on the Black community, talking about economics and pocketbook issues, I’d expect a turnaround when young Blacks hear the lies and the overall hypocrisy among the GOP.

About the Author

Emil Guillermo, an award-winning journalist, and commentator has covered race and politics in Hawaii, California, and Washington, DC. He has worked in newspapers, TV and on radio was host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

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