When most people hear about South Central or Compton the last thing that would ever come to mind are cowboys…black cowboys. With black men being a target for law enforcement for as long as I can remember, there were two things that kept them out of gangs and off the street…sports, roller skating. “The Hill” in South Central became a training ground for aspiring black cowboys in Los Angeles. As long as those stables existed, there was no gang banging and no problems.
However, when Animal Control was tipped off about the condition in which the horses were kept, the stables were deemed unsafe for animals and shut down. This was devastating for Ghuan Featherstone, who made it his life’s mission to get the stables re-opened. At an open hearing, residents of South Central vehemently express their discontent over smelling horse poop and feeling like the funds to re-open the stables cold be put to better use in the community.
One of the most touching scenes in the film is when one young man declares, “…this is about the youth. The youth, who at 6 years old know how to load a gun, but have no knowledge or history of black or brown cowboys. Every time I get on a horse, I want everyone to experience what I do…FREEDOM.”
Having watched hundreds of skating rinks close and now “The Hill”, I can’t help but wonder why the same attention isn’t paid when a country club or golf course disrupts a neighborhood. Could it be race specific? I don’t know…you tell me.
Brett Fallentine exemplifies these men of color in a way most will not ever seen them in life, thus dispelling the myth of black men only being thugs, drug dealers or gang bangers.
As it’s stated in the opening sequence while watching a black cowboy ride his horse through he urban jungle of South Central, “…It’s not a white or black thing. It’s a right or wrong thing. I still beauty. I still see hope. I have seen the negative. but lived the way I could and should be. To me…that’s a cowboy.”
With an encored three screenings at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival, Fire on The Hill is an educational, emotional look at a lane of life where one learns about Charlie Sampson. Sampson started his riding career at “The Hill” and became the 1st Black Bull Rider in Rodeo History. If you live in California, check out the Bill Pickett Rodeo which annually produces a rodeo to celebrate men like Sampson and other forgotten cowboys of color.