WOOD JR.: Compton, California,
has long had a reputation as one of the most dangerous
places in America to be a young black person. In fact,
Compton’s homicide rate is more than four and a half
times the national average. But here… there’s a group who believes
that they have the secret to keeping kids off the street. Meet the Compton Cowboys. Literally,
black people in Compton on horses, in traffic,
wearing sandals with socks. ‘Cause that’s perfectly normal. The Compton Cowboys began
in the 1980s as the Compton Jr. Posse, an after-school
horseback riding program at a farm
in the middle of the city. The founder, Mayisha Akbar,
described it this way. We were in competition
with gangs, so we had to provide
the same things that gangs did, camaraderie, you know, an
extended family, a safe haven. WOOD: Mayisha retired in 2017
but many members of the posse are still spreading her message
and some fertilizer. All right, so,
basically, your gang, instead of bandanas
and gang signs, y’all just leave horse shit
everywhere -around the neighborhood.
-(horse exhales) -That’s how we mark our terrain,
man. -Stop slobbering on me. That’s how you leave our mark. But you’re still
a black man riding a half ton animal
through the hood. How are the cops not all up
in your horse’s butt? -Have you seen Harry Potter ?
-Yeah. (laughs) Yo, that’s how it is
with the horse. It’s like putting on a cloak. Like, with the gangbangers
and the police. Like… -So you just become invisible
-Yeah. -to all the bullshit.
-To all the bullshit. I was just about to say that. (both laugh) Can I have some of the weed
you smoking? Yeah. I love to share, man. WOOD: Cowboy Lil Wayne
is right, even if you’re riding
with a buzz, it’s not like your horse is
gonna have a broken tail light and the cops damn sure ain’t
searching that trunk, but horses don’t just protect
people on the outside, turns out they can heal you
on the inside. We’re all traumatized, you know, from, you know, seeing
the shit that we see. You know, people getting shot
around you, people dying. I can’t even tell you how many
conversations I’ve had with people who say,
“Man, my horse saved me.” WOOD: Keiara, the first cowgirl
among the Compton cowboys was one of those people. My little brother was killed to
gang violence four years ago. Sometimes, when I can’t function
or articulate my words, and just really in a bad mood,
I just go to my horse. It’s just that energy
is just so peaceful. WOOD: It’s clear
that taking care of horses can have a life-changing
effect. I need to fire my therapist
and stock up on oats. But what’s the first step to
creating this beautiful bond between man and horse? The first thing we got to do
is we got to clean the stalls. Got to clean the poop up. You ready to clean the poop? You open the poop up, make sure
they don’t got no runs or worms. This right here is a good one. -See how it’s nice and solid?
-(Wood exhaling forcefully) -You know, run it through.
-(groaning) WOOD: I’d rather get jumped by
the bloods than touch shit. Let’s skip all this
turd whispering. It’s time for this cowboy
to saddle up. Yee-haw. Did I say that right? Squeeze with this leg
and he’ll go that way. -Squeeze to the left-left?
-Take the rein that way. Like that. Take your right hand
and go that way. -Okay, I went left.
-(laughs) That’s fine.
I wanted to go left. WOOD:
I was so good, they gave me my own travel-size
starter horse. Now that I was
an official member, I could give them
some branding advice. Y’all need a handshake. CJP. (whinnies) I let you make the noise. WOOD: Okay, this cowboy shit
makes for a nice little hobby, but one Compton cowboy thinks
you could also make it a career as a bareback rider. -I rodeo professionally.
-But, I mean, that’s not like rapping or being an athlete
or a comedian like… I would be considered
a professional athlete. -So you’re a professional
professional. -Yeah. Paycheck, cable bill. -Cash money.
-Light bill, from a horse. You win, they pay you. You just ride for eight seconds, and they judge you
on who rides the best. You got to go bareback and see
if you can last eight seconds. I guess you could
call it that, yeah. I can’t make it eight seconds
bareback. Oh, shit. (laughs) WOOD:
In fact, bareback riding is 30 times more dangerous
than pro football, but no one gets a helmet,
not even the horse. And Tre is one of
the top 50 riders worldwide, so I had to see him in action. (announcer speaking
indistinctly) WOOD: Then…
shit got really real. (crowd reacting) Oh, snap. No. Come on, Tre. Get up, get up.
Get up. Come on. MAN: Hey, hey, hey.
Watch yourself. But suddenly… he was back on his feet. I had to go thank him
for not dying. I got no words for you, man,
other than respect, man. Oh, my God. These Compton cowboys are some
of the bravest, toughest, highest, craziest people
I’ve ever met. But there was still one thing about Mr. Rodeo
that I didn’t get. You are black and you grew up
around danger. Why would you add more danger
on top of your danger? That’s like a triple
cheeseburger of danger. I would much rather
get hurt that way and go out and be (bleep) up because a bareback horse
(bleep) me up, -than get shot out here.
-CJP, baby. -CJP. (whinnies)
-Yeah. You do it. (laughs) No. I can’t. I can’t get with that
right there. -You, you can do that.
-Okay. That’s what’s up. That’s cool. That’s cool. ♪ ♪