TUNICA, Miss. — Tyson Brown had no interest in stopping his horse on the way to the entry corral for the rodeo’s grand opening. The 4-year-old cowboy was riding solo on Snowflake, drumming his fingers on the saddle. 

“Forever,” he’s been riding horses, he said at the suggestion of his big sister Jayde Brown, before she swung up on the saddle to ride behind him. 

Their dad, Tyrone Brown, led the four-generation rodeo family into the arena for the grand opening of the inaugural Southern Soul Black Invitational. Brown is president of hosting round up club Ruthless Ryderz, which held the Tunica, Mississippi, event in homage to and for Black cowboys and cowgirls.

Tyson Brown, 4, sits on a horse with his big sister Jayde during the Southern Soul Black Invitational Rodeo on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the Tunica Arena and Expo Center in Tunica, Miss. Black cowboys and girls participated in the event, which featured events such as barrel racing, mutton busting and calf roping. Their father, Tyrone Brown, is the president of Ruthless Ryderz, the organization that put on the event.

“Are you ready to rodeo?” Marcous Friday, 15-year announcer of the events, asked the crowd.

More than two dozen horses trotted the arena’s perimeter, cowboys and cowgirls of all ages, including young Tyson sitting at the front of the saddle, this time his hands eagerly waving to the hundreds in the stands. 

“Come in cowboys,” Friday said, “Ride your horse. Ride it!” 

Brown, now of Memphis, grew up in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, which is home to the oldest Black rodeo in the U.S. He started Ruthless Ryderz in 2018, and his right and left hands, Cynthia Fultz and Alice Wilson, the treasurer, also grew up in Okmulgee. The group’s dozens of cowboys and cowgirls hail from several states across the South. 

Saturday night’s event at the Tunica Arena and Expo Center was inspired by the longstanding Okmulgee Roy LeBlanc Invitational Rodeo, typically held on the second weekend of August, Friday explained. This year is 67 years, he said, making it the oldest Black rodeo in America. 

Cynthia Fultz waves at passing participants during the opening to the Southern Soul Black Invitational Rodeo on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the Tunica Arena and Expo Center in Tunica, Miss. Black cowboys and girls participated in the event, which featured events such as barrel racing, mutton busting and calf roping.

“Down this way…there’s not as many Black cowboys as back in Oklahoma and Texas, and so we’re here with this all Black rodeo just trying to educate and let ’em know that there are Black cowboys and cowgirls,” said Friday, who is the second Black announcer in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Brown wants to keep the culture and tradition of Black cowboys and cowgirls alive, he told Mississippi Free Press, which pointed to research that while underrepresented in popular culture, historians have estimated that 1 in 4 cowboys are Black.

A calf is roped during the Southern Soul Black Invitational Rodeo on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the Tunica Arena and Expo Center in Tunica, Miss. Black cowboys and girls participated in the event, which featured events such as barrel racing and mutton busting.

Tyson was the first competitor in the rodeo in an event called mutton busting, where kids ride sheep. He leaned forward nearly flat on the sheep’s back as two adult cowboys helped guide him across a corner of the arena. 

It mimics the rodeo’s ranch bronc event, where contenders are riding a wild horse for 8 seconds, or until they’re scooped up by one of the cowboys on horseback standing by in the arena. 



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