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If you grew up watching every cowboy show from Bonanza to Gun Smoke - as did many Baby Boomers - chances are you never heard of black cowboys. Few Americans know the important role that the black cowboys played in the history of the West.
For this reason, we are proud that Queens is home to the Federation of Black Cowboys. The federation, which maintains a stable and horses in Howard Beach, exists to educate the local community and its children about the contributions of African-American men and women during the development of the West after the Civil War.
Sadly, the federation has fallen on hard times. The organization owed $60,000 in fees and penalties to the Parks Department, which has extended the period of time in which the group can pay back its debts.
Before the accord was reached, the cowboys risked losing their barn, which would have been a shame for the cowboys and a bigger shame for New York City.
The Federation of Black Cowboys is a treasure. These men and women are not actors like the people who dress up at historic exhibits. These guys are the real deal.
hey are cowboys trapped in a time warp. Except for the pigment of their skin, they look like they just stepped out of the Ponderosa.
The members of the federation have made themselves available at countless community events. The cowboys live what they love and they are more than willing to share what they know with anyone who will listen.
They rope and ride, put on shows and give inner-city children free rides on their magnificent horses.
For a city that is facing a budget shortfall in the billions of dollars, the money owed by the federation is a drop in the ocean.
As we prepare to enter Black History Month, perhaps there is a business that will see that bailing out the federation would be an excellent and unique way to further the understanding of the history of black Americans.
Editorial: Revising a landmark
Keep your eyes on the First Reform Dutch Church in Jamaica. The Cultural Collaborative Jamaica revealed plans last week at a meeting of Community Board 12 to convert the landmarked church into a 400-seat theater and community center. The collaborative will have to convince the city's Landmarks Commission that their plans will preserve the historic quality of the building.
The architect representing the collaborative said he would not only comply with the landmark regulations, but he promised to restore the building to its original glory. If he succeeds, this church will serve as an example of what can be can be done with the city's landmarked properties.
Landmarking is important if the city hopes not to lose touch with its past. But it is equally important that landmarked buildings do not become a drain on the community. A balance must be struck. I hope the collaborative will demonstrate just how well this can be one.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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