Riding the success of Netflix's Concrete Cowboys, a Black-owned horse riding club in north Philadelphia has nearly tripled its fundraising efforts as a result of the film sparking interest in the neighborhood’s fight against gentrification and invasive city politics.
Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club (FSURC), the group that the film is loosely based upon, saw a fundraising surge on its GoFundMe campaign this week, raking in more than $150,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. Over the past nine months, the organization that mentors local youth had raised just about $40,000, according to local news outlet Billy Penn.
The proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to care for the horses, stables, and finance a documentary that will be produced in collaboration with the nonprofit. The crowdfunding campaign also alleviates some financial stress for founder Ellis Ferrell, who has paid for many of the FSURC’s expenses out of pocket.
Concrete Cowboys is based on the fiction novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri. The film highlights real-life FSURC members, but the movie primarily focuses on the book rather than Ferrell’s story.
Stranger Things actor Caleb McLaughlin stars as Cole, a rebellious teen who gets sent to live with his estranged father and Fletcher Street stable owner Harp, played by Idris Elba. The film aims to tackle ongoing issues affecting the community like gentrification, systemic racism and self-love.
Located in Philly’s Strawberry Mansion, one of the more pressing obstacles facing the club is displacement. The city greenspace property used for horse grazing and riding lessons is being developed into a housing complex for seniors with access to fewer resources, forcing the club to search for a new, long-term location.
Shortly after the club was founded, its stables in Brewerytown were seized through a government right known as eminent domain, Harper’s Bazaar reports. The club then created DIY stables on a lot on Fletcher Street, but the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals later raided the project that also operated as a petting zoo, which was then demolished by the city.
As the riding club looks to rebuild, it faces exploitation threats from opportunistic parties, according to Harper's Bazaar. Even though it has received a swell of support recently, Ferrell said the nonprofit has struggled to raise funds historically despite artists and museums profiting off of them.
“I’m known worldwide. I’ve had them from everywhere. Australia, Germany, France, the U.K., Korea, Japan. All of them have been here and did videos of me and they’ve gone back to their countries and won awards. I never got one dime,” he said.
As more community centers and youth programs are being closed in the community, endeavors like Ferrell’s with the riding club are critical to the Black community.
If you would like to support Ferrell and the riding club as it works to provide local children with opportunities you can donate to their GoFundMe page here.