Starring Idris Elba, Lorraine Toussaint, Caleb McLaughlin Concrete Cowboy is Streaming on Netflix
When fifteen-year-old Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is expelled from school in Detroit, he is sent to North Philadelphia to live with Harp (Idris Elba), his estranged father. Harp finds solace in rehabilitating horses for inner-city cowboys at the Fletcher Street Stables, a real-life black urban horsemanship community that has provided a safe haven for the neighborhood residents for more than 100 years. Torn between his growing respect for his father’s community and his reemerging friendship with troubled cousin Smush (Jharrel Jerome), Cole begins to reprioritize his life as the stables themselves are threatened by encroaching gentrification.
Based on the novel “Ghetto Cowboy” by G. Neri, Concrete Cowboy is directed by first-time feature filmmaker Ricky Staub, written by Ricky Staub and Dan Walser, and produced by Tucker Tooley, Lee Daniels, Idris Elba, Dan Walser, Jeff Waxman, and Jennifer Madeloff. Byron Bowers, Lorraine Toussaint, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, and members of the Fletcher Street Stables also co-star in this moving father-son drama about a teen caught between a life of crime and his estranged father’s vibrant urban-cowboy subculture.
THE GENESIS OF CONCRETE COWBOY
The genesis for Concrete Cowboy happened about seven years ago as director/co-writer Ricky Staub heard music and looked out his office window in North Philly. He first thought the music was coming from a car, but on looking he “saw someone coming down the hill in a buggy with 22- inch rims, a subwoofer and a huge speaker system with a horse pulling the buggy. I ran outside and met and asked the cowboy where he was from – he said Fletcher Street.”
This was Staub’s first contact with anyone involved with the Fletcher Street Stables, an organization of urban horse-riders that has existed in North Philadelphia for more than 100 years. Intrigued, Staub did some research and came across Greg Neri’s novel, “Ghetto Cowboy”, about a father and son relationship set within North Philly’s urban rider community. “I bought it, read it and flagged it and thought, ‘Man, one day that would be a thing that would make a great movie
THE BLACK URBAN COWBOY
Black urban horse riders have been an integral aspect of North Philadelphia culture for more than 100 years. Horseman traditions were passed down from one generation to the next as part of the cowboy ethos, and then to show individual skill and prowess. Horse-driven carts were also used to transport materials and produce through the city’s narrow streets as late as the 1960s.
Cars and trucks began to replace horses as the major means of transportation for families and industries as the city modernized. As urban renewal reached its height, stables began to disappear and the practice of family-focused recreational equestrian activities began to fade but did not disappear completely. The custom and culture became centralized at the Fletcher Street Stables located in North Philadelphia.
The Fletcher Street Stables represents a symbol of Black urban horsemanship tradition and provides refuge; an opportunity to be part of a family structure; and a positive alternative to street life. The stables provide a respite and a connection to the traditions of the generations that came before them.