The message, they said, is simple: Those who broke stereotypes after the Civil War by breaking horses in the West deserve to be honored and remembered.
"Twenty-five to 30 percent of working cowboys were people of color," said Wilbert McAllister, 68. "We know the truth. We're not fake."
McAllister is president of the Oakland Black Cowboys Association, which held its 35th annual parade Saturday in the streets surrounding DeFremery Park. Dozens of horsemen and horsewomen from across the state participated, their steeds clomping along city streets.
"I didn't want to be no damn cowboy when I was a kid," said McAllister, who grew up in Madera County. He went to Western movies on the weekends — no one on the screen looked like him.
"I didn't see the image of the black male," he said. "History got left out."
Now, he stables his horses in Fremont and wants to keep knocking down stereotypes. So does Titus Taylor, an evidence technician for the Oakland Police Department.
Replete in knee-high riding boots and a stunning blue tunic with a sword swinging on his hip, Taylor paid homage Saturday to the famed "Buffalo Soldiers," the all-black regiments formed in 1866.
"The 9th and 10th cavalry regiments," he said of the uniform.
Like McAllister, Taylor wants to shatter the image of an all-white West.
"There was a hug influx of African Americans to the West after the Civil War," he said. "You don't hear about it. Black soldiers helped settle the West and protect the building of the telegraph lines and the railroads. You don't hear about that."
Taylor looked ready to mount up and lead a cavalry charge, bugles blaring, swords slashing. There's just one problem.
He doesn't own a horse. At least not yet.
"I'd love to have a horse and a saddle," he said. "That's next."
Jimmy Hopkins, of Vacaville, is a third-generation cowboy. He brought his stunning Arabian horse, named, well, Cowboy, to Oakland for the festivities.
"You get into a horse and becomes like your child," he said as he sat atop Cowboy, intricate silver plates called Sharappas dangling from his saddle.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Hopkins road bulls in several rodeo circuits until injuries forced him to retire.
Cowboy, he said, treats him better.
"He follows me around like a dog, he said. "I love him like I love my kids."
The horse is light on his hoofs. Hopkins danced him down 18th Street as Zydeco music blared from a sound system.
Cowboy only learned to dance three weeks ago, Hopkins said. "Wait until you see him next year."
Reach Thomas Peele at email@example.com.