25-year-old horse enthusiast and budding entrepreneur with a social justice bent Brianna Noble knew exactly what she was doing when she drove her horse trailer to downtown Oakland last week. She slung a Black Lives Matter sign, painted on cardboard, behind her saddle, and she rode into the protest looking regal, mighty, and she knows pretty unique.
"Horses bring attention," she said on Friday when she was one of the first protesters reporters and photographers gravitated toward. And in a subsequent interview with the Chronicle this week she says, "It’s not too often you see a black woman on a horse in Oakland. "I’m huge on a horse. I decided I’m going to give them something to look at."
Oakland protests brought out the Calvary! pic.twitter.com/TIlWIv3PQf— Make Love Not War! (@FeelmoreAdult) May 30, 2020
This picture taken by @bethlaberge at Oakland's protest on Friday has gotten a lot of attention.@FitzTheReporter spoke with the woman on the horse, Brianna Noble. https://t.co/PnafwtYX60 pic.twitter.com/22ka5P7sBM— The Bay (@TheBayKQED) June 2, 2020
Brianna Noble, the woman who rode her horse through Oakland protest, tells her story. https://t.co/mHYv7om3T1— Tony Bravo (@TonyBravoSF) June 5, 2020
Noble's image, complete with a cowboy-style bandanna for a face mask, has bounced across the globe as the international press — and Twitter — have covered the unrest across America. And with good reason — she upends iconic Hollywood stereotypes of usually white Americans riding into a conflict on horseback.
While black cowboys are nothing new — the Oakland Black Cowboy Association is 46 years old this year, and in Houston, a similar organization has made for viral video fodder at protests in recent days — a young black woman on a horse is a rarer sight, even for Americans.
Noble tells the Chronicle that she grew up among privileged white kids at an equestrian center in Pinole, even though she was not privileged herself. She followed her older sister into the horse world, and acknowledges, "It’s a very white world. It can be a hostile, racist place to be." Brianna is no stranger to other equestrians looking at her strangely and questioning how she got into horse riding.
But these days, she's using her unique knowledge for good, and two years ago she founded Mulatto Meadows, which trains and sells horses, and also seeks to provide horseback riding lessons to people of color and low-income kids.
"Horses change lives and inspire futures," says the organization website. "Our vision is to change the face of equine culture and inspire positive futures through horses."
Interestingly, as the Chronicle reveals, Noble's older sister, whom she followed into horse riding, is an officer in the SFPD. And Brianna says she didn't see her and her sister as being on opposite sides of the current unrest.
"To me it’s furthering the movement to have a black woman who wants to see change happen and things done correctly in the system,” Noble tells the paper. “I think that might be a big reason she’s a police officer."