DeBoraha Akin-Townson is carrying on the tradition of the rodeo, which has deep roots among many Black and Native American people in the Midwest and South. Ms. Akin-Townson made history in 1990 by becoming the first Black cowgirl to compete in the International Professional Rodeo Finals in 1990.
Akin-Townson, 56, is a native of Rockford, Ill and is also of Native American heritage.Although she has been barrel racing since a little girl, she became interested in joining the professional ranks after attending an event in California in 1980.
Akin-Townson quickly rose in the sport, winning notable events and becoming the 1989 International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) Western Region Champion.
Akin-Townson is also the only Black woman to compete with a professional card in the WPRA (Women’s Professional Rodeo Association) at PRCA rodeos throughout the United States, according to most accounts.
There isn’t a lot of press on Akin-Townson, but in a 2013 interview she revealed that among her influences was Black and Native American South Dakota rodeo clown and civil rights activist, Lynn “Smokey” Hart. Hart was instrumental in making Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday in his home state.
Among the many big wins Akin-Townson has racked up are the five-time Bill Picket Invitational All-Around Cowgirl, 6 time Bill Picket Invitational Barrel Racing Champion, 2003 California State Fair Lifetime Achievement Award and 2010 California Silver Lining Champion.
Akin-Townson still works as a horse-racing instructor, according to comments on a YouTube video featuring her racing. She has also passed down her love of the rodeo to her daughter, Dawn, and her son, Lee. Akin-Townson is married to Stewart Townson.
Photo via IndianRodeoNews.com)