UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — In the glory days of the American West, historians say as many as a quarter of the cowboys were Black. But head to a rodeo today, and you're likely to find most of the competitors and spectators are white.
Now, an incredible Prince George's County teen is looking to change that.
Morissa Hall, 16, is a roping, riding and rocking Black cowgirl who is breaking barriers and inspiring kids in Upper Marlboro. She's been the state rodeo queen twice – the first Black person to win consecutive titles – All Around Champion Cowgirl, Pole Bending Champion and won national competitions, all in the last four years.
Morissa Hall asked her father, Morse Hall, for a horse in first grade. He told her that if she got straight A's, he'd do it. So she got straight A's six years in a row. It took until she was in middle school for him to save enough money to buy her first ride.
But competition didn't start well.
"She came in last place in every event," in her first rodeo, Morse Hall said.
He told her to cowgirl up, and within a year, she and her horse just took off.
"We just clicked and we won all-around cowgirl champion, pole bending champion, reserve barrel racing champion, rookie of the year, and high school rodeo queen," Morissa Hall said.
"Oh yeah, it's dangerous," she admits. "You're on a 1,000-pound animal that has a mind of its own."
But it's also therapeutic.
"I suffer from anxiety, so that was not my best friend either," Morissa Hall said. But the horses help. "They're my emotional support animals. Each of them are different and unique in their own way, which is why I appreciate and love all of them."
Her dad was inspired by Bill Pickett, a legendary Black cowboy often barred from competing in white rodeos. She thinks it's important she's a Black rodeo queen. "It's nice to show that we are here and we're killing it. I just want to be an inspiration to other young people and other minorities."
"Morissa has the ability to be a national and world champion. It's getting the horse," said her father. A national champion horse, he said, runs $100,000 to $150,000 or even more.
Now she's just looking for a sponsor to put her over the top.
"It really makes my life complete," she said.
WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.
Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, delivering the latest breaking news and a roundup of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.