Along Linden Street in West Oakland, the cowboys caused a flurry of excitement.
Three men on horseback, members of the Oakland Black Cowboy Association, trotted through the neighborhood Wednesday. Children stopped to look while strolling by and grandparents came out taking pictures on their iPads.
Attracting attention was the point. The official end to the 2020 U.S. census count is just two weeks away, on the last day of September, and the cowboys were out to encourage everyone to participate.
Although there is a legal challenge underway that could extend the count another month, the cowboys, and the Alameda County census outreach workers partnering with them, weren’t taking any chances.
Wilbert Freeman McAlister, 79, the president of the group, looked the part, with a cream Stetson hat, aviator glasses and leather boots. One wardrobe addition: a black “Census 2020” mask.
McAlister said he hopes Oakland residents who come out to see his group might take notice and feel compelled to heed its call to fill out the census.
“They see us out there, feel that it must be important,” he said. “The cowboys are there! Why can't we just take time out?”
The group has been putting on a parade in Oakland every October for the past 46 years, honoring the role African Americans played in settling the West. This year’s parade had to be canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.