The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has left much of the country reeling. Police have clashed with protesters nationwide, and many have publicly described feelings of despair and outrage.
But Friday, May 29, 2020, at an Oakland demonstration for George Floyd, protesters described a different feeling, if only for a short while — awe.
A woman astride a large brown horse rode majestically through the crowd that evening, even as police and protesters prepared to square off in protests that would eventually descend into clouds of tear gas, flash grenades and open anger for justice.
Brianna Noble didn’t plan to ride her horse into the George Floyd protest in Oakland, but it was her way of doing something positive.
Brianna Noble, 25, rode her gelding, Dapper Dan, fist held high, with a sign reading “Black Lives Matter” hanging next to her. Photos of Noble and Dapper Dan leading the crowd were described on social media as inspirational and led to a striking moment of hope during what’s been a turbulent several days of protests.
“It wasn’t a very planned thing,” the 25 year-old Bay Area native told the Guardian. “I was just pissed, sitting at home and seeing the video of George Floyd. I felt helpless and thought to myself: ‘I’m just another protester if I go down there alone, but no one can ignore a black woman sitting on top of a horse.’”
‘No one can ignore a black woman sitting on top of a horse.’
Noble says that the focus on destruction was another motivator for her to bring her horse Dapper Dan into downtown.
“I know that what makes headlines is breaking windows and people smashing things,” Noble said. “So I thought: ‘Let’s go out and give the media something to look at that is positive and change the narrative.’”
Noble, who trains feral and wild horses, also works to change narratives in the equestrian world which, in California, is majority white and has a high financial barrier to entry. She hopes that, in addition to contributing to the movement against police brutality toward black and brown people, she will become the first black woman to do horse jumping in the Olympics and bring low-income kids into the horse community.
“When you’re black it doesn’t matter how loud you scream or how deep your words are, nobody would listen,” she continued. “So to now have found this amazing pedestal — my horse Dapper Dan to sit upon — and not have to say a word is amazing.”
Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters