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The Bill Pickett Invitational celebrates the history of black cowboys and cowgirls

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Born in 1871, Bill Pickett -- a young man of African-American and Native American descent -- grew up in Texas where he polished his roping and riding skills as a cowboy on a local ranch. He quickly caught the eye of the creators of the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, the Miller brothers.

Pickett quickly rose to rodeo stardom by performing an unorthodox stunt where he mimicked the way bulldogs controlled a steer -- by biting their upper lip. Effective yet odd, the maneuver became known as 'bulldogging' and later 'steer wrestling.' This event quickly became included in most rodeo competitions, but few were willing to quite literally bite into the competition, so other techniques were developed to provide a similar effect.

In 1972, Bill Pickett was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame and is considered to be the most successful black cowboy in history.

To this day, Pickett's legacy hasn't been left to gather dust. Now in its 33rd year, the Bill Pickett Rodeo brings together the best black cowboys and cowgirls out there as well as rekindling the history and contributions African-Americans have made to the rodeo.

See the rodeo in action below:

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The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo
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The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Carson Avant sits on his horse before the start of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Bubba Eacholes sits on his horse before the start of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Jamil Hunt shares a saddle with his six-year-old son Jamil Hunt Jr. as they prepare to ride into the arena for the start of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Bullfighter Teaspoon Mitchell says a prayer before the start of the bull riding competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. A bullfighter's job is to protect the cowboy from the bull during the rodeo's bull riding competition. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Competitors prepare to ride into the arena before the start of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Competitors wait for their turn to compete at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Anthony Monts Jr. is thrown during the bull riding competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: A cowboy prepares for the bronc competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Lindon Demery waits for the start of competition and his turn in the junior barrel racing event at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Robert Hughes joins other cowboys at a late-night barbeque following a day of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Cowboys relax at a late-night barbeque following a day of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Denell Henderson participates in the bull doggin competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: Tory Johnson participates in the bull doggin competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Justine Carter (L) chats with her cousin Dana Carter as they kill time between events at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates black western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Contestants watch the as people compete at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates black western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Harrel Williams Jr. competes in the junior barrel racing event at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Jaci Hobbs, 13, stands with her horse Sonny before the start of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates black western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Lindon Demery carries the flag into the arena before the start of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Eighteen-year-old Anissa Platt from Plant City, Florida visits with her horse after competing in the barrel racing event at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates black western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Denard Hunt grooms his horse before the start of competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates black western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Bull rider Anthony Monts Jr. stretches before his ride at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates black western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Jimmy Patterson is thrown from his bull at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates black western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31: Linda Knight participates in the steer undecorating competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on March 31, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: A cowboy participates in the bronc riding competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: A cowboy participates in the relay race competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 01: A cowgirl participates in the barrel race competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the nation's only touring black rodeo competition. The rodeo celebrates western heritage and the contributions that black cowboys and cowgirls have made to the sport of rodeo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Lu Vason not only created the musical group 'The Pointer Sister,' but through his passion for black rodeo, also founded The Bill Pickett Rodeo and the MLK African American Heritage Rodeo of Champions. Vason not only saw the rodeo as an enjoyable form of entertainment but as a way to teach and spread appreciation for the history of the African-American cowboy and cowgirl. He received numerous awards for his life's work including the esteemed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received the same year of his passing in 2015. To this day, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is known as the only touring African-American Rodeo in the world.

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