Being first comes with a great deal of pressure, but if you're Ja’Dayia Kursh, you say, “Bring it on.”
In 2017, Ja’Dayia Kursh did something that no one in Arkansas had done: she became the state’s first Black Rodeo Queen. Since then, she’s spent her time advocating for diversity and ushering in a new generation of Black participants to an industry that's been slow to change.
Ja’Daiya’s love of Western culture began at the young age of 6 when she was introduced to horses by a therapist after being sexually assaulted. Ja’Daiya said, “My therapist sat me on a horse that day, but what she really did was hand me the reins to my freedom.” Studies have confirmed the benefits of equestrian therapy: it builds trust, helps overcome fears and teaches coping abilities. These are all skills that Ja’Dayia has used over and over as she navigates a predominantly-white Western culture where Black cowgirls and cowboys have been severely underrepresented in TV, movies and advertising campaigns.
Ja’Dayia is quick to point out that most people are accepting of her and the color of her skin, but many are not. She’s been called every racist name in the book, which can take a toll on just about anyone. A few years back, Ja’Dayia gave up her rodeo days, tossed out her Western shirts and hid the cowgirl boots in the closet. The problem was, she felt much more lost and alone than ever before. JaDayia says, “That’s when I realized, you can’t quit who you are.”
So, using the trust, confidence and coping skills she learned while training with horses and her love for all things Western, Ja’Dayia set on a new adventure with Ag For Kids, an organization she created to help kids learn where their food comes from and about agrarian lifestyles. It’s her passion, and you can see it shine through as she mentors a new generation of agricultural enthusiasts.
Friday, June 16, 2022