Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sketching the New Buffalo Soldiers...

September 14, 2014...

   This past Sunday afternoon after church I drove three blocks north to the Monrovia Recreation Park.  I would have walked, but it was too hot... over 100 degrees.

My destination was the Monrovia Historical Museum.

There were a few connections that drew me to this location.
When I was a kid growing up in the 'Gem City', this building was the entrance to the swimming pool.  It has now been converted to house memorabilia of the city's past and they are hosting a one day special exhibit  I wanted to see.


  I could not pass up the opportunity to sketch men on horseback dressed as Buffalo Soldiers of the late 1800's/early 1900's. The New Buffalo Soldiers, as they are called, are a staple on New Years Day as they proudly ride their steeds in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA. They brought with them displays of rifles, tents, slave purchase documents and other artifacts of that era. They also offered verbal history to anybody who would listen to the stories of  these unique soldiers of the United States Cavalry and I was listening.

(New Buffalo Soldier John gave me a verbal history of the original and new Soldiers)

(Filing a horse's hoof)
These men owned and took care of their own horses...



(Blacksmith of the group)

  The Blacksmith of the group 'posed' for me, sitting on a stump as he waited for another of the group so he could show him how to shoe a horse.

    I was not completely ignorant of exploits of Buffalo Soldiers. As a lead animator on 'Atlantis:The Lost Empire,' I'd studied them as part of the backstory for my character,  Dr. Joshua Sweet who had been a Buffalo Soldier before the story picks up.

This research gave me some insight into this aspect of Dr. Sweet's life and helped me bring vitality and believability to the animation of this character.

    Another reason why I was interested in visiting the Museum was the occasion of this event, "Monrovia, California Honors Colonel Allen Allensworth. 100 years - A Visionary" read the headline of one newspaper.

  Born a slave, through a fascinating series of events, Allensworth rose to be chaplain of the 24th Infantry Buffalo Soldiers and retired as Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth, the highest ranking African American serviceman of his era.

  Allensworth also founded the town that goes by his name Allensworth in Tulare County, CA. It was the first town in California founded, financed and governed by Black Americans.  (There is more information online about Lt. Colonel Allensworth and the town of Allensworth- please do yourself a favor and look it up. and lt.col.allensworth)

  To commemorate this date, the mayor of Monrovia, city council members, representatives from the Friends of Allensworth, Second Baptist Church, the city historian, the New Buffalo Soldiers and residents of the city all gathered to hear local TV host Ralph Walker and others talk about this extraordinary man.
 Lastly, a special connection for me was that Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth was the first pastor of the Second Baptist Church here in Monrovia, my church, three blocks away.  And, on this date, 100 years ago, September 14th, 1914, the Reverend Allen Allensworth was struck by a motorcycle and killed as he walked from the train station to the church.

Neat opportunity to encounter history in  my own community and be able to capture in my sketchbook.

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