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Boley USA

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Andre Jackson with Boley's Mayor, Dr. Francis Shelton, at this year's 2021 Rodeo Barbecue Festival and parade as the Grand Marshal.

Andre Jackson with Boley's Mayor, Dr. Francis Shelton, at this year's 2021 Rodeo Barbecue Festival and parade as the Grand Marshal.

Little did screenwriter, Andre Jackson, know that when he wrote about the town of Boley, Oklahoma - one of at least 50 towns in the state that were established by freed slaves in the 19th century and early 20th century, and one of only 13 towns that still exist - that he would win an award for best teleplay pilot at the 2020 Filmmatic Screenwriters Competition, and then later be so embraced by the residents of Boley, that they would make him their honorary Grand Marshal at their 118th Rodeo and Barbecue Festival in 2021.

The Memorial Day weekend of 2021, despite a torrential rainstorm that threatened to cancel the 118th annual festival, like the resiliency and legacy of Boley's residents, held on despite the weather that eventually cleared, and it will now be apart of Andre Jackson's family legacy, with memories to cherish and a reaffirmation for him to pursue his teleplay, 'Boley USA' to become a television series.

I caught up with Andre recently to talk about his experience at the annual festival, the history of the town, and what his aspirations are for his teleplay, 'Boley USA'.

Q&A w/Andre Jackson

Andre, I want to thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule to share with our readers about your recent experience at the Boley Memorial Day Rodeo Festival in Boley, OK.


RW) You had the honor this year for being named the Grand Marshal for Boley’s 118th Rodeo, one of the oldest annual rodeo events in the country, how did that come about that you were asked to be the Grand Marshal?

AJ) Yes, first, let me just say how grateful I am to be so warmly embraced by the Town of Boley. Those streets and the history that created them are sacred. To be a part of that ongoing legacy as the Grand Marshal of this year’s 118th Rodeo Celebration is, indeed, a tremendous honor that I will cherish forever.

I started researching the history of Boley over a decade ago. This was years before I had an inkling to become a professional screenwriter. But, for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved a good story and the story of Boley is astonishing! So when I started writing several years ago, it was the story I had to tell. By then, my research had grown from traditional sources to scouring every hidden article, website, blog post and census record I could get my hands on. The most essential source, however, was the town itself. Through a mutual relationship, I was connected to my now good friend and Boley native Karen Ekuban who is a highly active agent in Boley’s current renaissance. From there, I was introduced to Boley’s leadership and the guardians of its history.

The respect of the townspeople of Boley is something I don’t take for granted. Those who have been entrusted with Boley’s past and future guard it fiercely – as they should. Over the last few years, Boley has become my adopted family. When I’m there, I’m home. When I leave, I count the days until I see my family’s smiling faces again. I don’t want to speak for them but I guess that’s what earned me the title of Boley Grand Marshal. I’m the latest, prominent member of the family!

RW) I understand that the event was almost called off or postponed due to heavy rains that passed through the area, but that the town’s people were not deterred and still made the event happen. What does that tell you about the resilience of these people whose great, great grandfathers and mothers built this town?

AJ) You worded that perfectly: “resilience.” Nowadays, the existence of Oklahoma’s Black towns is part of popular culture thanks to shows like HBO’s “Watchmen” or the upcoming Angela Bassett & Courtney B. Vance project that shines a light on the race massacre of Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, nicknamed “Black Wall Street.” Oklahoma was home to more Black towns than any other state in the Nation. At one time, there were more than 50 Black towns across the Oklahoma territory. Today only 13 remain, with Boley being the most fascinating and robust of them all. Boley’s survival roots run deep. From its founding to present day, the citizens are unified in their resilience like no other place I’ve ever seen. They’ve been fighting to exist for 118 years! With a pedigree like that, it’s gonna take more than a few steady weeks of rain to thwart Boley’s plans for the future.

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boley-usa

RW) If you had to describe your experience with this annual event in Boley in three adjectives, what would those words be?

AJ) Proud. Loving. FUN.

RW) We recently had a conversation about the Tulsa, OK “Black Wall Street” massacre that took place back in late May / early June of 1921, about how great it is that so many Americans and the world are learning about this history in ways never before told, but wouldn’t it be nice if more was also said about the history of a number of towns started by freed slaves and still thrive to this day. Elaborate a little more about this from your point of view?

AJ) That’s such a good point.

I was never taught about the Black Towns or Black folks’ role in westward expansion beyond the lens of slavery, Jim Crow, and servitude. I think it’s great that we’re now stepping outside the veil of white-washed American history to embrace the reality of our country insomuch as its citizens of color are concerned. In doing that, we must also be educated about the present-day cultural monuments that still exist. Towns like Boley aren’t relics of our past. They are living, breathing testaments to Black America’s ingenuity, perseverance, and achievement.

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RW) Writing the pilot television series script about the town of Boley has won you some pretty awesome awards and accolades, tell us what some of those are, and what was it about this town and its history that drew you to wanting to write about it for a series.

AJ) Thanks. I’m incredibly grateful that the “Boley U.S.A.” pilot has been so well-received. You never really know what the reaction is going to be from the public or the industry (especially the industry) once you put something out there. My goal was to tell this beautiful story in a way that both I and the citizens of Boley would be proud of while keeping the spirit of the series true to the elements of historical fact. Every accolade I’ve received since submitting the pilot has been a tremendous blessing, including being named Filmmatic’s “Overall Winner” of last year’s TV Pilot Awards.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I have to say that learning about the birth and 118 year history of Boley has changed my life. I grew up watching Westerns. My entire childhood was filled with images of Clayton Moore as the white, masked crusader “The Lone Ranger,” Chuck Conners no-nonsense rancher “The Rifleman,” Michael Landon’s noble Cartwright family on “Bonanza,” and an endless list of John Wayne movies pitting him against a faceless tribe of “evil Indian savages.”

That was my perception. And perception is, well…reality. Until it’s not. My individual research into Boley unlocked a treasure of information buried under years of historical manipulation and distortion. Now when I think of cowboys I think of Bass Reeves, the real-life U.S. Marshal who was the basis for “The Lone Ranger.”. I think of John Ware, the ex-slave who was the most respected cattleman of the Canadian Frontier. I’m reminded of Nat Love, another former slave considered the best horseman in the history of the Wild West. My heroes are D.J. Turner, H.C. & J.L. McCormick who defended Boley against Pretty Boy Floyd’s deadly gang of bank robbers.

I view my country’s history of the “Wild West” differently now. And, by association, it changes my image of “cowboy” which, in a more personal sense, changes me. That’s what I believe great art should do. It should change you. If not, what use does it have?

RW) What are your plans and hopes for your pilot, ‘Boley USA’, what’s the next step for you?

AJ) Development of the series is ongoing. I’ve planned a five season arc and I hope to achieve that. An undertaking of this magnitude depends on working with the right people. This certainly is the right time.

Boley Parade

Boley Parade

RW) Would you recommend people reading this article to perhaps put next year’s rodeo festival in Boley, OK on their vacation visits, and how can we find out more about Boley the town and it’s history?

AJ) Absolutely, YES! I was joined by 18 of my closest friends and family members for this year’s celebration and it’s now on our annual to-do list. Next year is expected to draw the largest gathering to-date. A brand new rodeo arena is under development that will make weather a non-factor for future events. The town is located between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, with only an approximate 45-minute commute to either city.

For more information, go to www.thetownofboley.org

RW) Where can our readers find you on Social Media Andre?

AJ) I’m on all the socials at @imandrejackson.

RW) Again, thank you for sharing this recent adventure of yours in a town with such an awesome history. We look forward to seeing ‘Boley USA’ as series streaming or on a network sometime in the very near future.


AJ) This has been great, Robert. Thank you so much for this interview and giving me the opportunity to discuss the Boley Rodeo and the series. I can’t wait for you and the world to see what we have planned. I think you’re gonna love it!

Andre with his wife, CJ

Andre with his wife, CJ

Andre with Michael Payne (L) and Issaic Gates (R)

Andre with Michael Payne (L) and Issaic Gates (R)

Andre & CJ's son, Luke

Andre & CJ's son, Luke

For More About Boley Today, Go To:

Andre Interview About His Boley Pilot and Inspiration

For More About Andre Jackson and his Production Company, Go To:

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Comments

Pam Morris from Atlanta Georgia on June 27, 2021:

Rob, what an inspiring article. Thank you for the detail and sharing, I learned a lot and enjoyed reading it.

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