Valeria Howard-Cunningham

CEO/President and Promoter

“Seeing devoted rodeo fans coming in with baby strollers, or toddlers and elders walking in with canes, in wheel chairs or just slowly taking their time with deliberate steps is so inspiring!..."

Valeria is the only Black woman that owns and promotes a touring rodeo circuit across the United States. She says, ‘the rodeo has a rich history, legacy and importance to the community.’ She has made a commitment to continue her late husband Lu Vason’s legacy. She is passionate about BPIR, works hard to create an enhanced vision and a more detailed strategic direction for the BPIR. Valeria believes that promoting a first-class African American rodeo tour remains critical to both the Black Cowboys/Cowgirls and to the communities across the US. She believes it is more important than ever for all of us to set examples, create visions and provide opportunities for kids and young adults to understand the history and purpose of the rodeo, while creating history.

Valeria knows that no journey cannot be done alone and feels fortunate to have a very strong business and rodeo team supporting her and the BPIR. These people include Margo Wade Ladrew, Ronnie Cunningham, Jeff Douvel, Kenneth Johnson, Acynthia Villery, Sheri Vason, Carolyn Carter, Brian White, Wefus Tyus, Stephanie Haynes and others.

In addition to providing leadership for the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, she works very closely with the chairperson for the Bill Pickett Memorial Scholarship fund to assure the community involvement remains viable and the scholarship funds grows to provide financial support to our youth. This year, in additional to it’s two national scholarships awarded each year, the BPMSF will be giving regional scholarships in each of its rodeo markets.

In addition to the rodeo, Valeria and her husband Ronnie Cunningham have a shared passion for the youth, young adults and their future.  They feel it is important to connect and help develop our youth and young adults into successful future leaders. As a result of their passion and beliefs, they have their own businesses, Growth by Design-Pasadena, LLC., which provides individual and group Emotional Intelligence, Personal Development and Leadership training and Ryan’s Village USA, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the whole-person development of our youth and young adults. 

Valeria is a 30-year breast cancer survival and also uses the BPIR platform as a reminder to the community the importance of health screening. She greets rodeo attendees at the rodeo.  Many thank her for encouraging them to do their health screening and share how the screenings assisted with early detection of cancer for them and validates her belief, that every experience we have in life, if shared, will always help someone else.  

She believes in God, loves family, friends and life. According to Valeria, “Living life to the fullest and treating others as you want them to treat you is a critical part of my foundation”. 

Valeria also believes God never puts on you more than what he has prepared you to handle, and even when challenges are presented to us, there is always something to learn that will make you stronger and a better person.

Celebrating our 37th anniversary, is a huge milestone and continued opportunity to connect more with our communities. New connections provide new opportunities to educate more people about the contributions of Black cowboys/cowgirls in the development of the West and showcase the Black cowboys/cowgirls skills and contributions today. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo has traveled to 33 cities and is known as the world's only Touring African American rodeo.

“I am excited about our future as we continue to tell the story of the Black cowboys/cowgirls and as they entertain audiences and touch lives through the rodeo.” 

We are the Greatest Show on Dirt so let’s rodeo!
Valeria Howard-Cunningham