The month of February is designated as Black History Month. Here’s a brief history of how it came to be. Originally, Black History Month was Black History Week. In 1926, writer and historian Carter G. Woodson and several other prominent blacks designated the second week in February as a time to celebrate. The second week was chosen because Mr. Woodson wanted to honor Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who both had birthdays during the second week of February. Because he was disheartened by the way that blacks were being portrayed, Mr. Woodson thought it was important to highlight the achievements and contributions that black Americans had made. Black History Week was eventually expanded to Black History Month and was officially recognized by the government in 1976.
There are numerous activities that one can engage in during this month to learn more about black people. You can read books by and about black people. You can listen to music created and performed by black people. Take an African dance class. You can watch movies starring, written, and directed by black people. You can eat foods that originated in Africa such as okra or indulge in some good ol’ Southern soul food. You can, also, learn a few words of African languages such as Kiswahili, Lingala, or Yoruba.
Black History Month is a very exciting time for the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association. We have an uptick in interest in our organization during this time because people are searching for black history that is not widely known, and, fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you look at it, the history of the Black Seminoles fits the bill. My goal is to continue promoting the history and the legacy of the Black Seminoles. As our matriarch Miss Charles Emily Wilson told writer Jeff Guinn in Our Land Before We Die: “All I want, right now, is each day for one more person to learn our history. There is great power in one. This is what I always want, that one more person should know our story.”
On the 25th of February, my niece and I will be speaking at the Fort Clark Historical Society’s monthly meeting. I am really looking forward to speaking about Miss Charles Emily Wilson and the Seminole Indian Scout Association (SISCA). I have been a member of SISCA for more than half of my life, and I am very passionate about our history and the promotion of that history. My niece Windy will be speaking about the Negro spirituals.
I am happy to be given the opportunity to do what Miss Charles set out to do — to tell our story, even if it’s one person at a time.
Note: This blog was published as an article in the 1/30/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
On Friday, I woke up early. I was excited because it was Inauguration Day. I wanted to watch our new president take the oath of office. I wanted to hear his speech, and, if I am being honest, I wanted to see what the first lady was going to wear. The day was filled with hope. Regardless of who you voted for, the peaceful transition of power is a testament to our democratic process.
The next day was also very interesting. When I turned on the TV, my attention was caught by the sea of pink that filled my screen. Throngs of women were marching, and they had the world’s attention. It was a sight to see, and like the inauguration, it also gave me hope because the whole event, which took place all over the world, was peaceful
Saturday was, also, a day of juxtapositions. Early in the day, I attended the funeral of a dear friend who had passed away, following her courageous battle with cancer. Later that evening, I attended a dinner with another dear friend who is currently battling cancer.
On Saturday morning, I joined the family and friends of my dear friend as they celebrated her life. She had fought hard. She had fought courageously. She had fought gracefully.
That evening, I went to a dinner given by Relay for Life celebrating those souls who are currently bravely living with cancer and their loved ones. I was invited to attend, and I knew that there was no other place that I’d rather be.
I’ve lost two brothers to cancer, and I’ve had countless friends who have also waged their own battles. What I’ve seen when someone I love gets sick is that people rally around them. People show up to show support, to give encouragement, and to show them that they care and that they are loved. No matter what the illness, sickness has a way of bringing people together like no other circumstance can.
Almost a year ago, my brother Bootsie passed away. For months, my son and I would travel to Big Lake to visit him and my sister-in-law and the rest of our family. We went because we wanted to be near him and to show him that we loved him. Most of the time, he was in great spirits, cracking jokes and playing the lottery. It was amazing to me how, often, he was taking care of us, making sure that we were all right, instead of worrying about his health. No matter how sick he was feeling, he never let us know. He was hopeful, and by extension, we were all hopeful.
These past few days have been filled with emotion, the good kind. I am hopeful about our country. I am also hopeful about our town. I’ve seen how we mourn. I’ve seen how we celebrate. Both are very courageous acts because it takes strong people to face down the specter of illness and say that they will fight, regardless of the outcome. So many fight until their last breath. As their loved ones, it is our job to be there for them, encouraging them, loving them, helping them in any way that we can.
We are on the precipice of our future. We have so much to look forward to. We have so much to be grateful for. And yes, we have so much to be hopeful about.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 1/26/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This past Monday, January 16, 2017, was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This federal holiday celebrates the life and legacy of the famed leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Shortly after his assassination in 1968, a campaign to make his birthday (January 15) a national holiday began. It took almost twenty years for this petition to gain traction and become a law. This happened in 1983, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day officially began being observed in 1986, but it was not observed in all states until 2000.
Each year, when this day comes around, I find myself becoming quiet and introspective. I find myself looking inward and asking myself if I am doing enough to help my fellow man. Mr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech had a huge impact on me when I was a young girl. I remember hearing that speech and, later, reading the words and memorizing several passages. I’ve heard the speech many, many times over the years. I’ve also taken the time to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. I’ve read his books, and I’ve read books about him. King’s words were intelligent, thoughtful, forward-thinking, and challenging. He wanted to make this world a better place, and he, ultimately, gave his life doing it.
Because of his larger-than-life legacy, it’s very easy to make Mr. King a one-dimensional caricature. Everyone knows that he delivered the impactful “I Have a Dream” speech, but I think it is important to find out what else motivated this amazing man. He cared deeply about gaining civil rights for minorities through non-violent action. He, also, was an advocate for economic equality and an opponent of the Vietnam war. As a Baptist minister, he used his Christian faith and beliefs to help shape his agenda. He knew that great and lasting change would come. All he and his fellow activists had to do was keep moving forward.
This year, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I celebrated. I didn’t celebrate by having a big party or eating cake. Instead, I celebrated by taking stock of my life. When I started school, the schools here in Brackettville were segregated. By the time I was ready to graduate, the schools had been integrated. I have lived through some sadness caused by prejudice and bigotry, but I have also been a witness to great change. I believe that we are always striving to better ourselves. I believe that we are always doing the best we can to make this world a better place. So on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I celebrated. I celebrated how far we’ve come. I celebrated the beauty and the struggle of our journey. And I celebrated that, even though we still have a long way to go, we are willing to keep moving forward.
Note: This blog was published as an article in 1/19/17
For the past few days, I have been under the weather. Of course, this season lends itself to sickness, so getting a slight cold or the sniffles is to be expected. Once I started feeling better, as I made my rounds, I learned that many of my relatives, friends, and neighbors had also succumbed to the “bug” that was going around town.
While I was sick, several kind souls stopped by my house. They came armed with warm food, tons of cough drops, and get-well wishes. These visits were great comforts. When I felt better, I did the same.
When you’re sick, all you want to do is get well. Of course, that goes without saying. The only problem is, you have no idea how long it is going to take. Sometimes, all you can do is wait it out. It’s hard to say have patience, but, sometimes, patience is the best medicine.
Being sick, however, had an up-side. It allowed me to see how caring and concerned the folks who live in Brackettville can be, and I know that I wasn’t the only receiving extra care, attention, and hot soup. Isn’t it amazing how we can come together to help those in need?
I know that I’ve been a witness to how quickly and selflessly this community comes together when a family is in need. I’ve seen people worried about how they would obtain very basic human necessities, and somehow, always, without fail, someone steps in and helps out.
Of course, we know how to celebrate. We are the best when it comes to commemorating a wedding, a birth, a quince, a graduation, or an anniversary. We know how to get dressed up and put on our best smiles and eat and laugh and dance the night away. Seeing so much happiness is always a beautiful thing.
But, when you’re not feeling well, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever feel good again and, if so, when, having someone(s) who are concerned about you and who are willing to take care of you is a priceless and overwhelming feeling. Even though it has been cold outside, I know that our little town is filled with warm-hearted people who are there for each other at a moment’s notice.
Note: This article was published in the 1/12/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
My relationship with tamales has been a long and delicious one. I am sure that I began eating them long before I was even able to say the word properly. They are practically their own food group in my family, and on the first day of each new year, they are the centerpiece of and the most coveted item on our table.
My mom used to make tamales from scratch. If I close my eyes, I can see her working away, preparing the masa and cooking the meat. In her later years, instead of corn husks, she would sometimes use aluminum foil, which I’ve always thought was ingenious and funny. While the tamales steamed, the whole house was filled with the pungent aroma of the chili powder, cumin, and other rich spices that she had used. When I was old enough to help, I became a part of an eager assembly line of siblings who had various jobs that helped see the tamales from start to completion. Of course, my favorite job was taste tester, and I was always happy to volunteer my services.
At noon on the first day of the new year, we would fill our plates with all those edible symbols of good luck and prosperity: tamales, black-eyed peas, collard greens, ham, and cornbread. Before we ate, we’d always bow our heads and give thanks for this first meal of the new year. As we ate, we’d talk about how we’d rung in the new year, how little we had all slept, and what our hopes and wishes and goals for the new year were. This has been my family’s tradition for longer than I can remember. What the new year always brings is a great reason for everyone to come together, to share a meal, and to bask in the glow of the love that we have for each other before we return to our busy lives after the holidays.
This year, out of curiosity, I looked up New Year’s traditions. Of course, eating specific foods that symbolize wealth and health is universal, but something that I’d never heard of was the tradition of eating twelve grapes. This is supposed to bring good luck for the whole year, so figuring that a little more luck couldn’t hurt, when I went to Lowe’s, I picked up a bag of grapes and picked out exactly twelve for everyone who would be partaking in our New Year’s meal. Because most of what we eat is savory, the sweetness of the grapes was a welcomed addition. I am pretty sure that they will be making a return appearance next year.
As my family gathered to eat our first meal of the new year, I couldn’t help but think about my mom. She was an excellent cook, so I often find myself trying to mimic the way she did things in the hopes that my food will come out as delicious as hers did. When she passed away, I worried that we had lost the glue that held us together, but what I’ve learned is that love compels my family to keep doing what we’ve always done. We know that it is important to come together and celebrate as a family, not only because it is what my mom would have wanted, but because it’s what we all want, as well. What I have learned is that, no matter whether it is an old tradition or a new one, what is most important is the people who are celebrating those traditions with you.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 1/5/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.