Death. This is not one of my favorite words. But for most of my life, I’ve been very aware of that word and its meaning. I’ve heard it talked about and discussed and predicted. I’ve heard folks wondering how to prevent it, and I’ve heard them saying that, if it doesn’t happen this year, what will be done to prevent it next year? The death I am talking about is not the death of a person, but the death of an organization, specifically the Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery Association.
When I was a child, I used to think that all of the black people in Texas came to Brackettville to celebrate Juneteenth and then Seminole Days each year. There were so many people. And they all seemed to be my “cousins.” So I was always surprised to hear some people saying that this year wasn’t like last year or ten years ago.
There is always strength in numbers. A gathering of a large group of people indicates a healthy organization. I’ve always known this to be true. So when the opposite happens, it is easy to come to the logical conclusion that the organization is on its last leg. Everyone has a perception of what progress is. And generally numbers are the easiest indicator of that.
And even if there was a large group of people gathered in the school yard, the elders would lament because the young children didn’t seem interested in learning about their history. This lament causes much consternation. And the elders have always worried about our legacy dying with them.
As a young adult, as secretary, and now as president, I’ve heard these concerns and laments. I’ve also heard and seen the way that people can come together to get things done. I’ve learned that there will always be people who care about the Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery Association. And as long as these people care, the organization cannot die. I’ve learned that there are a countless number of people all over this country who care deeply about what happens to a little cemetery in Brackettville, Texas, and the people buried in it. So they call, write, donate, volunteer, attend our events, and learn about our history.
Although we may be quiet sometimes, we were never dying; we may have seemed dormant to the unseen eye, but inside we are as busy as bees, reorganizing, restructuring, and readying ourselves for our reemergence.
I grew up in a house full of people. I have ten siblings, so, when we were younger, there was always someone asking me to tie a shoe, give a boost to get the cereal box from the top shelf, or help with homework. Because my family is so big, there has always been an ongoing cycle of giving and asking. Of course, we are ready to give each other money if we get into a bind, but, more importantly, we are always ready to give each other time whenever and as often as is needed. This cycle of giving and asking extends to the Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery Association, as well.
I’ve been involved with the Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery Association for more than half of my life. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the importance of involvement. Miss Charles always said to do the hard stuff first. Often times, that meant (and still means) getting up early or staying up late to make sure that the Carver grounds and cemetery were clean. That meant (and still means) doing weekly and monthly inspections to make sure that everything was working properly or to address an issue before it became a larger problem. Many times, these things were done when no one else was looking or even knew that they were taking place.
The Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery Association survives because of passionate volunteers. Every cabinet member and board member is a volunteer who gives of their time to make sure that this organization stays active and continues to grow. They also bring their experience and expertise to this organization. Some of our volunteers know how to cook, or who to call if we need to get something done. I am very happy to be surrounded by these hard-working, kind, and giving people.
Why do we volunteer, you ask? Because we want to. Because if we didn’t do it, no one else would. Because we love our legacy and our organization. Because we are proud of the hard work that so many who came before us put into making this organization last and work. Because we do not want all their hard work to be for naught. Because we understand the importance of involvement.
The beautiful thing about volunteering is that it cannot be forced. You cannot make people give of their time if they don’t want to. It must be the decision of the potential volunteers to decide that, instead of doing countless other things, they will spend their time doing this one thing for free. Oftentimes, that time, even if it is just one hour, can make a huge impact and have lasting effects.
Sometimes the simplest things are needed.
If you are interested in volunteering, but are unsure of how or what to do. Just ask yourself, do I have a talent that I’d love to share with others? Maybe you can make a group of five year olds laugh. Maybe you can sing a crying baby to sleep. Maybe you can just sit and listen to a veteran. Maybe you can teach a group of eighty year olds how to dance. Or even better, maybe you can hammer a nail without hitting your finger. Or paint a wall without painting yourself.
Of course, I would love it if you wanted to volunteer with the Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery Association, but, more importantly, I hope you volunteer—period. There are so many people and organizations that are in desperate need of your time, talent, and involvement.