I have been a member of the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association for more than half of my life. In this time, I’ve seen many aspects of this organization. I’ve gained a valuable education on non-profits, cemeteries, meetings, and event planning. I’ve had the opportunity, as president, to be at the helm of some interesting and noteworthy projects. We have two new projects that we will working on simultaneously, and I couldn’t be more excited about them.
During our regular cemetery cleanups, we mostly focus on making sure that the grass is cut and that weeds and any other unwanted growth is removed from around graves. We’ve never really focused on the condition of the graves, especially the headstones. Sadly, many of the graves are in desperate need of repair and cleaning. Our first project will be cleaning and repairing the graves. The plan is to start at the far end of the cemetery. The graves located in this area need the most attention, as they are the oldest. When we are ready to start this project, we will let everyone know via The Kinney County Post, our social media accounts, and our website.
We have partnered with the Fort Clark Historical Society for our second project. A few months ago, Mr. Russell Nowell, the president of the Fort Clark Historical Society, came to us with a wonderful idea. He suggested that we mark the unknown graves at the cemetery with markers. In early June, we went out to cemetery and counted the unknown/unmarked graves in the far left area. We counted forty-four graves that are unknown. Now, our goal is to raise $1,100.00 to cover the cost of the bricks, which are 16” x 14” x 4”, and the overlay that will be marked with the word UNKNOWN. The brick and the overlay cost $20.00 and $5.00 respectively. It is our hope that many of these unknown graves will eventually be identified.
Once the projects are up and running, I do look forward to reporting about our progress.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 6/29/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
On Saturday, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association celebrated Juneteenth. Last week, I discussed the history. This week, I’d like to talk about what happened during our celebration. This year, we kept it very simple; we had a special program and a barbecue plate sale.
The Juneteenth program began at ten in the morning. Mrs. Adams began the program with an opening prayer. Her words were wise, heartfelt, and a fitting start to our annual celebration. I followed Mrs. Adams. I welcomed everyone and introduced “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is also known as the Negro National Anthem. Unfortunately, for me, (but fortunately for anyone who is looking for a good laugh), there might be a few videos floating around Facebook of me singing. All that can be said is that I did my best. While I might not be the best singer, the lyrics to “Life Every Voice and Sing” are some of my favorite, and I am happy that we were able to share this beautiful song with those who might not have heard it before.
Following the welcome, we felt it was necessary to explain what Juneteenth is, so my niece Windy Goodloe talked about the history of Juneteenth. After the explanation for Juneteenth was given, Mr. Albert Nofi read General Order No. 3, which is also known as the Texas Emancipation Proclamation. We appreciate him giving such a moving reading of this important historical document.
One of the most important Juneteenth traditions involves the food that was traditionally eaten. Red food was most commonly consumed because crimson is a symbol of ingenuity and resilience in bondage. To give everyone a little taste of this tradition, we gave everyone a cup of Big Red and some strawberries to snack while they learned about this rich food tradition.
Next, we opened the floor to our guests who wanted to make remarks. First, I got up and spoke. Then, Beverly Kelly spoke about her memories of previous Juneteenths. Mary Vasquez-Gamble spoke about her memories as well. Finally, Jon Arnold, the military and veterans’ affairs liaison for U.S. Representative Will Hurd, introduced himself and his family and talked about his Juneteenth experiences.
Lastly, Windy Goodloe led a group recitation of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” From here, we took the program outside, where as we thanked and remembered those who came before us, before we released balloons.
Following the conclusion of the program, several of our Juneteenth celebration attendees toured our Seminole Negro Indian Scout Museum. Also, several members of the Pierce family, who were celebrating their family reunion, congregated at the school. This is the second year that we’ve been able to celebrate Juneteenth with this beautiful family of Seminole Negro Indian Scout descendants.
The barbecue plate sale went better than expected. Many of those who bought plates, instead of leaving, decided to eat at the school, so many of us stayed at the school well into the evening, enjoying each other, laughing, reminiscing, and just being grateful for a day well-spent.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 6/22/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
On Saturday, June 17, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association (SISCA) will celebrate Juneteenth. This will be our thirty-eighth year celebrating this important American holiday. Since our first celebration in 1979, we have gathered at the Carver School Grounds in Brackettville, Texas, to celebrate freedom. Juneteenth (or June Nineteenth, Emancipation Day, or Freedom Day) commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that enslaved Africans living in Texas learned that they were free.
This year, we will present a special Juneteenth program beginning at 10 AM. Afterward, we will have a barbecue plate sale, which will begin at 11 AM. During our program, we plan to discuss the history of Juneteenth and recreate some of our traditions. Juneteenth means freedom, and we are planning to celebrate just that.
On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. On June 19, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3,” announcing the total emancipation of those who had been enslaved: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere” (Wikipedia).
Can you imagine what it must have felt like for all of those who heard this? To hear that you are free?
Upon hearing this information, the once-enslaved Africans took the streets and rejoiced. It was a truly joyous occasion. The following year, the newly freed men organized the first Juneteenth celebration in Galveston. Everyone dressed in their finest clothes on that special day. There was a parade and a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Then there was food. Traditionally, red food was served. It is said that this was to honor the blood that had been spilled by those seeking freedom (“Reviving the Tea Cake of Juneteenth Parties Past” by Michele Kayal for The Plate/National Geographic), so they ate things like watermelon and red velvet cake and drank red soda and hibiscus tea. They also ate special cookies called tea cakes, and there was the singing of songs.
From these humble beginnings, a new holiday began. For over 150 years, African Americans have celebrated the day that we learned we were free. Interestingly, the holiday has grown into something very personal for many people. Every Juneteenth, I think it is important to ask, “What does freedom mean, and how do I honor this freedom?” Many paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and for their sacrifice, they must be held in reverence and honored with constant gratitude. We invite you to come and celebrate Juneteenth with us. For more information, you can: call Augusta Pines at 830.309.4663, visit our website at www.seminolecemeteryassociation.com, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow us on Facebook at Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 6/15/17 of the Kinney County Post.
The month of June is Black Music Month. African-American Music Appreciation Month, as it is also called, is an annual celebration of African-American music in the United States. It was initiated as Black Music Month by President Jimmy Carter who, on June 7, 1979, decreed that June would be the month of black music. Similar presidential proclamations have been made annually since then.
In 2009, the commemoration was given its current name by President Barack Obama. In his 2016 proclamation, Obama noted that African-American music and musicians have helped the country "to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country's enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all." (Wikipedia)
I grew up listening to a variety of music. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for music, and I love to dance. Black music, in particular, has been an important part of my life. My memories are filled with the sounds of R&B/Soul, disco, jazz, and gospel.
Rhythm and Blues has roots in blues music. It is sensual and soulful music. Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and Marvin Gaye are all big names in this genre. Their music has made us laugh, cry, think, and love. They used their voices and their words to move their listeners.
Disco music is made for dancing. I’ve always loved to dance “The Hustle” and “The Electric Slide.” Whenever those songs are played, the whole crowd will get up and dance. Disco music always played in my house when I was cleaning up. Dancing around the house while cleaning seemed to make this chore go by a lot faster. I also remember getting up early on Saturday morning to watch Soul Train on WGN, so I could learn the latest dance moves.
Jazz is a small word for a very large and complex genre of music. Though it originated in New Orleans, it is now a global form of musical expression. Louis Armstong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald were all titans in the genre. Although many jazz musicians are primarily instrumentalists and not vocalists, the feelings and beliefs that they emote resonate through their music.
I’ve always sought gospel music as a solace during tough times. There is something about a chorus of voices that is both soothing and comforting. The words that they sing are just as important as the way they sing them.
I am very happy that we live in a time where the efforts of others are celebrated. Music is an important part of so many of our lives, so it only makes sense that we recognize those artists who have created music that makes us think, that makes us dance, and helps us love.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 6/8/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.