I have to be honest. Before we opened the Seminole Negro Indian Museum, we didn’t know what to expect. We constantly wondered and worried if anyone would actually visit once we opened our doors. I am sure that many of you know that starting something new can feel like wading out into uncharted waters. It can be extremely exhilarating and completely nerve-wracking all at the same time.
We spent many, many months planning the layout of the museum, preparing each section, researching our history to make sure our information was accurate, studying other museums, and nitpicking and agonizing over the placement of each and every picture on display. Each completed objective meant we were one step closer to achieving our goal of opening a museum that would tell the story of the Black Seminoles.
When we had our grand opening on April 25, 2015, we were overwhelmed by the turnout. We were humbled by the support we received from all of those who attended, and since our opening, we’ve had several visitors who have returned and brought friends and family with them. The museum has become a unique meeting place, where we are able to discuss and explore several thought-provoking topics. We’ve been able to meet with college students, historians, and writers, and give them tours to help them better understand the Black Seminoles as a people.
We’ve also been very lucky, in that, we’ve had the support of all of the other local museums. It feels like we’ve become a family, and we are indebted to the expertise and kindness and friendship that we’ve been shown. The Fort Clark Historical Society and Museum (Old Guardhouse Museum) donated display cases and artifacts. Any time we’ve had a question, they’ve helped by answering it or pointing us in the right direction. The Filippone Museum, which is run by the Kinney County Historical Commission, opened its doors not long after we opened ours, and we’ve enjoyed engaging in an open dialogue about museums and history and so much more.
In the time that the museum has been opened, I’ve asked myself several times, Why are museums important? I think I am finally able to answer that question with some confidence.
I’ve learned that museums allow us to celebrate ourselves. They allow us to explore our history. They allow us to illuminate what we find beautiful, meaningful, and important. Museums tell visitors, “This is what we want you to know about us.” Museums invite exploration and curiosity. They foster imagination and hope.
Now that we are in the holiday season, we invite and encourage you to go out and explore your surroundings. We are so fortunate to live in this community that is so full of history and people who are passionate about preserving and promoting it. If you haven’t already, I think you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to take some time one Saturday to visit the museums that are working to preserve the history of this beautiful place that we all call home.
Note: This blog was published as an article in the 12/01/16 edition of the Kinney County Post.
Last Saturday (November 12), the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association celebrated Thanksgiving a bit early by having a potluck meal following our monthly meeting. We had turkey, stuffing, gravy, yams, greens, mashed potatoes, and many, many different kinds of cakes and pies and cookies. Before we ate, we bowed our heads to say prayer. As we did this, I couldn’t help but reflect on all that we had to be grateful for.
This year has been an illuminating and prosperous year for the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association. Thanks to the participation of many Brackettville residents and several tireless volunteers, we’ve had several successful fundraisers. Our two “big” celebrations – Juneteenth and Seminole Days – continue to grow each year. Each year, we get to see old faces that we’ve grown to love, and we get to see new faces that will soon become family.
Our little museum is thriving, and we look forward to opening our doors each Saturday to welcome the public and tell our visitors a little about the history of the Black Seminoles.
I, personally, am thankful for those unsung heroes who have helped without asking for anything or who turn down our money because they just want to be of service. There is a group from Laughlin that has adopted the cemetery, and they are always on call when we need help. There are countless members of the association like Beverly and Joe Kelly who go out and clean the cemetery when they see it needs some attention to be paid to it. Thank you to Corina Torralba and her sons and her brother Lee and Lee’s better half Ana and Mary and Al Nofi for traveling great distances to come to our little meetings and fundraisers. Thank you to Bertha Benson for your calming presence and innovative ideas. Thank you to vice-president Affie Brown for being such a strong voice and trusted confidante. Thank you to treasurer Mary Vasquez-Gamble for making sure all the bills get paid.
I am grateful that we are always finding new ways to keep Miss Charles Emily Wilson’s dream alive. We, as an association, are able to come together when we need to, but we are also able to come together when we want to and have a good time filled with love, laughter, and music. We are one big extended family, as most of us are related to each other, and our little early Thanksgiving celebration reminded me of that.
We were seated at several tables that formed one long line. Everyone laughed and joked with each other as soothing music played in the background. Every so often, someone would ask, “Who made this? It is so good!” One gentleman said that the food was so “bad” that he had to go back for thirds.
The people gathered in that room are descendants of a people who were stolen from the shores of West Africa, landed on the shores of the southern US and forced into slavery, escaped into Florida, moved to Oklahoma, migrated to Mexico, and finally settled in Texas, specifically Brackettville. Here we are the children of the children of the children of these extraordinary people, gathering, sharing, laughing, talking, loving, and living. We are so grateful for and humbled by the sacrifices they made.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all from the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 11/24/2016 edition of the Kinney County Post.
Recently, someone told one of my relatives that she was “negative.” Instead of being offended by these words, my kin said, “This person calling me ‘negative’ is really saying more about herself than she is about me. She is trying to project her feelings about herself onto me. Luckily, I know who I am, so her words have no effect on me.”
Throughout life, we all must face the opinions of others. We all must realize that not everyone is going to like us or be kind to us. As performer Dita Von Teese has been quoted as saying, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” Some people can and do use their words simply to bring sadness and hurt. When they are not able to have a healthy adult dialogue, their tongues turn into swords. They think that belittling and insulting people is fine; luckily, they are wrong. The important thing, though, is to remember that no matter what anyone thinks of you, the most important thing is what you think of yourself. No one else’s opinion should be able to affect you if you have already fortified yourself with self-awareness and self-love. Someone who is self-aware and self-loving will not use his or her words to personally attack or bring anyone down. We must not forget that arguing with a fool makes it hard to tell who is who, so instead of attacking someone, it is important to realize why that person is attacking you and to react in a way that is indicative of your intelligence and wisdom (and good home training).
This incident reminded me of the advice given in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The four agreements are (1) Be Impeccable with Your Word, (2) Don’t Take Anything Personally, (3) Don’t Make Assumptions, and (4) Always Do Your Best. The following is a brief explanation of the four agreements and is excerpted from Mr. Ruiz’s timeless classic:
So when someone comes hurling negative insults your way, you have a choice to make. Will you get down in the mud with that person and come out just as dirty? Or will you, instead, be understanding and wise and respond with kindness and love?