This past Saturday (July 15), several members of my family traveled from Brackettville to Big Lake, Texas, for our first annual family reunion. I couldn’t wait to see everyone, and I couldn’t wait to eat some of my brothers’ BBQ.
The idea of everyone coming together isn’t lost on my family. We come together during the good times to celebrate things like weddings and births. We also come together in times of need, when a loved one is sick or when a loved one dies.
During the family reunion, I was able to see our history and our future. The oldest people there were me and my siblings. We are the children of Dora Phillips Goodloe and Johnny Goodloe. All of my siblings were there. There are only nine of us now. My brothers John (Bumpy) and Frank (Bootsie) have passed away.
I am very aware of my mortality, but I also see how families live on. Many people know my family because of our smiles, and it seems that the Goodloe smile has been handed out in abundance. But there is also the Goodloe spirit, and that seems to be a trait that has been passed on to each family member. During our reunion, we all exhibited the same joy, hope, and laughter that my grandma Anna Grace had. She loved life and lived it to the fullest for the eighty years that she was on this earth. And from the youngest to the oldest, each person that was there seems to possess that same joie de vivre.
All day Saturday, I kept thinking about the journey that my ancestors made. Starting in Western Africa, they were captured, placed in ships like sardines, and enslaved against their will. We are the descendants of, at least, one enslaved African, who decided to run away. Instead of running North, this ancient ancestor went South, finding refuge in Florida. After three wars, the group that this ancestor had joined, now known as the Black Seminoles, were moved from Florida with the Seminoles. In Oklahoma, they did not find a home. The land they were given was not what they had been promised, and they were located near hostile Native American tribes and were under the constant threat of slave catchers, so they left Oklahoma and arrived in Mexico in 1850. From this time to 1870, the Black Seminoles patrolled the border for the Mexicans. For their efforts, they were given land, which they still own today. This place is called El Nacimiento de los Negros Mascogos. In 1870, several Black Seminoles returned to Texas to perform the same job they had done in Mexico for the United States. From 1870 to 1914, the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts served honorably and valiantly. After the Scouts were disbanded in 1914, many of the Black Seminoles took up residence in Brackettville. This is where my family comes from, and we are so proud of how we came to be.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 7/20/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This past Saturday (July 8) was very busy for the members of the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association. We had a cemetery cleanup. While the cemetery was being cleaned, back at the museum, several ladies were cleaning and reorganizing our back room. Our goal is to make it a resource room. At one, we had our monthly meeting, and following our monthly meeting, we opened the museum and were delighted by our visitors. Every Saturday, at the museum, I get to immerse myself in history. Lately, I’ve been thinking about beginnings and origins. I’ve always been intrigued by how the Seminoles and the Black Seminoles came to be.
Historians believe that Africans and Native Americans first came into contact with each other in April 1502, when the first enslaved African arrived in Hispaniola. Thus began an intriguing relationship between two distinct groups that has lasted centuries.
The Seminoles were originally known as the Creeks. They became known as the Seminoles, which means “runaway” or “untamed”, when they broke away from the Creeks and sought refuge in Florida. Native American refugees from the northern wars, such as the Yuchi and Yamasee after the Yamasee War in South Carolina, migrated into Florida in the early 18th century. More arrived in the second half of the 18th century. The Lower Creeks, who were part of the Muscogee people, began to migrate from several of their towns into Florida to evade the dominance of the Upper Creeks and colonists (Wikipedia).
Around 1689, enslaved Africans began seeking refuge in Spanish Florida in earnest. They were encouraged to do so by the Spanish. The Spanish were hoping that this influx of runaway slaves and Native Americans would help to bolster their numbers after several other tribes of Native Americans had died after contracting European infectious diseases.
The enslaved Africans who were seeking freedom had fled from South Carolina Lowcountry. Those who reached Florida were given freedom under an edict from King Charles II. All they had to do was promise to defend the Spanish settlers at St. Augustine. Soon, the Spanish had organized these once-enslaved Africans into a militia. And in 1738, their settlement at Fort Mose was founded. It was the first legally sanctioned free black town in North America (Wikipedia).
Even though the British defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War in 1763, which meant that the British took over rule in Florida, many enslaved Africans continued to seek refuge in this area because it was lightly settled. The only difference was that now they made sure to settle near Native American (Seminole) settlements.
This trend grew and continued. By the time of the American Revolution (1775-1783), Florida had been a sanctuary for runaway slaves for nearly seventy years. Communities of Black Seminoles generally began where the Seminole communities ended. The war, which was a time of upheaval and unrest, encouraged more slaves to seek freedom in Florida.
By the time that the War of 1812 began, there were two distinct communities of Seminoles and Black Seminoles that came together to fight. They sided with the British against the United States. Going to war together strengthen and tied these two groups closer together.
Note: The blog appeared as an article in the 7/13/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
We, as a town, celebrated the Fourth of July on Saturday, July 1. It was a busy, fun-filled, action-packed day, to say the least. There were so many events scheduled for that day, and I felt it was my duty to attend as many as possible.
Independence Day or the Fourth of July is a federal holiday that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire. The Congress actually voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2 (Wikipedia).
On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote the following to his wife Abigail: “The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with the pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
In 1777, thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once in the morning and once again as evening fell on July 4, on Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner that we modern Americans would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salute, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships in port were decked with red, white, and blue bunting (Wikipedia).
Here in Brackettville, we did just that. The patriotic program and the fireworks were highlights. This past weekend was full of festivities that highlighted our freedom and our love for our country.
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.
When enslaved Africans escaped slavery and found refuge in Florida, they took very little with them. One thing they did take was their language, Gullah, which we previously discussed.
As they cohabited with the Seminoles in Florida, their Gullah blended with the Seminole language and became Afro-Seminole Creole in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
As the Black Seminoles were forced to migrate from Florida to Oklahoma and then to Mexico, again, they took their language with them. In Mexico, Afro-Seminole underwent yet another transformation as many Spanish words were added to this ever-evolving language. When the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts began their service in Texas, they again brought their language with them.
Just think about how formidable and infallible this journey has been. The evolution of this language is a testament to the importance of communication and man’s ability to adopt to any situation. From the western coast of Africa all the way to Texas, one language crossed an ocean and numerous miles. It is now very different than it was originally, but many words from Africa are still a part of the language.
Sadly, as time passed, Afro-Seminole Creole and its speakers began to die. It was first identified in 1978 as a language by Ian Hancock, a linguist at the University of Texas, and speakers of Afro-Seminole Creole continue to live in Seminole County, Oklahoma, and Brackettville, Texas, in the United States and in Nacimiento de los Negros, Coahuila, in Mexico. There are only about 200 speakers of the language (Wikipedia).
Interestingly, there has been a resurgence of interest in Afro-Seminole Creole. I believe that it was in 2015 when many people began contacting me, asking if I knew how to speak it or if I knew anyone who knew how to speak it. That there is now interest in Afro-Seminole Creole makes my heart glad. See, when I was a little girl, we were reprimanded for speaking Afro-Seminole Creole, which, back then, we simply called Seminole. As a matter of fact, I remember one of my older brothers bringing home a note that encouraged my mom to only speak “proper English” in the home. At that time, we thought that assimilating was the only way that we would be able to make in society. We thought that our unique language was a hindrance, so we stopped speaking it, and we almost lost it. Luckily, we do still have a few families that remember it and continue to speak it. It is my goal to relearn this language and to make sure that anyone else who is interested also has a chance to learn.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 6/1/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
In 2015, for our annual Seminole Days celebration, our special guest speaker wowed and educated the crowd. She began her performance by speaking in a language that seemed foreign to the audience. As she spoke, she transitioned from this language that was “new” to the audience to speaking a form of English that was more familiar.
The speaker’s name is Queen Quet, and she is a tireless advocate for the Gullah/Geechee Nation. She travels the world as an ambassador for her people. During her unforgettable performance, she enlightened the crowd, telling them that the Black Seminoles of Texas and Mexico and the Gullah/Geechee of the Carolinas were linked by their language.
The group that would come to be known as the Black Seminoles began as enslaved Africans who were located in the Sea Islands, the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia and northeast Florida. The Gullah language is based on English with strong influences from West and Central African languages.
Gullah is considered to be a language that is indigenous to America. It arose independently in South Carolina and Georgia in the 18th and 19th centuries when a creole language evolved among African slaves on rice plantations. It combined features of the English they encountered in America with the West and Central African languages they brought with them.
There is also evidence that some slaves brought to South Carolina and Georgia already knew a language that was called West African Pidgin English. It is believed they learned this before they left Africa. This language was spoken along the coast of West Africa during the 18th century as a language of trade between Europeans and Africans.
The vocabulary of Gullah comes primarily from English, but there are words of African origin. Some of these African loanwords are: cootuh ("turtle"), oonuh ("you [plural]"), nyam ("eat"), buckruh ("white man"), pojo ("heron"), swonguh ("proud") and benne ("sesame") (Wikipedia).
Below are a few example of Gullah:
Uh gwine gone dey tomorruh.
"I will go there tomorrow." [I'm going to go there tomorrow]
We blan ketch 'nuf cootuh dey.
"We always catch a lot of turtles there."
Dem yent yeddy wuh oonuh say.
"They did not hear what you said."
Dem chillun binnuh nyam all we rice.
"Those children were eating all our rice." [Those(Them) children been eating all our rice]
'E tell'um say 'e haffuh do'um.
"He told him that he had to do it."
Duh him tell we say dem duh faa'muh.
"He's the one who told us that they are farmers."
De buckruh dey duh 'ood duh hunt tuckrey.
"The white man is in the woods hunting turkeys."
Alltwo dem 'ooman done fuh smaa't.
"Both those women are really smart."
Enty duh dem shum dey?
"Aren't they the ones who saw him there?" (Wikipedia)
Lastly, to end on an interesting note, the Gullah phrase Kumbayah ("Come By Here") became known throughout the United States and worldwide by its inclusion in "Kumbayah,” a song of the same name. Most who sing it are unaware of its linguistic antecedents.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 5/25/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This Saturday (May 20), we, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association will be honoring our founder Miss Charles Emily Wilson. When its doors opened on April 25, 2015, our museum was dedicated to her. The only problem was, this dedication was not stated anywhere, so we will be revealing a plaque that says just that. I am really looking forward to honoring her.
Miss Charles Emily Wilson was born on May 16, 2013. She attended Prairie View A&M and received a master’s degree in bilingual education. She taught for over forty years. I was one of her students. I looked up to her because there were so many things that I admired about her. She was an amazing writer and speaker. One of her best-known speeches was published by the Festival of American Folklife catalogue. Here is an excerpt: “Our people have lived in Texas for 100 years. Before that, we were in Mexico, where some of us still live, and before that we were in Oklahoma, and even earlier than that, Florida. And before that, we came from Africa. As far as we’ve come, in all our travels, we have never lost an awareness of our identity and a pride in our freedom, because it is our freedom which makes us different from other Americans of African descent.
In the 17th century, our ancestors fought against slavery and escaped into the northern bushlands of Spanish Florida. There we joined with our Indian brothers and sisters who had also escaped from the oppression of the European slavers; together, for many years, we resisted their attempts to recapture us. Together we rose against the white man to preserve our freedom, and together we created a Seminole society from both Indian and African roots. When we had to leave for safer territory in the 1830s to escape the slave raids in Florida, we went to Indian territory and settled along the Canadian River in what is today Oklahoma. But slave raids continued from nearby states. In our search for peace, we left once again and went to Mexico, though some of our people stayed behind in Oklahoma, where their descendant still live today.
In 1870 a few hundred of our ancestors were asked to come to Texas to fight the Native American so that white people could settle in the region. Those Seminoles served as Scouts for the U.S. Army out of Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass and Fort Clark in Brackettville, where we live today.
Although some of us visit our relatives in Mexico, at El Nacimeinto del los Negros in Coahuila State, not far from Muzquiz, we lost touch with our people in Oklahoma until 1981, when some of them visited Brackettville for the Juneteenth celebration. June 19th commemorates the emancipation of the slave in Texas, and we celebrate it every year in solidarity with our fellow Black Americans, but it is not a part of Seminole history since we were never slaves in Texas.
For more than 200 years, we kept our double African and Indian heritage alive. Our language and our way of life, our songs and dancing, our philosophy and our cooking all remind us of our distinctive roots. Only since the end of the Second World War have we really begun to lose those old ways. I remember when we would pound corn in a huge mortar made from a tree trunk to prepare suffki and toll, our special dishes. I remember when everybody around us would be speaking Seminole, the children too. I remember the way we used to dress, and the kinds of homes we lived in on the grounds of Fort Clark.
Today there are few of us left who know our history and speak our language. It maybe that too much time has already passed to get those things back. Some of the young people leave our small community and return to Brackettville only to visit.
But perhaps this recognition of who we are and what we have done may stir in their hearts a sense of pride and may move them to learn from us while they can, and they may yet pass on our story to their own children. We have given our loyalty and our skill to our country, and we have contributed to its history.
I can rest now, knowing that this has been recognized at last and that future school children both American and Seminole will learn about the part we have played in the growth of our great nation.”
Join us at the Carver School on Saturday, May 20, as we celebrate Miss Charles Emily Wilson.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 5/18/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.