I’ve always aspired to uplift my people and pave the way for future generations to continue the success our ancestors fought for us to have. My inspiration comes from past and present leaders who put others’ needs before their own desires. As we continue to progress, it can be difficult to relate to the struggles our forebears experienced, some of which were caused by racial tension and dire economic circumstances. If the objective was to escape poverty and scarcity, then to say we’ve been triumphant would be an understatement. Our ambition stemmed from instincts necessary to survive in the plains of Alabama and Georgia and then the swamplands of the Everglades. Our drive to endure the hardships has led to the booming eminence we experience today, making us one of the most prosperous groups of Native Americans in the United States.
One of my biggest heroes is my maternal grandfather. To support his 10 children, he at times worked three jobs while my grandmother stayed at home with the kids. It wasn’t uncommon for him to have two full-time jobs the same day. My grandfather seldom missed work, even when he would get sick from the brutal New York winters. He’d show his children his calloused hands, wanting them to work hard, but not in the manner in which he had to because of his lack of formal education. My grandparents emphasized the importance of each generation accomplishing more than the previous one.
Learning of my grandfather’s work ethic and passion he had for his family has influenced me tremendously. It’s given me a desire to work with the same hunger and urgency as someone who doesn’t have as many opportunities as I. It’s difficult to feel entitled when the majority of people I’ve encountered have struggled to make a decent living. There are no early retirements but only years of working long hours and lifestyles often filled with anguish and little luxury. It’s the reality for millions of people in this country. Seeing war veterans with missing limbs on the sides of streets asking for money or hearing stories of children whose only meals come from school helps me appreciate the gifts we’ve been given that can be taken away at any time. Nothing lasts forever. So education and strong work ethics are vital.
Before I began working for The Seminole Tribune, senior editor Brett Daly had a list of objectives she wanted me to accomplish. She’s truly been the quintessential boss. Every time I speak with her, I feel my words and time are of the utmost importance. Although I’m a Tribal citizen, I’m treated the same as my co-workers. The support and guidance I’ve been given from everyone at The Tribune has been amazing. They have made the transition from the Executive Operations Office seamless. Everyone has been willing to help me get the most out of my time at The Tribune. Staff reporters Beverly Bidney and Eileen Soler and copy editor Kevin Johnson have been a joy to work alongside. This past October, special projects reporter Peter Gallagher invited me to attend an interview of Bobby Henry for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s Oral History Project. I learned some of the Seminole traditions and beliefs. I was also given a tour of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.
Working for The Tribune has forced me to structure my time more effectively because I work on deadlines. But time management has long been my kryptonite. During my freshman year of college, one of my roommates and I posted a video online showing us working on assignments after 4 a.m. It was far too often that I’d let assignments pile up and then stress over how much I had to do in such a short amount of time. Procrastinating was my comfort zone. A reason I was originally nervous prior to working for the Tribe was that I was scared that those poor habits would carry over into my professional career. To stay on track, I plan out each day and organize assignments accordingly. Multi-colored Post-its litter my desk with reminders and notes to stay on top of my work.
As a contributing writer for The Tribune, I travel to the different reservations and meet a lot of people. There have been many who remember my twin and me from more than 20 years ago. Recently, I went to Brighton for an assignment and rode past a home I lived in as a toddler. It was surreal seeing it because it looked very similar to the way I remember seeing it years ago. The more I talk with other Seminoles, the more I want to learn of my heritage and lineage.
I may never learn exactly where my African ancestry originates primarily because of the negative effects slavery had on enslaved Africans. For centuries, slavery broke up African families, leading to broken traditions, lost languages and identities. Learning of my Seminole history helps clarify some of the unknown.
During my four months in the ACD program, I’ve had a truly gratifying experience. Three years ago, I wanted to work for the Tribe, but the timing wasn’t right. Now, it seems as if everything is falling in place. The Tribe has given me the opportunity to mold many of my childhood dreams into a reality. Being a Tribal citizen has exposed me to a world foreign to the one I grew up in. No longer having to worry about making ends meet really changes your perspective in life. For so many years, my focus was on being financially secure. The Tribe has given me the stability I’ve sought after, albeit I still have goals I want to achieve. Elders have vehemently conveyed the importance of us keeping our traditions close and alive.
We’re the new trailblazers.
It’s imperative that we properly guide future generations and that we possess productive characteristics and instill them into our youth.
What better time to do so than now?