It’s no secret

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A Sunday was the perfect day to make one – my first pound cake.

Sugar. Butter. Self rising flour. All purpose flour. Milk. Eggs. Vanilla, lemon, almond extracts. And Crisco. You can’t forget the Crisco. Or the fact that unsealing a new can of it is enough to give you a heart attack.

It’s no secret recipe. She would share it with whoever wanted it.

She could have given it out to every single person in the world to make, but nobody could top the way hers turned out.

If you knew Reba Bruton, you knew she loved to cook. And that she was beyond good at it.

She was especially known for her pound cakes. And she was always baking cakes for Cedar Grove Baptist Church’s youth fundraisers.

She passed on Jan. 31, 2017 – two weeks before Valentine’s Day.

My mother found her handwritten recipe lying on the dining room counter a week later.

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Grandma had promised to make a pound cake for the Valentine’s dinner at church – a quaint, southern church outside of Conway, SC.

So, my mother baked the cake.

Her, my father and Papa watched it auction off for $280, the highest price of the evening.

My mother sent me a picture of the recipe the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.

I read my grandma’s handwritten recipe. And remembered her homemade grape jelly I still had. I remembered pouring hot water over tomatoes before canning them with her one summer.

I pulled out her old mixer – one she gave me when I moved into my own house. A tan Oster mixer that also turns into a blender. I’m sure it’s from the late 1970s. It’s mixed hundreds of pound cakes.

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I know my grandma had a good laugh up in heaven watching me fight her old mixer, trying to get the top part to lift up. Nobody told me there was a secret button underneath.

I could hear her saying, “Don’t tear it up!”

As the ingredients mixed together, I gave the bowl a few extra pushes to keep it turning. And looked at how pretty the batter was – just like hers.

I greased up one of her old pound cake pans, the kind with the hole in the middle. And poured the mixture in.

Nearly an hour and a half later, I pulled out a nice, golden pound cake.

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With batter still on my arms, I waited for it to cool. Put a plate on top. Flipped it. Cut it.

Fluffy on the inside and a brown crust on the outside.

Just like hers, but not quite as good.

Follow reporter Hannah Strong on Twitter and Instagram @HannahLStrong

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Two hugs for grandma

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When my grandmother passed away last week, I was writing in my head over the exhaustingly long days. Unable to fully get it all on paper, I wrote small notes on a page full of Hardee’s coupons. Little notes to remember the memories…

…like when she told us not to tell Papa a man “held her hands” when she got a manicure.

…or the time she taught me how to shoot the bird.

…or how a girl goes tinkle outside.

…or that I’d always give her two hugs before I left.

…and the time she cussed when we saw a snake in the river.

She hated snakes. And she was classy but rough around the edges.

As a full-time writer I’m constantly thinking about my life on paper. What I can write to save for later. What I can write to cherish moments forever.

I’m finally decompressing by writing. Surprise, surprise.

Life goes on – which is the hardest part after a death. Or is it your ex calling you sadistic after you get upset he didn’t reach out after the loss? I don’t know. But I do know what a death teaches you – who your real friends are and their true colors.

It’s who sends the long texts. Who follows up to make sure you’re okay. Who brings you chicken pot pie. Who says they are thinking about you. Who drives the distance to give you a hug and share tears. Who sends the flowers, cards, Shari’s Berries.

What’s also therapeutic during the grieving process is comic relief. A cousin getting left at the church after the funeral because our family is so big we can barely keep up with everyone. Or when your uncle’s and cousin’s suits accidentally get swapped – one coming out in a huge suit with a coat to his knees and the other in the back bedroom trying with everything he has to get the pants buttoned.

I also learned what funeral food is in the south. It’s boat loads of macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and about 10 different cakes.

But the best lesson I learned from the week was from my Papa.

“To have good friends you have to be a good friend,” he said.

Journalists have emotions, I promise

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You never know what your day will be like as a reporter. Of course you have the day planned and deadlines never change. But, walking into the newsroom in the morning you brace yourself for anything the world may throw your way.

Hate mail from a furious reader, a child who has died from asphyxia, a 44-year-old man who has sexually assaulted a 9-year-old girl, even a UFO sighting. No comment on the last one. All of that happened to me in one week.

It can be tough – challenging me mentally and testing my patience – but I’m growing.

Last Friday, I was sitting at my desk with mascara on from the day before. I think I was wearing clean jeans, surprisingly. Two stories ahead of me – one breaking news and the other I’d been working on for a bit.

I was tired with a headache, but I had a job to do. A job that is more than just a job. A job that I have a passion for, that I have a calling for. My day isn’t complete until I finish the job of informing the public.

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People hate the news media – don’t they? Well that’s fine. I think it’s the people who don’t really know what we do who hate us the most.

A little over a week ago I was able to get the word out about a student-led fundraiser for their fellow classmate who has cerebral palsy and in need of $50,000 for stem cell therapy.

I spoke on the phone with a high school senior who was absolutely beautiful on the inside, leading the fundraiser to help her classmate. Crying on the phone because she felt so strongly about serving her friend. And humbly giving credit to all who were involved.

I was in tears too. I can’t speak for all of us, but most journalists have souls and emotions. I promise.

Later in the week, I found myself in tears again speaking with an elementary school principal. One of their fourth grade babies had died the night before. In shock, the thought of having to speak with the parents next haunted me. Feeling like I should give them time, but wanting them to let others know how their child should be remembered. And to clear any rumors around the mill.

This week through a FOIA request, I received the incident and supplemental police reports – 11 pages of very specific details from the scene. Reading it over and over for the article, to be sure it was accurate. It was emotionally draining.

Reporters, editors, freelancers, photographers. We all have a job to do. We’re often taken for granted. We write articles that may only be read by three people. And we get treated pretty unfairly.

But without us, you’ll be left wondering what happened.

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Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter and Instagram @HannahLStrong

That one desk in the newsroom

At one of the eight desks in the newsroom is a desk that has everything you’ll ever need as a reporter. That desk has the most current AP Stylebook, a can of “community keyboard cleaner,” a police scanner and a boombox from the early 2000’s that plays oldies all day.

At this desk sits Greg. One of the long-time reporters at the paper, other than the famous sports editor.

In addition to the accessories at his desk is a brain full of knowledge about who is who and what is what in the county. He knows who to call, where to go, what to do.

And he always has two rules to go by for any said topic.

He will make you laugh, and he will butcher your articles if you ask him to proofread. But he knows what he’s doing.

Sometimes he’ll tell you to call someone and spout their number off while you’re still trying to write down their first name. It’s because he knows the city and folks like the back of his hand.

I don’t think anyone in the newsroom could do their job to the fullest if it wasn’t for that desk and guy who sits in it.

And I forgot to mention, the deer mounted on the wall of the newsroom…yeah, Greg shot it.

Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong

One month in as a reporter

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I’ve been reporting for a little more than a month and I’ve already learned one of the most important things a young reporter could learn: observing.

It may sound like an obvious thing for a reporter to do. But I’m not just talking about observing to make mental notes within the settings you cover, which do add great details to a story, but observing other reporters in the newsroom and your editor. Especially asking your editor to do side-by-side editing, if there is time before going to press. The reporters know the area well, and some know certain numbers of contact off the top of their heads.

My favorite thing to do on quieter days when I have the time, is go out on breaking crime news with the crime reporter. I know I sound like a little girl anxious for an adventure when my head pops up and I immediately say “can I go?” after we hear 10-75 on the police scanner.

I love listening to the police scanner. The other day we heard 10-75, it turned out someone had shot himself with a flare gun. I stayed in the newsroom that day.

Being new to an area comes with its struggles. Like driving up and down Catawba Street looking for City Hall and continuously passing it for no good reason.

The town is quaint and small and easy to learn your way around. I learned when my parents came to visit that the three of us could have a sit down breakfast, coffee and all, for $19, tip included. It blew my mind.

Although I have my first “big girl job” I’m still not finished learning, and I’ve realized that I’m a sponge trying to soak up all the water I can. My professors at Winthrop did an amazing job preparing me for my first reporting position, but you don’t know a deadline until you’re coming up on 15 minutes until your story goes to press and you have a few more graphs to add.

Stay tuned, if you wish, because I have a feeling weekly blogs will be a regular as I gather many stories to tell from my first job as a reporter.

Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong

Native Americans: a people unacknowledged

The truth about Native American culture told by a Native

By Hannah Louise Strong

At first glance senior political science major Dylan Hunt might simply look like a tall guy with a beard and long curly hair. You may see him riding his longboard around Winthrop University’s campus or attending Socialist Student Union meetings. But the most important thing to Hunt is his Native American heritage.

“I am Lumbee, a large majority of us live in Robeson County North Carolina,” Hunt said.

Hunt is forced to face different emotions when it comes to being a minority on Winthrop’s campus. “Being one of the few Natives on campus I feel two opposite emotions, one positive and one negative,” Hunt said. “The positive is that I’m able to be a part of the progress of my people. The negative is the fact that I am one of the few Natives here which results in many other negative aspects of my being here.”

Kinyata Brown, Winthrop’s director of Diversity and Student Engagement, said she is not sure why there aren’t many identified Native Americans at Winthrop. Brown said she has not personally worked directly with students who are Native American.

“To my knowledge, there is not a particular student organization that has been created for or by Native Americans,” Brown said. “Part of that probably reflects the low number of students who again identify as Native American.”

Misrepresentation and appropriation of Native culture

In November, Native American History Month, Winthrop hosted an event where students could make dream catchers. Hunt said another hard thing about being a Native American student is the events on campus do not honor Native culture.

“There is a fascination with appropriating Native American culture, where they take art from our cultures and use it for whatever fulfils their purpose. Making pipe cleaner dream catchers is not respecting our culture, it’s making something within our culture a trendy item and does not further the narrative on Native issues,” Hunt said.

“People don’t really understand what a dream catcher is and assign their own meaning to them. The issue isn’t only about the dream catcher in particular but rather the thought that making some fake Native American object is a way of honoring or respecting who we are,” Hunt said.

Recently Indian Country Today reported on a Native American student at the University of California Sacramento who was told by her professor she was expelled from his class.

Sophomore Chiitaanibah Johnson disagreed with her professor when he said genocide was too strong of a word to use when explaining Native American history.  Johnson said she was offended and didn’t respond at first but when she did the professor became volatile and soon ended class early.

Hunt said he has had similar situations in and out of the class setting. “There are countless times where I have had to defend my people’s history and the genocide of Native Americans that interrupted it,” Hunt said. “This happens in classes with professors and students and even outside of class these kind of interactions happen. What is upsetting about it is that this is happening at an institution for higher learning where I’m having these issues.”

Appropriating Native Americans in mascots is another dishonor to the culture. Teams like the Blackhawks, Seminoles and Redskins bring in millions of dollars with names they have taken. Hunt said using these names are extremely offensive to Native Americans.

“They are using our people and culture as a prop and doing so in a derogatory manner,” Hunt said. “For example, people do not realize the term redskin is a racial slur.”

The American Indian Movement

The history of the American Indian Movement states it was formally created in July 1968 after existing for 500 years without a name. AIM is committed to advocate for Native Americans and the racism they face. Throughout the years, AIM has protested and partnered with anti-racism groups to help raise awareness dealing with their inequality.

Hunt’s future plans for these issues

After graduation Hunt said he plans to get a teaching job so he can educate students on Native American history.

“I would like to see devotion to Native history, culture and modern issues in classes. I also think it’s the university’s job to recruit students that are underprivileged in the first place to make a positive impact on our world,” Hunt said.  “Generally speaking, what I would like to do for the Native American community as a whole would be to bring awareness to the issues and garner some respect for who we are and acknowledging that we are still here, not people of the past.”

“I want to move back to home to Lumbee land and make my way into the Lumbee Tribal Government,” Hunt said. The two things he said he wants to focus on would be strengthening Lumbee businesses and trying to improve the overall education, health, and well-being of his people.