Andy Harvey

Andy Harvey

Andy Harvey was a multimedia journalist for KPNX Channel 12 news.

Legacy: What will you leave behind?

I did not know Andy Harvey. It’s only through social networking that I came upon his obituary. Apparently, Andy was a KPNX Channel 12 news reporter in Arizona. He was a Native American, a Navajo from the Four Corners area near Shiprock, and according to his picture, he died very young. Details were not yet available.

As I stated, I did not know Andy. I do not live in Arizona and I do not watch the news. The negative reporting is not something I need in my life. But I feel I know Andy a little. We, afterall, are the same. We come from the same place, from the same time, and from the same people. We also grew up most likely in similar circumstances.

What strikes me is not only his untimely passing but who he had become while alive. When I was a kid living in Mesa, Arizona, it was always pretty great to me to turn on the television and see Mary Kim Titla, a San Carlos Apache, reporting the news for the same channel. She was to my young eyes, a celebrity, a famous Indian, cause she was on television. She was beautiful, and professional, and epitomized the best of what it means to be Native because I not only saw her on television, standing meaningfully in front of cameras, lights, and vans with satellites, but I also saw her in her buckskin regalia dancing at pow wows. When I was a kid, she was someone to look up to, a Native American to emulate. I’m sure there are others who had similar feelings for Mary Kim. I’m sure there are many today who feel the same about Andy Harvey.

Just the other day I read a news article about a unique picture that now permanently hangs on a wall in the White House. The picture shows President Obama bowing to a kid in the Oval Office. The kid is rubbing the President’s head. To understand the poignancy of this photo, you must know the story of how it came to be.

A young, quiet five-year old black kid, Jacob Philadelphia, of Baltimore, had the opportunity to meet with President Obama and ask him one question. In his shyness, he asked the President this simple question:

“I want to know if my hair is like yours.”

The President replied with a smile:

“Touch it, dude.”

The President then bowed to the child. After some hesitation, Jacob reached out to feel the President’s head. White House photographer, Pete Souza, was on hand to record the spontaneous moment.

Needless to say, Jacob was probably surprised to realize President Obama’s hair was JUST LIKE HIS. That is to say, President Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, the leader of the free world, was simply an African-American black man; he was simply a poor minority raised by a single parent who became the President of the United States.

Even now, as I recount this story, I get emotional about its significance. How important is it for children to see themselves in successful people! How important it is for successful people to make themselves available to impressionable children!

I am grateful to those Native people who are engaged in a career, a craft. I am grateful to those Native people that value education and life experience. I am hopeful for the future when I see Native professionals working to improve themselves and climbing the ladder of success.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) annual training in Denver, CO. SAIGE is a national non-profit Native professional organization whose goal it is to recruit, retain, and promote Native Americans in public service, whether federal, state, or tribal governments.

SAIGE realizes the importance of youth mentoring and sponsors a youth track tailored to college-age young men and women who may be interested in the myriad of careers available in the government sector. This is a free program to Native students and allows them to receive training, motivation, and networking possibilities with peers and mentors. I highly recommend American Indian students to apply for next summer’s program to be held in Spokane, WA. I also recommend Tribal governments to send its employees to the training.

As the photographer/videographer for the SAIGE training, I’ve seen the positive effects of the SAIGE program and have also recorded, like Souza, many poignant moments at SAIGE and have been blessed to see a whole world open wider for it’s attendees.

I think Andy Harvey would approve. He was a board member of his own national Native organization, the Native American Journalism Association, which I’m sure worked for similar reasons and goals.

Andy is a great loss, not only for his family, friends and colleagues, but also for his people. There are not many positive depictions of Native people on television. So any one that attempts to stand out, such as a Mary Kim, an Andy, the Duncan family hoop dancers recently seen on the Billboard Music Awards, such people deserve recognition and praise. They have tried, probably failed at times but they never gave up on their goals.

It is now reported that five-year old Jacob Philadelphia wants to be the President of the United States, or a test pilot. I’m sure he is now invigorated to know that it is possible and that THERE IS NO EXCUSE.

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