Their goal was to see Brooke Simpson, a Haliwa-Saponi singer who captivated their nation and finished third on NBC’s talent show, The Voice.
“Our whole community supports any indigenous person,” Mrs. Gray said. “She follows her dreams. She’s an inspiration to indigenous people.”
The Grays were part of an audience of more than 400 people who came to the Doe Spun building Tuesday night to welcome Simpson back to her native Hollister where her family and friends reside.
“I’m so happy to be here,” Simpson told the audience, who gathered not only to welcome her, but pose for photos and have her sign autographs. “I’ve missed you so much. Thank you so much for all the love and support. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.”
When the live voting portion of the show began, she said, “I really counted on millions of you.”
Those waiting for her arrival spoke of the pride they have for Simpson, who currently resides in Florida.
“We’re really all proud of her,” said Elizabeth Silver, “She’s come so far. Some people may not realize, it’s hard growing up here. She never gave up.”
Evynn Richardson said, “She inspires a lot of people. She inspires girls in our community.”
Her father, Mike Mills, told the audience before her arrival, “We know she didn’t get the number one spot but I’m not the only one who feels she’s number one with us. It was so important Brooke got back to her hometown, her home county.”
Mills said before the event began, “I’m so proud. It’s been a rollercoaster. We’re so proud of Brooke.”
There were some 40,000 people who auditioned for The Voice and Simpson ended up in third.
Mills said his daughter is not a political person. “Her hope is her songs make people feel good about themselves, that they build up their self worth and self esteem.”
Mills said the third-place finish “could be a blessing in disguise” for his daughter, when compared to the stipulations in the winner’s contract.
He said a local concert is in the works for either later this month or February, either at The Centre at Halifax Community College or the Roanoke Rapids Theatre. “She wants to do this to say thanks.”
Her sister, Leah Mills, said, “She never gave up. She’s been an example for everybody else.”
(An additional photo galley may be viewed at this link)
Leah said she will follow her sister’s example “by going after my dreams and being comfortable where I’m at.”
Whether that means following her own musical career, Leah said, “It all depends on what God has in store for me.”
Halifax County Board of Commissioners Chairman Vernon Bryant presented Simpson with a proclamation the board ratified at their meeting earlier in the day.
“You have an amazing family,” Bryant told Simpson, “They are just amazing. Today’s a great day. It was very easy adopting this proclamation. You have made Halifax County, Hollister, the tribes of North Carolina and other nations proud.”
Simpson’s brother, Mikey Mills, said, “I’m extremely proud. It all started as a dream. She stayed faithful, she stayed true to God.”
Ogletree Richardson, chief of the Haliwa-Saponi, said, “We’re so proud of Brooke. She had so much support right here, in the country, the tribe, all of us.”