What is the most famous tradition that New Orleans is known for worldwide?
Most of us grew up in Mardi Gras culture and lived for Super Sunday. Being young, waking up early on Fat Tuesday to go catch Zulu and fight for a coconut. Or being a teenager and waking up on Tuesday and styling yourself head to toe like its fashion week in Paris. But do we ever think deeper than that?
A quick google search will tell you that New Orleanians “mask” or dress up as “Native Americans” because we are paying homage to them.
Some Native Americans gave refuge to African runaway slaves. While that is true, slavery records show that only a small percentage of the millions of African slaves actually was brought to America. Most African slaves were brought to South American and the Caribbean Islands.
If this is true then how do we accurately account for the millions of black people in America?
In a well know book called “They Came Before Columbus” by Ivan Van Sertima, he provides factual evidence that Africans did in fact come to America before Columbus. What does this have to do with New Orleans? We have a parade where black men and women don beautifully crafted Indian suits, over thousands of hours of work. Do New Orleanians “mask” to keep alive a hidden fact of history? Is New Orleans the proof that we came before Columbus? Big Chief Demond and I believe so.
We are going to take a step away from hidden history to discuss forgotten history.
A major factor in the thinking up of Super Sunday was protest. Second lines were created mainly for the kids and elderly who couldn’t make it to Mardi Gras. So the parade was brought to the neighborhood streets. But there was also problems amongst black locals and the city government.
The city wanted to build a bridge straight through the heart of the black community.
Super Sunday began in protest of the Claiborne Ave bridge. Today, we come together as a community still on this concrete neutral ground. New Orleanians call it “Under the Bridge” but most don’t know that it’s the energy from decades of New Orleans culture pulling them back to this spot to celebrate Sundays. It’s instinctive! Before the bridge, picture an avenue of black businesses and homes lining Claiborne. Also a neutral ground full of people playing instruments, dancing, and eating. True New Orleans spirit! All these people came together for the first Super Sunday to protest this bridge not knowing it would be the beginning of something truly unique and timeless.
View the video below to hear how he strives to teach true black history through his beadwork and his masterfully crafted suits.
(Note: this video s an excerpt from the full interview)