Easter Parades 2019 French Quarter

The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade

The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade departs from Antoine’s Restaurant at 9:45 a.m. and rolls toward St. Louis Cathedral just in time for 11:00 a.m. mass on Easter Sunday, April 21.  After mass, participants return to Antoine’s to receive awards for best Easter attire and basket, among other things.


Chris Owens’ Easter Parade

It starts at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel Ballroom at 11:00 a.m. with a Hat Contest, Silent Auction, and Entertainment. The parade begins at the corner of St. Louis and Royal, then continues down Royal to Canal to St. Phillip Street and ends at St. Louis and Royal Street at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel.


20th Annual Gay Easter Parade

Starting at 4:30 p.m., horse-drawn carriages, floats, and riders in colorful costumes will parade through the French Quarter into the evening, stopping at gay bars and gay-owned restaurants and shops throughout the neighborhood.



What can we do? (a lot)

Recently saw a Twitter post  from a writer that went something like: race is an imagined point of reference, however, racism is not.

As I read that tweet, I wondered what the response would be if I shared that on other social platforms. I assumed much of it would be passive “likes” (you’ll have to imagine my eye roll) and “shares” (my more dramatic eye roll), including from some who seem to have not begun to examine how this society is designed so only whiteness –  either meant literally or operating in the white world as currently allowed – is “winning.” How it offers privilege and access that subjugates people of color even when the  white person is not acting in any personally racist manner. I say that because some  of those I would expect to share it have actually been heard by me to say the infamous “I don’t even see race” or “I don’t think race is the real issue, class is ”  or “I’m tired of this being the only discussion that is happening” (?!) and other cringeworthy statements.

On another level of this, this morning I had a convo with a neighbor who works with tourists which started out relatively calmly but soon included the removed Confederate statues, and led to her shouting to the air about how she had never owned slaved and “they” had received all of the reparations “before” now. How the black people “she knows didn’t want” the statues taken down. (Really, it was a set of statements I have heard in exactly the same order and level of vehemence dozens of times, which in itself, I find very puzzling.  Still, the outcome of our talk was that she thinks I am out of touch, and I think she is dangerous and easily led by those who need to use her for their agenda.)  All I can hope is that I made at least one point that may require her to look it up later and ponder it. It is why I have tried to become calmer when I find these folks in my path, and try to stick to one or two points that may connect.

So between the  outwardly liberal but casually racist,  and the working poor who vilify both those who fight the institutions of racism and those who must live within them, it is hard to see how to help.

Then I read this passage in Toni Morrison’s “The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations” a book that is becoming as important to my core reference library as Jane Jacobs, Solnit, and Thoreau.

One likely reason for the paucity of critical materials on this large and compelling subject is that in matters of race, silence and evasion have historically ruled literary discourse….

…It is further complicated by the fact that ignoring race is understood to be a graceful, liberal, even generous habit. To notice is to recognize an already discredited difference; to maintain its invisibility through silence is to allow the black body a shadowless participation in the dominant cultural body. (emphasis added)

That passage was very helpful in ways to better understand the weakness of the white response to institutional racism and how even those with a strong liberal political platform subvert the discussion.

In this majority African-American city that I reside, evasion of the facts and the support of invisibility for people of color is the inertia we fight. What that means to me is a path forward for white allies is through statement of facts again and again. And not to pervert the honest discussion with a false equivalency like class divides as the only divide or to reduce the severity of the issue to the level of one’s own personal method of operating in the world.

These are the words that I now stick to when making the ask among white people to consider the warped reality that we benefit from: Deliberate. Privilege. Unequal. Negative meaning. Power of position.

And to lift the story of inclusion and diversity as often as we can, in every sector we can work and live. In my own work of food and farming, white-led organizations have long been those most recognized and funded, with people of color only a tiny smattering of the staff and partners. Doesn’t mean that those good folks were personally racist but it does mean that in the desire to move the dial on other issues, deep systemic issues of race were ignored. (Deliberate privilege to gain power of position.)

Now, the in the 5th decade of this work in the US, many of those organizations and others led by people of color are finally starting the big conversation of how racism is at the heart of production and at the heart of our political, legal, social, and economic systems. And this larger lens is scary and humbling but it also feels exciting and powerful. To listen more deeply and to participate in more approaches, and to accept that the privilege I have is not even fully understood in this half century of living and so cannot be said to be erased yet. I’m willing to do more and to do it as an ally still learning what I do not know. And to live in and celebrate Bulbancha.

Are you?





















64 Parishes: The Pontalbas


(Henry) Howard claimed authorship of the Pontalba Buildings in his 1872 autobiography, but historian Christina Vella, author of Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba, concludes, “That claim is not borne out by any document concerning the construction of the Pontalbas.” We are left with several mysteries. Who was the architect in New York? What, exactly, did Henry Howard contribute to the design? And what was the baroness’s role in her landmark buildings’ design?

The Baroness de Pontalba and the Rise of Jackson Square is on view at the Louisiana State Museum’s Cabildo through October 13, 2019.


89th Pirate’s Alley Art show April 6, 7

Apr 6- Apr 7
What:  an art event featuring exciting artwork by regional artists ,plus an opening parade, food and beverages for purchase, and painting demonstrations by some members of the association.

Visit noartassoc.org, or contact Wanda at noartassoc@yahoo.com for a prospectus, if you want to be an artist- participant.

Golden Age of Tuesdays

One of my favorite local writers, Charles Cannon, wrote something a few years back about Carnival that I think about each year. He said firmly to not believe those precious commentators who say that the 19th century was the Golden Age of Carnival-

Instead, he insists THIS is its Golden Age.

In case you care, some of the key attributes he assigns to the classic “Carnivalesque” narrative include:

-a satirical impulse of a bawdy kind that literary critic Bakhtin called “grotesque realism,”

-the inversion of normal prevailing social hierarchies,

-and mass participation…

But of course those have long been present in New Orleans and have remained so across many eras, including those not as wonderful. So why a Golden Age?

Cannon makes his case by outlining more recent developments:

-The desegregation of Carnival, which began in the 1980s. Yes I said the NINETEEN 80s. The city insisting that any organization that paraded on city streets be integrated certainly changed the dynamic of Carnival from that moment on.  Some of the old line racist krewes gave up their public role in Carnival rather than integrate, and other of these power centers integrated and actually began to do community work (that they said) that they had been organized to do long ago. All of those changes were much less than they should have been (and still need to be) , but many did happen. Maybe most importantly, those few krewes are no longer the only authority.

-The profusion of new dance and marching clubs like the early ones of Pussy Footers and the 610 Stompers, and the later, ingeniously designed Laissez Boys (yes they parade on motorized Lazy Boys), among the many, many working on intricate dance steps and humorous jabs at modern life, all to add life at people-level in between the massive floats. It’s easy to join one of these, and made for the slightly clumsy but game New Orleanian.

-where else are school bands and dance/flag troops so revered but in New Orleans? That is a direct effect from performing brilliantly on their own streets in parade after parade.




-Cannon also suggests that the downtown walking parades revived in the Quarter after float parades were banished from the old part of the city around 1970, are a main reason for the golden age.  It is clear that their effect on the Carnival culture is significantly higher than the creaky, huge, glittery float parades on St. Charles uptown. Krewe du Vieux is rightly the best known of the downtown parades and the one that Cannon is using in his description as it is the only true float parade in the Quarter.

(I nominate my favorite parade of ‘titRex  to be viewed alongside its Uptown counterpart Rex to show how much they differ. Utilizing the local school tradition of shoebox float making, this small krewe offers a much appreciated satirical but tiny view of handmade New Orleans, unlike any other.)


shoebox float of ‘tit Rex (short for petit Rex)


The traditional Boeuf Gras float in Rex, or fatted ox, the ancient symbol of the last meat to be eaten before the beginning of the Lenten fast


I’d also add the increase in handmade costumes including the gorgeous hand beaded homage that white residents make to honor our deep and prevailing Mardi Gras Indians authenticity- specifically, the beaded work of Dames De Perlage, and the dried beans and glue masterpieces of the Lundi Gras’ Red Beans Parade , which I believe spun off another called the Dead Beans Parade.  All of the new iterations are meant to honor the beadwork of our  African American and Native blue-collared heroes. As a matter of fact, one of the Dames De Perlage said on social media this year that a Mardi Gras Indian told her that she had some “good patches” and she knew it was the highest compliment possible.

And Cannon doesn’t mention it, but the gay Carnival in the Quarter which was a stalwart in the otherwise dreary 1970s, holding the creative fort until the rest of us showed back up is absolutely is one of the reasons for this Golden Age. The Bourbon Street Awards alone deserve mention, both for the community and glamor they have added and for their unlikely attendees..

His main point is that the public Fat Tuesday revelry downtown is what makes this the Golden Age. From Skull and Bones Gangs banging on doors at daybreak, to the appearance of the Indians and Baby Dolls, to the citywide crockpot red beans and gumbo offered to new and old friends along the routes to refortify, to the almost never-ending Tuesday walking parades (at least one of has participants that take the time to honor its dead) and last but not least, the day-long perambulation and public visitation that happens everywhere, but really is centered between Canal and the 9th ward, with a special nod to Orleans and Claiborne on what we all say to each other “is just a Tuesday every where else.”

…But the ultimate expression of the carnivalesque instinct in our time is what happens downtown on Fat Tuesday itself. Here the line between spectator and performer is almost totally erased as thousands — whether costumed, masked or merely bystanders — converge in the streets in a utopian vision of mass civic participation. And on this day — if only for a day — we also witness New Orleans’ idealized sense of itself come down to earth to shape the city’s social reality.


Working artists

Today, I ran across two old friends, both working in the Quarter. The great photographer and musician Zack Smith was doing a shoot for Dirty Coast on Royal. His photography spans all of the different cultures that Southeastern Louisiana encompasses, and his work with the indie rock band, Rotary Downs is worth a deep listen. It’s on my regular rotation.



Sam Mee is someone I have known since I was a teen, when I used to run with his old employer, Roger Simonson. (Sam worked at Roger’s Royal Street store, A Better Mousetrap which had its heyday in the early 1970s.)  Sam has been a working artist for decades, and shows up on the Square from time to time. As these things usually go, I had just been thinking about him recently, realizing I had not seen him in some time. And then, there he was.


I even bought an original of his today:


I talked to both of them about how they are doing with the “job, gig, hustle” lifestyle we have here in town. Zack is doing well, but still takes the cycle of business very seriously; Sam is a little less sanguine about sales, but still very good at keeping it going after all of these years.

Eleven million visitors and less than half a million residents — and most still struggle. Since the levee breaks, the cost of everything has been doubled, tripled and the number of opportunists arriving has easily quadrupled.

It is in everyone’s interest to see our creative community succeed, yet the very infrastructure works against it.

Botton line: if you see an honest hustler or gigger, pay your respects in some way.