I’m sure many of you have seen purple, green, and gold all down your social media timelines. It’s the season of Mardi Gras! I, personally, have not attended Mardi Gras before, but I do know that it’s definitely a culturally rich time of the year for the city of New Orleans (NOLA). I spoke with two of my friends – one a New Orleans native, and the other, who visited NOLA for the first time, about their experiences this year.
Bria Lain was born and raised in New Orleans, but as a result of severe Hurricane Katrina damage, was forced to move to the metro-Atlanta area with her parents and two younger brothers. A May 2016 graduate of Hampton University, she is now a graduate student at Tulane University’s school of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, one of the top institutions of higher learning in New Orleans. Familiar with New Orleans as a young girl, Bria finally got to experience Mardi Gras as an adult.
MBS: Many see the beads and the famous Bourbon Street, and either forget or are unaware of the historic significance of Mardi Gras. Is there any history of the holiday that you could share with mindboddiesoul.com readers?
BL: Mardi Gras (has been around) the city of New Orleans for a very long time. It dates back to medieval Europe when Jean Baptiste arrived south of New Orleans and named it “Points du Mardi Gras ” . Each parade (during Mardi Gras) is called the “krewe” of something . This came about when certain secret societies were made for certain groups of people, who were not black. As a result, the black community created its own “krewe” known today as “krewe of Zulu”
Also during the Mardi Gras season, parades last all month long, and end on Fat Tuesday which historically is the day before Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday reflects the last night of eating rich foods before the fasting of Lent season. New Orleans is a big catholic city, so all of the partying and drinking leads up to fasting and praying!
MBS: I know you attended the beautiful Zulu ball. Can you give a little background on that and share your experience?
BL: Again Zulu is very important to the black community in New Orleans. Attending the ball was a great experience because it was created for black people, as we weren’t able to attend other krewe balls . The evening was filled with drinks , food , fun and a little entertainment from Biv Devoe, and most of all the room was glowing with some of the most elite of New Orleans.
MBS: What did you most enjoy about Mardi Gras this year?
BL: My experience as a kid was totally different and now that I am older I am certainly learning new things about my city. I never realized how big it was the other people who are not natives of New Orleans. It felt so amazing to be able to come together with all different types of people and have a good time.
Melanie Gray is a Chicago native, and also a May 2016 Hampton University graduate, where she studied Journalism. Her mother surprised her with a trip to Mardi Gras for her 23rd birthday this year. Melanie’s Sweet 16 birthday party was Mardi Gras themed, so visiting The Big Easy was definitely a treat!
MBS: Is there a difference in what you expected the city of New Orleans to be like, and what you were expecting?
MG: When I tell you it was everything I imagined it to be and more! I really mean it! From the Creole and Cajun cuisine, to the bounce and jazz music, to the old French style buildings, streets and stores and overall scenery here. Oh and I can’t forget the PEOPLE. One of a kind is all I can say. “Ju heard me baby?” It’s amazing.
MBS: What has been your favorite part of Mardi Gras so far?
MG: I have two! My very first night here my mom got us tickets to see Big Freedia. Which, if you are familiar with Bounce music at all, you know she’s the QUEEN OF BOUNCE! The concert was great! Big Freedia was an awesome performer. And the back up dancers were bounce to biggity bouncing. My second favorite part was attending this cooking class at the Louisiana school of cooking. The chef was very knowledgeable and my Mother and I were able to make the dishes and eat it while we were there! I learned so much and the food was delicious!
MBS:Would you say this has been a cultural experience? If so, why?
MG: My experience is certainly a cultural one. Every place I went to I feel like and I am learning something new and I leave each place with a piece New Orleans and their laid back style.
As esteemed American playwright George C. Wolfe said so eloquently:
“God created black people and black people created style.”