By: Glenn Jones and Oba Lorrius
2012-Present Big Chief Charles “Lil Charles” Taylor Jr
1980-2011 Big Chief Charles Taylor Sr
Unknown-1979- Big Chief Harold Feltuson
6th Ward Royalty
Big Chief Charles Taylor Jr. of the White Cloud Hunters is of Royal Stock in the Black Masking Culture of New Orleans. Charles Jr. has never held any other position in the tribe but Chief. He was born into the tribe as Little Chief a position he held until the age of 12. After a short hiatus from masking he returned in 2010 as Second Chief, joining his father the Legendary Big Chief Charles Taylor. Big Chief “Lil Charles” received the gang from his father in 2012. His father, Charles Sr. started as Flag Boy of the Yellow Jackets, then moved to Little Chief. From 1975-79 Charles Sr. served as Chief of the Yellow Jackets and in 1980, became Chief of the White Cloud Hunters, an honor passed on to him by Harold Feltuson the retiring Chief. Lil Charles said that some of his earliest Black Masking memories were learning how to be a Chief from the example of his father and other elders.
Chief says when he would come home from school his father would be at the rack, sewing. “That’s all I knew it was instilled in me by pops.” Growing up I picked up on it and I liked it. I don’t just like it, I love it.” Lil Charles speaks of the time and commitment it takes to mask, as well as the toll it takes on supportive loved ones and family members. “Sometimes guys make decisions to not pay lights to buy beads and feathers and their woman has to be ok with that. Knowing this comes first,” says Chief.
Over the course of 28 weeks we’re learning that the sacrifices associated with being Big Chief may confound colonial cultures but are paramount to an unwritten Black Masking refinement process. Not everyone is born to do this, but the warriors that are, blaze an inherently profound trail intentionally isolated from the pages of history, until now.
Q) What’s a new tradition in this culture that you don’t recall from your childhood masking?
A) At one point, I used to see Indians meet, everybody meeting everybody, Spy Boy meets Spy Boy and so on. You took the time out to do what I did so why I can’t see you. Even though you’re not my position I still want to show my stuff off.
Q) What does the world need to know about the White Cloud Hunters?
A) We are some pretty Indians. That’s how I feel about it. To each his own, everybody’s not going to feel like that. But I feel sorry for a man that don’t feel that way about his tribe. We are three generations into this, reaching one teaching one.
Q) As Chief what role does music play in your tribe?
A) As Chief your singing call and response. The song you sing depends on however you feel. You might be feeling good, so you might sing something good. You might be looking for war, you are looking for a certain person, you going to sing a war song, you going to go to talkin’ trouble, you letting the world know “go tell him”. It just comes, everybody don’t have a big entourage. You might get you a guy coming up the street with two or three people and they rollin! Songs just come and us as Indians we can just pop off and just sing that off da hump (inspiration improvisation) and know it just comes. You know what you want to say and it’s just going to come. When you get home you say, “man you heard what I was saying? I was rollin!” But you can never repeat the exact same way what you said.
Q) Besides Indian Red, what is your favorite traditional song?
A) Indians, Here They Come!
Q) Besides sewing what is your favorite part of Black Masking Culture?
A) The dancing part. Challenging another guy with his footwork dancing and the creativity to see what the other man thought, where his mind went. We all go different places with it. Each man got his own thoughts, and everybody goes to that different galaxy, and you be like, “I wonder where he took it to this time”.
Q) What’s your mission every Carnival?
A) The whole object is to beat yourself. Once you beat yourself who else can beat you? Charles got to beat Charles last time and I know if I beat that one I’m on the right track. I got to constantly beat myself. It’s hard to beat yourself when you know you don’t put in a lot of work on one so much and your trying to figure out how in the world am I going to beat that. You got to sit down and go back to that drawing board and most of the time it be back there in ya’ll head you just got to get it out.
Q) 300 years from now what do you want your legacy to be?
A) I want people to remember me as a person that stepped it up over the years and see how different (progression of suit designs) and the more work (sewing) the better quality, all the way structurally sound till I mastered it.