It’s Carnival Time!!!

Glenn “Chayil” Jones Data News Contributor

Yes, it’s carnival time!!! What is carnival? We know what Mardi Gras is and its culture, or do we? Well, this year it all falls in February and that’s Black History Month. Is there a connection between Carnival, Mardi Gras and Black History culture? Absolutely, but you won’t find it on Wikipedia or Google. This connection is deep in history, and we must use oral history as well. With that understanding let’s take a deep dive into the tradition, people and the city we love.

For clarity we must establish that Carnival and Mardi Gras are separate! Carnival developed out of Mardi Gras with the intent and Jim Crow laws to support it, as being separate. In fact, Mardi Gras can be dated back to the Roman Empire Celebration of Saturnalia and repackaged in its colonizing nations of France, Spain, British (England) and others. These nations brought this celebration in their language i.e., French – Mardi Gras meaning Fat Tuesday denoting the day before Ash Wednesday. Carnival however was the celebration of the Aboriginal and West African Slaves “On that day,” being they were given off by the Slave Masters. Carnival originated as a Mocking of Victorian Women (drag dressings), the skull and bones, Brass bands with drums and of course the Aboriginal back in Full Dress with West Africans adorning the feathers paying homage to the Choctaw and Chitimacha and other tribes that gave them refuge in the maroons away from the Slave Masters. In 1703 Mobile hosted the first Mardi Gras in its French/Spanish Colony. But this got extremely raunchy, violent and wild and was stopped. By 1830 it was being celebrated in New Orleans.

Now oral history will say this is the year Creole Wild West was started. Wikipedia says 1885. We should note that would be a carnival procession/second line and not a Mardi Gras celebration. Again, please note Wikipedia says Creole Wild West started from a “Traveling Wild Bill show”. Obviously, that’s incorrect.

Which brings us to the Black history month connection. Well for one the Choctaw, Chitimacha, Natchez, Atakapa, Ishak, my mother’s tribe Avoyelles, etc. were all Black Aboriginal to this land which was called West Florida and this City Chapitoulas. Meaning “People by the River”! This is why the West Africans could blend in with the tribes and the Slaves masters could not find them. I know during our 300 Year Tricentennial Celebration. Bulbancha became popular as an old name of New Orleans, but that was the name of the French market meaning “place of many tongues.” Like I said we are deep diving!

As we are celebrating Black History, please remember the culture, the people, and the celebrations reach back further than slavery and colonization. Black History is a body of soul that has roots as deep as this earth. In fact, you may have to move earth and dirt to find the truth but know that it’s THERE! So, this Carnival/ Mardi Gras/Black History Month is like this city and its famous dish. Gumbo. It’s a little bit of everything but it isn’t anything without a proper ROUX! As the ROUX is the base of the People. and its history is the base of this state, city, wards, and its celebrations.

When you see the beautiful feathers and the colorful tribes/gangs such as Yellow Pocahontas, Black Hatchet, Wild Tchoupitoulas or Wild Magnolias please know your witnessing the descendants of the mix of Aboriginal and West African Slaves representing ancient cultures dating back to the mound builders keeping the oldest traditions of North America ALIVE in our neighborhoods.


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