Get Ready for the Tremé Festival

Kendall Lawson | 10/2/2015, 4:35 p.m. | Updated on 10/2/2015, 4:35 p.m.
In 1842, the St. Augustine Church in Tremé opened its doors to slaves and whites, free people of color, and ...

In 1842, the St. Augustine Church in Tremé opened its doors to slaves and whites, free people of color, and other ethnic groups. It was a racially integrated church, one of the first of its kinds in the United States, in one of the country’s first African American neighborhoods. It was a place where the enslaved went to aspire for freedom, the sick went to be healed, the Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Family took care of orphans, and civil rights figures like Homer Plessy and Alexander P. Tureaud went to worship decades later.

From Oct. 2 to 4, the Tremé community will come together to preserve this symbolic monument that embodies the neighborhood’s history by hosting the first ever annual Tremé Festival. The festival, organized by the Historic Faubourg Tremé Association hopes to bring awareness to the repair needs of the 174-year-old church, which narrowly escaped closure by the archdiocese of New Orleans after Katrina, due to its renovation needs. “The mission is to support the architecture, culture, and history of Tremé while fighting crime, blight and unsanitary conditions,” said Dr. Naydja Bynum, president of the association. “HFTA has organized many successful projects related to supporting the mission including cleaning up areas, planting trees.”

The association also plans to use the festival as a launch for fundraising for the costs of preserving the church. “The church is in dire need of a new roof, painting, and other repairs. We could not see us not helping,” Bynum said.

“Honestly, I’m proud to be involved with the church and to celebrate the first day of many traditions,” said Cameron Williams, a Tremé resident and St. Augustine church member, who said she looks forward to attending service at the church on Sunday as part of the festival. “This only strengths the bond of our community.”

The event is free and open to the public, and the association will accept donations to support repairs to the church. The association will also sell a poster created for the event, and donated by Tremé artist Terrance Osborne, a Xavier University alumnus, with proceeds going towards renovating the church. The festival takes place at Henriette Delille and Gov. Nicholls Streets, and features food, arts and craft. Families can enjoy musical guests John Boutte, James Andrews and the Crescent City Allstars, Shannon Powell, and the Tremé Bass Band, among others. The neighborhood festival will also feature a second-line procession led by Roots of Music, the Zulu Connection, and the Stilt Walkers and Drummers.

The benefit festival also expands the work of the association as it seeks to preserve Tremé’s historical sites. “We have never taken on such a challenging project and just knew we could do it,” said Bynum in an interview about the event. “In addition to giving focus to our musical culture here in Tremé, the purpose of the festival is to help St. Augustine Church, that has such a significant history of the lives and accomplishments of people of color and other mixed cultures who lived and worked together in our community,” Bynum said.

Residents interested in donating or attending can visit the festival’s website: www.tremefest.com