Mardi Gras More Than Just Parades
Mardi Gras in New Orleans was again a mega success for the city. People from all over the globe converged on the City to experience the splendor and magic that is Carnival in the Crescent City.
For many of the tourist who come it is about going to parades or going downtown to Bourbon Street, but for locals or those connected to New Orleans it is much more. It is about family, food, drink and continuing traditions that’s spanned hundreds of years.
Charles Vaughn, is a visual artist, educator and father of two who for the past several years has worked with his students to produce coconuts for several members of Zulu. “It is great to be part of Mardi Gras creating artwork for people to take home a piece of New Orleans history. In addition, when working with my students it is great opportunity for them to participate in something that is part of their heritage where they can get a greater appreciation of our unique culture.”
Homecoming and Forever New Orleans
It is also a time where people who are from the city come back to return to experience and reconnect with their roots. DeForest Cornish, is an educational administrator and author, who is now living in New York City, but his heart bleeds black and gold and he is forever a New Orleanian. This year he is riding in the Zulu Parade. Something he refers to as a “Dream come true.”
He also understands that it is a great time to reconnect with family and friends. “The City is one of many traditions and great architecture, but the thing that makes it truly special are its people. I love my city and its people; it’s made me who I am and everywhere I go I carry my culture and all the people that’s made me who I am. I am honored and humbled to return to the city to be part of something as amazing as riding in the Zulu Parade.”
Ambassadors of Culture
During this time of year many locals become ambassadors of the New Orleans, guiding visitors throughout the City. Tony Brual is a native of New Orleans and his wife Nadia is from Chicago and new to the City. This is her second Mardi Gras and some of her relatives came in from Chicago and Indianapolis to witness Carnival time. While Tony’s been to Mardi Gras many time, he says he enjoys seeing it through new eyes as an ambassador of sorts for his City and beams with pride when talking about his City and it’s unique approach to living life.
“It was interesting to see how they saw what was happening in our City and it gave me a great appreciation for how we do things in the City relating to large events. From the Mayor, the police and all the people involved; it was like a love fest. They noticed how law enforcement is different and was not as tense but very interactive in a positive way and seemed to be enjoying it too.”
We Are One: Mardi Gras and Breaking Down Barriers
Like all things in New Orleans that can bring people together under one umbrella, such as the Black and Gold, in this case it is the Purple, Green and Gold of Mardi Gras. Brual notes going to a parade in what was Lee Circle, which not long ago was the center of racial controversy surrounding the removing of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans. During Mardi Gras it was transformed with the tone on this day being very different, “There was no fear or hostility, it was nothing but love and unity. It is funny how during this season there is no black or white; it’s just having a good time.”
Continuing he says, “During this time it was not about where you were from or background; barriers were broken down. It’s funny how beads, stuffed animals and cups were able to bring people together in the same spot that once housed a Confederate Monument. And where there was once division for a brief time myself and a guy white guy from Mississippi were one in the spirit of enjoying Mardi Gras together he also welcomed myself and my family even offering my brother a seat in his chair.”
The City of New Orleans has just finished its 300 anniversary. It is a place that remains to be one that is filled with wonderment that makes it somewhere for all to enjoy. It is a culture like no other. It truly has a gumbo like history that’s produced something like no other City in the United States. While others have Mardi Gras or Parades, nobody does it like New Orleans. Where people truly know how to party, enjoy life, pass on traditions and most of all open its arms to embrace people in the spirit of love, respect and a universal humanity that spans race, nationality, backgrounds and generations.