My Indian Red
I remember as a kid waking up on Mardi Gras Day in Uptown. The air was always hot and sweet with the anticipation of the celebration. My heart was always racing when I was holding my parent’s hands while I was halfway running to the corner on Jenna St. The drums and whistles from the bands that woke me were louder and I was high on my father’s shoulders waiting for that Zulu coconut to come my way.
” Tell ’em, Throw me something, Mister!”, my father would say.
So I yelled, making my voice as loud as I could with my father dancing around with me on his shoulders. I caught a golden Zulu coconut and I watched my father fight for it too. We would only stay for a little while with my father commenting on how Zulu was the only thing worth standing and waiting for. Then we would go for that lovely ride to the Trème. On the way, I would see the remnants of the early morning parades with feathers and beads in the streets and my father would say,
“That’s from them Indians gurl.”
Over the years I would ask my father about the Indians and even if we had Indians in our family. Shrouded with religion my father would tell me they are dangerous and stay away from it all, but it never stopped my persistence in finding the truth of our Culture in my own family. So, I went years watching from the sidelines and being held back by religious fanatics claiming that Mardi Gras and all such celebratory expressions of our Culture were something to be suppressed and instead we were to replace these expressions within the praise of Christianity. This only made me dig deeper within myself because I knew that only the Culture could and would sustain me. I pleaded with my father throughout my childhood years to show me at least where in our family the Masking Tradition existed as I could feel it growing in my bones with each passing year but he did not give in so easily still putting the supposed joy of Christianity higher than anything else, so I waited until the moment of when going to college had arisen.
I trailblazed to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University. I found the Culture alive and refreshing. I was finally able to spread my wings and meet people literally from everywhere. The Mecca took over my entire consciousness, breathing life and bringing light to all the spaces that I had to suppress at home.
After a time of classes and study, I wanted to go deeper into the rich Culture that I could see and feel around me. I once again began to feel like the little girl on Jenna St. I experienced DC Carnival and a lot “fêten” for Bacchanal and Jookano and once again I knew it was time to ask again,
“Where is the Indian in my family?”
After years of having extensive and deep conversations with my father plus growing my own family, I finally wore him down to showing me a photo of my paw-paw (grandfather) in full masking for the Mardi Gras Indians. Mixed emotions clouded my mind but I could only express joy knowing that this photo had also brought more questions with it.
As it stands now, both my father and paw-paw have transitioned BUT I know now one of the greatest roots of my family !
Featured Photo : My Paw Paw Masking for Mardi Gras Indians, Tribe : Geronimo Hunters
Photo 1 : Voodoo Queen Kalindah Laveaux en suit Masking for Mardi Gras Indians, Tribe : Yellow Pocahontas
Photo2: Divine Prince Ty Emmecca en suit Masking for Mardi Gras Indians, Tribe : Medicine Man, Voodoo Chief
D.C. Paul , the Tambourine Man Tribe : Wild Tchoupitoulas