February 9, 2017
Headed To The French Quarter?
Some Tips For Mardi Gras Fun
By Kevin McGill
New Orleans (AP) - Revel in the bawdy French Quarter or catch a parade? Which parade?
Do you plan to wear a costume on the big day? Politically themed? Historic? Risque? All of the above?
New Orleans is entering the height of its annual pre-Lenten Carnival season, culminating on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which falls on Feb. 28 this year. Travelers to the city face an abundance of choices on how, when and where to take it all in.
Among the things to do:
WATCH A PARADE
This isn’t as simple as it sounds. Deciding where, when and how to catch any of the dozens of New Orleans area parades - and which ones to watch - involves planning.
New Orleans’ major parades, the ones with marching bands and masked riders who throw beads and other trinkets from elaborate floats, begin this year on Feb. 17.
Mardi Gras revelers
Most follow a route along historic St. Charles Avenue onto Canal Street, the broad downtown boulevard at the edge of the French Quarter - although the giant floats of Endymion, the celebrity-studded procession set for Feb. 25, lumber through the Mid-City neighborhood.
You can join the throngs on the route. They show up with lawn chairs, ice chests, trays of barbecue, buckets of fried chicken and step ladders with little seats bolted to the top to give the kids a better vantage point.
You can pay big bucks at one of the fine-dining restaurants that erect bleachers out front so you can catch the processions while sipping your Sazerac cocktail.
Often overlooked are smaller processions. For instance, Krewe du Vieux’s satirical and raunchy parade with smaller, hand-drawn floats rolls through the French Quarter and neighboring areas on Feb. 11. A week later, sci-fi, fantasy and horror fans don costumes evoking any of a variety of pop culture icons from Ewoks to zombies for the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus stroll through the Marigny neighborhood.
BE IN A PARADE
Getting a spot in a Carnival parade is the ultimate participatory Mardi Gras experience.
Some of the old-line parade ``krewes’’ are famous for their exclusivity (some so exclusive that they stopped parading years ago rather than comply with a city non-discrimination ordinance). But others are open to anyone who can afford it, although spots are limited and sometimes have to be reserved well in advance.
Costs including membership fees, costumes and ``throws’’ (beads, little stuffed toys, etc.) can be hefty for the major parades. Some travel agency and hotel packages include a four-night stay with a spot in Harry Connick Jr.’s Feb. 27 Krewe of Orpheus parade for more than $4,000. On the other end of the cost scale are the walking clubs, like Chewbacchus, which has annual dues of $42.
SEE THE COSTUMES
Mardi Gras is a day-long costume party in the French Quarter and along the parade routes.
Sometimes the costumes are simple: multi-colored wigs, glittery masks, oversized hats.
Sometimes they are elaborate: shimmering bodysuits with huge feather headdresses fanning out from the wearers’ heads and shoulders like peacock tails.
Some of the most intricate, elaborate and, sometimes, outrageous are on display at the annual Bourbon Street awards at the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann, where prize categories include best drag and best leather.
WEAR A COSTUME
Feathered masks, funny hats and boas are available at souvenir shops in the Quarter and from vendors who wheel their goods up and down the main parade route.
Many visitors fashion their own, sometimes topical get-ups. Coveralls splotched with black were among the 2011 costumes lampooning BP after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Some go for professionally made store-bought or rented regalia.
``Business really starts picking up two weeks before Mardi Gras,’’ says Dennis Villadeleon, a costume designer at New Orleans’ Southern Costume Company, which rents and sells costumes.
``It’s hard,’’ he said when asked if he’s noticed any trends or themes in any given year. ``Some years, the guys really want to be pirates. There seems to be a pirate contingent here in New Orleans.’’
Yes, it’s often touted as the world’s biggest free party and it takes place in a city famous for all-night bars and drinking in the streets. But there are limits. More than 170 state troopers are coming to supplement the nearly 1,200-member police force. And arrests are made: 334 arrests were reported last year in the 10 days leading up to Mardi Gras along the parade route and in the police district that encompasses the French Quarter.
Black History Month Started With The Son Of Freed
Slaves, Dr. Carter Woodson, And A Deep Concern
By Jesse J. Holland
Washington (AP) - Black History Month is considered one of the nation’s oldest organized history celebrations, and has been recognized by U.S. presidents for decades through proclamations and celebrations. Here is some information about the history of Black History Month.
HOW DID IT START?
It was Carter G. Woodson, a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month. Woodson, the son of recently freed Virginia slaves, who went on to earn a Ph.D in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea of Negro History Week to encourage black Americans to become more interested in their own history and heritage. Woodson worried that black children were not being taught about their ancestors’ achievements in American schools in the early 1900s.
``If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,’’ Woodson said.
Woodson chose February for Negro History Week because it had the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, and Douglass, a former slave who did not know his exact birthday, celebrated his on Feb. 14.
Dr. Carter Woodson
Daryl Michael Scott, a Howard University history professor and former ASAAH president, said Woodson chose that week because black Americans were already celebrating Lincoln’s and Douglass’s birthdays. With the help of black newspapers, he promoted that week as a time to focus on African-American history as part of the celebrations that were already ongoing.
The first Negro History Week was announced in February 1926.
``This was a community effort spearheaded by Woodson that built on tradition, and built on black institutional life and structures to create a new celebration that was a week long, and it took off like a rocket,’’ Scott said.
WHY THE CHANGE FROM A WEEK TO A MONTH?
Negro History Week was wildly successful, but Woodson felt it needed more.
Woodson’s original idea for Negro History Week was for it to be a time for student showcases of the African-American history they learned the rest of the year, not as the only week black history would be discussed, Scott said. Woodson later advocated starting a Negro History Year, saying that during a school year ``a subject that receives attention one week out of 36 will not mean much to anyone.’’
Individually several places, including West Virginia in the 1940s and Chicago in the 1960s, expanded the celebration into Negro History Month. The civil rights and Black Power movement advocated for an official shift from Black History Week to Black History Month, Scott said, and, in 1976, on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week, the Association for the Study of African American History made the shift to Black History Month.
Every president since Gerald R. Ford through Barack Obama has issued a statement honoring the spirit of Black History Month.
Ford first honored Black History Week in 1975, calling the recognition ``most appropriate,’’ as the country developed ``a healthy awareness on the part of all of us of achievements that have too long been obscured and unsung.’’ The next year, in 1976, Ford issued the first Black History Month commemoration, saying with the celebration ``we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.’’
President Jimmy Carter added in 1978 that the celebration ``provides for all Americans a chance to rejoice and express pride in a heritage that adds so much to our way of life.’’ President Ronald Reagan said in 1981 that ``understanding the history of black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.’’
President Trump issued a proclamation Thursday, Feb. 2, declaring February as National African American History Month. The text names Katherine Johnson, a mathematician and one of three black women whose roles in the space race were featured in the recent film ``Hidden Figures.’’
Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. Contact him at email@example.com, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jessejholland.