Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday Reflections

Not exactly Mardi Gras, but in honor of Fat Tuesday, here is a photo taken in 1997 at Amnesty's Annual General Meeting in New Orleans. The demonstration/jazz funeral was focused on the theme, "Refugees have Rights." I thought a lot about the musicians in this photo during Katrina and that's why my brothers and I exchanged benefit albums, Higher Ground and Our New Orleans, this past Christmas. Proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity's Musician's Village and now I've got some great tunes to get into the Mardi Gras spirit. Meanwhile, the NYT has an article on the new edginess in New Orleans music and I really enjoyed Andrei Codrescu's recent opinon piece in the LAT (also at Common Dreams), "Another Mardi Gras, after the Deluge," about the subversive, political nature of Mardi Gras:

In Mardi Gras' 400-year history, the societies that ruled the krewes and parades were the same power brokers that ruled New Orleans. The festival itself, imported from medieval Europe, was a mechanism for letting out the true feelings, the frustrations of the populace. On Mardi Gras day, mobs rule the streets, and the rulers are obliged to shower the unleashed masses with gifts...

He goes on to describe the current politicization:

This year, the same krewe put our profound anxiety and distress on display: Hundreds dressed as taped-up refrigerators marched in frigid weather; two enormous nude figures named Katrina and Rita, one black, one white, had explicit sex atop a float; a sea of FEMA blue tarps flapped in the wind from balconies, on floats, as capes on marchers. A sign proclaimed "Take us back, Chirac!" The blue tarp is the new flag of New Orleans, and the desire to return Louisiana to France is heard often, only half-facetiously.

We here at Rights Readers are into the subversive parade thing (see the Flickr Photo sidebar!). I can recall a Louisiana activist at a different Annual General Meeting admiring my display of photos and masks from our Doo-Dah Parade entry (Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People), asking permission to borrow it for Mardi Gras. Permission granted of course! Though I don't know if he ever followed through. Now I look to this year's New Orleans Mardi Gras parades for lessons in the possibilities of street theater as a force for change. For more street level views on how New Orleans is faring these post-Katrina blogs well worth exploring: Library Chronicles (Rights Readers love funky librarians!), Operation Eden (Amazing photo chronicle!), Voices of New Orleans (News, reviews and more!).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...