Kings of Carnival

Since Mardi Gras is officially over and everyone is eating seafood on Friday now, I had to put in my final carnival post. This particular one is also  filled with a bit of  history of the civil rights movement that took place in New Orleans.

As many people who live in the city already know, St. Augustine Marching 100 was supposed to march in Rex this year.  The band pulled out of Rex because, Rex wanted Warren Easton to lead the parade this year(at the request of Arthur Hardy.)

On the surface, this seems very trivial for a band to want to lead every parade.  It seems very cocky for them to expect to be lead band at every parade.

And while  Rex is the one who wanted another band to lead this year,

what amazes me more is the “selective memory” that takes place in this  fair city, among many blacks who have forgotten that, black marching bands weren’t allowed to participate in carnival.

Like the rest of the civil rights movement taking place in the 60’s,  someone had to stand on the front lines and be the first…

and being the first wasn’t going to be easy.

In 1967, St. Augustine Marching 100 became the first black band to integrate Mardi Gras.

These kids (and let us not forget they were children) ages 14-17 years old, marched in Rex  and while marching in that parade, in addition to being called niggers and other racial slurs , had to endure…

bottles being thrown at them, having people spit on them and other horrible things just for marching in what was known back then as “white carnival.”

One of  biggest insults they endured was when they marched through the French Quarters (the parades used to go in the Quarters back then) was that…

the folks on the balconies URINATED ON THEM.

Yeah, it was that deep and that real.

When St. Aug  marched on Canal Street, an elderly black women, dropped to her knees in front of the band and thanked God that she had lived to see that day.

The day when a black band marched on the streets of New Orleans.

The kids were talked to before the parade and told that, no matter what, do not react to the crowds.

Whatever they dish out…take it.

Turn the other cheek…

and they did.

Because of what they endured and because they did not react,

the krewes began to allow other black marching bands to participate in Mardi Gras.

Because they were the first to integrate  Mardi Gras,  and for what the band endured, out of respect ,they are given lead in every parade they march in.

Back in the day, most bands understood this and it was expected that Aug would be first.

However today, many bands are vying to lead  parades as if that part of  black history never took place…

like no one fought for that right.

The right for black bands to march in carnival parades.

People fought for that right.

Kids fought for that right.

Think about yourself when you were that age or your own kids that are 14-17 years old.

Now, think about crowds of people doing those things to you or,

to your kids while marching in a parade.

How would you feel about the situation then?

Probably the same way they feel.

Their place as lead band wasn’t  given to them…

it was earned.

They paid their dues for the place that they hold.

I know because…

my brother marched.

And my husband stood out there at 17 years old and watched his fellow classmates as they were subjected to the hatred being hurled their way.

Most of the kids who march in the band today are nephews, sons or cousins of those very same young men who marched in 1967.

I find it so ironic that, folks blame the bands ego for pulling out of Rex yet,

want that same position given to them….

with no dues paid.

That to me, is  the real ego trip.

And it’s typical of this generation…

wanting all of the rewards,

with none of the struggle.

Our history is what it is.

We can’t selectively choose what we want to embrace because, it fits our agenda.

Nor can we ignore what we want to because, it fits our agenda.

Pulling out of the parade was the right thing to do.

Because, at the end of the day…

it’s all about respect.


25 thoughts on “Kings of Carnival

  1. The Jackie Robinson approach. I can’t imagine the forbearance that must have taken. And from kids, too.

    I despair of the South ever getting past race. Until we (meaning whites) admit that we have an obscene past, we we hold ourselves back morally and economically. I wish I could say otherwise, but all I see is more coverup than ever.

    BTW, March 15 was the 45th anniversary of President Johnson’s call for swift passage of the Voting Rights Act:

    • I agree Purple Pride. That’s why I wanted to end my carnival posts with the “untold story” of what the students actually went through in ’67.
      Now, maybe folks will begin to understand Aug’s very justified move of not marching in Rex.

      To me, that was like Rex having a bus and asking Rosa Parks to be on the bus but, she has to sit on the back of it for this occasion. WTH?

      I don’t expect the Rex organization to give a shit but, black people here should know better. Who do they think integrated Mardi Gras…I wonder?

  2. “RISE SONS of the GOLD and PURPLE!!! WE will SERVE you with TRUE DEVOTION and be LOYAL SONS of yours FOREVER more!!!”

  3. Thank you for the history. People need to understand how hard St Aug has fought to earn their place in society and allowed other blacks students to be a part of it.

    “we will serve you with TRUE DEVOTION, and be LOYALl sons of yours forever more”

  4. People tend to have short memories for many different reasons. The people that spit and urinated on those children will tell you today that they’re not racists.

    The racism train in this country is rarely late.

    • Denise, now there’s the irony because, I found that more whites knew about this than blacks.
      Every time I went to a parade, I was repping something St. Aug and white people would tell me they completely get why Aug dropped out whereas, blacks simply attributed it to Aug’s ego.

      It’s like black people born and raised here had no clue about the integration of Mardi Gras. I think they knew Aug was the first to do it but, how they figured it was a “kumbaya moment” in the deep south is beyond me.

  5. Thank you so much for this history lesson, I had no idea. And this was as late as 1967? That’s terrible. God Bless St. Aug.
    I’m sharing this post on my blog. Thanks again!

    • Judy, can you believe it? 1967?!!
      Thanks for sharing it…it’s a part of our “carnival history” that needs to be told.

  6. Thank you so much for refreshing our History. As a member of the Marching 100 and Class of 1982, I am so proud of our boys and our school.

    We must stand firm in the face of all adversities and any form of disrespect. It would be disgracful to accept less then what we have earned. Thus, we cannot back down.

    We owe it to our children and our children’s children.

    Be Blessed!

  7. That’s why I posted in ALM. It seemed that, way too many people had no idea of what Aug actually went through in ’67 when they integrated Mardi Gras. Hopefully, when folks see Aug marching first in parades…they will now see the history behind it all.

  8. Yet another reason, why I’m proud that I chose St Augustine to educate my son. Finally, he can learn about his people. This was a history lesson for me too.

  9. mogrizzly, you sound like one of those bitter dudes that wanted to go to Aug but couldn’t get in. Aug has always been a top band. Some bands have a great year or two and then fall off(like WARREN EASTON). Aug has CONSISTENTLY been a top band since Hamp created it. You, like so many others want to ignore the fact that, they paved the way. They earned that spot. Oh,and Aug has alternated Zulu and Rex for many, many years. Where have you been? St. Augustine Marching 100 will ALWAYS be the “marching band of New Orleans”. You may as well get used to it because, it’s been that way since the 60’s…I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

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