Carnival Denied: Learning From the “No Call Bowl”
For the first crisis, the enemy could not see; for the current crisis, we cannot see the enemy.
Last time we were body-slammed as a society was due to a sight-impaired referee whose failure to see what the rest of the world saw cost the Saints a trip to the Superbowl. We were hurt, mad, frustrated but we also knew what to do. Partially because of being raised in our Carnival culture, we are adept at mounting not only a celebration but, when needed, a counter-celebration to avenge being wronged. That’s what we did on Feb. 3, 2019, the day of the Superbowl that the Saints should have been in. Instead we staged our community-wide “No Call” protest for which we partied hard so as to ignore the game. We partied so hard that it even effected the national TV ratings because of the lack of local viewers. I did not watch that Superbowl, but I have heard that the team that should not have been there, instead of us, lost. Too bad! Believe me, there was no partying in their town.
So now we are facing another denial of what should be ours. There are some differences from the last time. There is no identifiable enemy; only bad circumstances, and the problem is worldwide. It is not just about us. Yet, more than just about any other place in the world, we are a symbol of the loss. The day of Mardi Gras will be quiet throughout most of the planet, but in New Orleans – where jazz was created; chants of “iko-iko” mean something; the Marine band marches with precision; the Mardi Gras Indians show off their beaded “suits,” oak trees snare beads; where the Society of St. Ann has seemingly more maskers per square foot than any other procession in the world; and where worshippers beg for coconuts – the silence will be especially conspicuous, unless we resolve to make noise.
In a world under withdrawal, let this city show the spark. There will be rules about distancing and masking, but they can be respected yet worked around, especially for a celebration whose innate origins are to let the spirit be free. New Orleanians showed a vestige of that in 1979 when there were no parades because of a police strike. Yet, on Carnival day, when the strikers had no more leverage, the people celebrated. The French Quarter was a spontaneous festival.
This Mardi Gras day there must be joy along St. Charles Avenue, Canal Street into the View Carre and into the neighborhoods of Treme and Marigny. May Rex reign gloriously and may there be music and dancing from every neighborhood.
May we never be denied joy. And, of course, may we never cease to love.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 9:30 A.M. SUNDAYS.WYES-TV, CH. 12.