Inspired by New Orleans’ vibrant culture — and one of its signature dishes, red beans and rice — Devin De Wulf founded the Krewe of Red Beans in 2009. Now the organization puts on three beloved Lundi Gras day parades: the Red Beans Parade, with Black Masking Indians and a second-line feel; Feijao + Green Beans, which features a Brazilian vibe; and Dead Beans, which celebrates worldwide folkloric traditions around death, with a definite influence from Mexico’s Day of the Dead. They have quickly become fan favorites among Carnivalgoers.
In addition to these colorful, creative parades, the krewe also backs a whole host of charitable initiatives that help support New Orleans. The same spirit that inspires vibrant Carnival celebrations also informs the krewe’s good works. Here’s what De Wulf has to say about the Krewe of Red Beans’ many community projects, as well as the exciting plans to launch a totally unique community center.
“Since COVID started, we created over $1 million of gig work opportunities and employed over 250 people, including musicians, Black Masking Indians, and Baby Dolls,” said De Wulf. “These are the people who make our city so special.” Because New Orleans has faced a tough couple of years, this is a cool milestone for the organization, and it showcases
the scope of their efforts to give back.
In addition, the Krewe of Red Beans has created a number of projects that support the city. For instance, Feed the Second Line, now its own nonprofit, began with the krewe. They work to provide a stronger safety net for the city’s culture creators, as well as job opportunities. This means buying groceries for elder culture bearers, for instance, as well as creating gig-work opportunities.
Bean Coin, designed to support neighborhood bars during the COVID lockdown, raised thousands of dollars to help 14 local bars stay afloat when customers were socially isolating. And the colorful Hire A Mardi Gras Artist initiative turned houses into floats during the 2021 Carnival season, keeping that festive spirit alive during lockdown.
Recently the organization created an innovative solar initiative called Get Lit Stay Lit, which helps neighborhood restaurants get solar and batteries installed. With this backup in place, restaurants can help those in their neighborhood following a power outage, especially the widespread outages from a hurricane like Ida. Because they have solar and battery power in place, the restaurants can turn into a “micro-grid” with ongoing power, allowing others to come in and cool off, charge up phones, and grab a meal. Plus, the restaurant doesn’t have to throw out all the food in their freezer. “We hope to get hundreds of these around our city (which in turn, could help create more jobs for culture bearers)”, said De Wulf.
These initiatives from De Wulf and company show no sign of slowing, and that momentum has resulted in the next big plan: a new space in the city to celebrate New Orleans culture. Art, music, and lots of glitter are all in the works.
Now, De Wulf and the Krewe of Red Beans are creating Beanlandia, a cultural community center located at 3300 Royal. With children’s programming, cultural events, and pop-ups, Beanlandia is set to become a unique multi-use community space in New Orleans. “We are excited to launch Beanlandia as one of the city’s most interesting art spaces (bean art!) and innovative social programming,” said De Wulf.
One of the main goals is getting more young people involved in Beanlandia right away, and the Krewe of Red Beans is working to create plenty of children and teen activities once they open their doors. A STEM program, chess club, soccer club, and running club are all in the works, as well as art projects (through beans of course). The children’s programming is set to begin this fall.
As far as the official opening, Beanlandia is still in the permitting stage, with hopes to open in 2023. Beanlandia will also serve as a model of sustainable tourism, with profits supporting the Krewe’s many nonprofit initiatives, making it an innovative and effective way to help improve the city. “The center will also work on facing the challenges our community faces: climate, crime / violence, and social cohesion . . . I believe culture and art and children’s programming are the way!” said De Wulf.
Grassroots fundraising and community support help sustain the Krewe of Red Beans. Become a member of Beanlandia through monthly donations that back the creation of the community center. There’s also the option to sponsor a glitter bean with your name on it. You can help support New Orleans culture — one bean at a time. kreweofredbeans.org