February is normally a busy month for New Orleans. It’s filled with Carnival events, parades, and sometimes, Mardi Gras day itself. It’s also a time to mark Black History Month, to celebrate leaders who have strived for change and social justice. This year, both of those will be marked and changed by the pandemic upheavals and social justice movements that occured in both the city and the nation in 2020.
Black New Orleanians have had a long legacy of being innovators, changemakers and social activists that have impacted life both in the city and beyond. From Chef Leah Chase’s world-renowned dining room to the classrooms of educators such as Morris F.X. Jeff, Sr. and C. Norman Francis, and the civil rights actions of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) activists, including Oretha Castle Haley, Jerome Smith and Rudy Lombard, local leaders of color have been fighting for their communities for decades. A new generation of leaders have come to the forefront in recent years. Within this issue, we spotlight six New Orleanians that are continuing in the footsteps of those that have fought for change before them, while also forging a new path forward.
We also take a “modified,” 2021 look at New Orleans’ best-known, most well-loved tradition, Carnival. While we won’t be celebrating in the streets or marching in parades, New Orleanians are making do, and in the best, most fantastic ways possible. From a parade of house floats to krewe scavenger hunts, to enjoying porch cocktails with take-out fried chicken and king cakes, the party will go on…just a little differently. We have all the ways in which you can safely celebrate at home. We embrace the memories of Carnival past, while creating new, perhaps temporary, traditions to celebrate the season. Sometimes you don’t know how much you’ll miss something until it’s gone, and while that may be true in most places, we truly do “know what it means to miss New Orleans,” Mardi Gras and all.
We are hopeful that this month will be a time to look back, appreciate and celebrate those people, activists (both young and old), artists and traditions that have made this the city we all love so that next year we can applaud, praise and party with a new perspective and a new passion.