Now Watching: Shrill
Mardi Gras is my favorite season. Not the commercialized image that most people have of boozing and partying (though there is plenty of that). Not even the insanity surrounding standing on the street and trying to catch worthless plastic trinkets (thought If you are standing next to me when a stand of beads comes my way, get back or get ready to battle. I must catch them). I grew up celebrating Mardi Gras, so for all of the partying, for me, there has always been food, family gathering, mock royalty, balls and celebrations.
Like many southern tradition, racism, gender roles and segregation marks the traditions. There are still segregated balls and royal courts. Within the courts, there’s still rules for women that are more limiting than the rules for men (one in particular I that the queen of some courts cannot make a public appearance without the king. So if he won’t attend an event, looks like the queen will be sitting home).
Still, I love everything about the season. Waiting to see who will be announced as royalty for various courts. Gushing over gorgeous dresses and trains. Attending balls and dancing with old friends. Lining the street, drink or carnival food in hand, waiting for the bands to march by. Catching moon pies and deciding what to do with them (there’s a system: banana and salted caramel comes home with me. I collect a few chocolate ones for friends but only the amount the will fit in my coat pocket. The rest are distributed to kids i came with or kids nearby). If I’m missing out, I’m a miserable person.
As a person who cares about these topics and does not tolerate it in my own life, how can I justify my love for all things Mardi Gras?
The answer will likely not satisfy and might even displease.
The answer is that I choose to focus on the culture that it it creates. We all have that thing that we’d give that answer for. I hate parts of the tradition but I love it as a whole. It’s part of my culture and displays traditions that I hold dear. Not surprisingly, black women play a role in upholding that culture. Most notably, a black woman Patricia Richardson designs and creates the royal trains and collars for both the black and white society’s the royal courts. Women wholeheartedly participate and pass the traditions to the next generation through food, music, costumes and modeling how to participate and interact in the crowds. placeholder://
This year, I’ve seen articles calling Mobile “the black Mardi Gras” and New Orleans “the white Mardi Gras”. I disagree. Both have strong black traditions and Mobile’s Mardi Gras still has a ton of issues. It’s pretty noticeable when white crews withhold their throws until the see white faces or when they throw so fast that the only conclusion is that they meant to hurt someone. The Comic Cowboys, a society that puts current events jokes on its floats, are sure to say something racist. Confederate flags are everywhere (my friends and I had to laugh at the guy who had a gay pride flag right under his Confederate flag).
Regardless, I participate as wholeheartedly as I can now that I’m living away from the city. That also means I observe Lent, even though I’m neither Catholic nor a heavy church goer. I both understand and believe in what the season means, so I’ve opted to let go of dining out and shopping for Lent. All Christians should thank God I’m not Jesus bc I’ve been struggling! I hate cooking and had no food last week, so i had a great burger and some scrumptious West African food. I also have a wedding that I need to buy things for, some traveling and my birthday coming up. But this week, I’m doing pretty good (even if my taste buds are bored). I even made a veggie Alfredo that I live nibbling on. It part of the season and a much-needed pull back from my favorite time of the year!
Until next year!