Queen Reesie and the Guardians of the Flames
Parties in the French Quarter are a melting pot. Our parties are not like "uptown"ones with the repeating guests having conversations they had last month or even last year. We like to mix things up and you never know who you might find - a uptown socialite or a painter or a photographer or a musician or a burlesque dancer or a drag performer or a movie star like Matt Dillion or the fabulous cashier from the Rouse's or even someone like me who likes to talk about useless information he reads about in the many articles I've read.
Mardi Gras three years ago, our friend Bethany had a "viewing party" on her balcony for the Krewe du Vieux parade. Being a former queen of the parade, she wanted us to wear our costumes to represent the different groups of Mardi Gras that we were each a part of. I wore my beautiful feathered headdress a friend had made made with purple sequins and pink feathers. After the parade was over, I was sitting in Bethany's parlour where I met Cherice for the first time. A dark quiet room after all that frenetic Mardi Gras energy is my favourite place to be. It gives me a chance to decompress and to get to know people intimately with conversations that feeds my soul.
She and I and a group of ladies who are either cis and trans began hanging out together. We would go to Mr. Carl's fried chicken Monday nights at the Roosevelt. Mondays when I was doing a drag show at Southern Rep they went to it on their own and would attend the shows after slipping me a piece or two of fried chicken Mr Carl had given them.
I found out later Cherice too was an entertainer. WhenI asked to let me photograph her she complied.
She liked the way I did her makeup for our shoot and she had a shoot in the swamps with Frenk Relle the next week so she asked me to do her makeup for it. Her mama brought her to my house. The personality of a woman straight out of New Orleans is my favourite and we were tight immediately. I had to assure mama her baby was going to be ok because she was afraid of the alligators would eat her baby. Later, when Greg Gorman and Joshua Smith did a workshop on portraiture in photography in New Orleans that I helped organise the models I got her and her mom both as models. The photographer's lost their minds when they saw real New Orleans culture.
The difference between the Maroon Society and traditional Mardi Gras Indians is that we as the Maroon Society embrace the traditions outside of ourselves and that we are self actualised (defined by Webster's as "the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities"). We give no explanation for ourselves and we don't bow down.As a society, we strive for the best and embrace being who we are. We don't bow down feel the need to explain ourselves to no one. I am 3rd of 5 generations. I have come to find my power by being in the traditional woman's role in the rigid gender roles that men in the Maroon Society who are of African descent lead. You see African men have lived the experience of being beaten down by an entitled white society. I respect them and still assert my femininity. I am truly a feminist, being a "queen" who is walking in my history along with my present and my future. I am a a part of a society where men do not share their secrets with women.
I love to work with children where I've learn so much from witnessing them learning from the elders, musicians and other artists.
As Frida Kahlo said, I am my own muse. You can't challenge me on being me. I am my own inspiration.
Such care is taken in the making of our suits and the detail of the patches because we only use aurora borealis/ Swarovski number two crystals along with the best feathers. My white suit is a tribute to Obatala. Obatala can be in the form of a woman or a man, The.performance installation that it's used for involves art pieces that tell a story with a past, a present and beyond. With Covid 19, less has to be more and has to be different. and for me it also has to be simple. The white suit tells the of systemic racism of black people that have been disenfranchised. The Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements that involve Breaonna Taylor and George Floyd's stories as well as economic injustice for artists are all a part of it. Why would you pay a European quartet of four a $1,000 yet pay a brass band of ten members the same $1,000 . Then ask a Mardi Gras Indian or a drag queen to work for free?
There's a difference in the sentencing of white people compared to black people for the same crime. Black men are wrongly incarcerated for longer periods of time compared to whit people and they lose so much of their lives that they will never get back.
People of African descent can't fix things. It takes the white privileged who are benefiting from us to change things for our stories to be heard.
From our first sitting together.
So many photographers take her picture, sometimes in her most private moments with no respect to her or her humanity. One photographer sells her deceased father's photo for $5,000. He offered to sell it to her mother for a "discounted rate".
Then there's the time and money she puts into her costumes. There's her time and energy getting dressed and being "on" for the people at the event. Some photographer's can't or won't take the time to see the real her.
As a photographer I try to share in my profits with my photgraphic subjects. With out and interesting subject as she once said to another photographer,"If your so damned talented, then go take a picture of your feet and try to sell that!"
Cherice trusts me as a photographer and our connection shows it.
Art sustains and heals our society. Creating art cures depression and moves us past it. Art moves us to the next level. Art can be used for advocacy. Art is a way of.expressing ourselves. Art is a connecting factor.
I look forward to our collaboration of our next show. Thank you to my Queen, Reesie.