Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Kwanzaa to all the peoples of LouisiAfrica

Valerie Gunn
Originally uploaded by trudeau.

Maybe more important than recognizing Kwanzaa is a simple meditation on the background of African Americans in Louisiana.

People frequently ask me about the word I made up for perspective on the Bayou State: LouisiAfrica. This term reminds us that West African peoples plus Europeans equals Creole culture, Creole cooking (gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya), Creole style in dance, festivals and parlance ("Mighty kootie fiyo on Mardi Gras day!").

What people love about this little state at the bottom of the Mississippi valley is what was created in a black and white cultural forge: jazz, zydeco, cajun music and gumbo.

One of my sources on Maroon culture and the Bayou State is the award-winning book by historian Gewndolyn Midlo Hall called
Africans in Colonial Louisiana / The development of Afro-Creole Culture in the 18th Century
. Hall's book ties into the books of photographer-folklorist Michael P. Smith: Spirit World / Pattern in the Expressive Folk Culture of Afro-American New Orleans and the glorious pictorial Mardi Gras Indians.

Eileen Southern's The Music of Black Americans, A History, is also a book that sheds light on African-Amercian place and significance. I wish every teacher in Louisiana read this text for perspective on their students' backgrounds. Finally, I must recommend two books by historian Carl A Brasseaux, the Founding of New Acadia and Acadian to Cajun, the Transformation of a People, 1803 - 1877.

This reading opens doors that might take us past Kwanzaa, with respect, and into the ethnic gumbo where we all party. Know your state. Get past its embarassments and into its uniqueness.

LouisiAfrica: it's a Franco-Hispano-Guniean-Italo-Germanic-Ibo-Ashanti-Choctaw state of mind.

No comments: