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Chief Iron Horse of Black Seminoles dies

2nd April 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

As is the custom of the Mardi Gras Indians, Cyril Green, Chief Iron Horse of the Black Semi­noles, was out on the street on St. Joseph’s night celebrating the Indian tradition. The next day he was gone. Green, whose title refers to his confinement to a wheelchair, his “iron horse,” died on Wednesday, March 20, 2013. He was 46.

Green’s involvement with the Black Indian culture came through his family. He was initially inspired by his uncle, the noted Chief Merk of the Flaming Arrows. However, when his cousin, Flaming Arrow Chief Kevin Goodman and his (Chief Kevin) brother-in-law took him to his first Indian practice, Green made a decision.

“That’s when he fell in love with it,” Goodman remembers. “That’s when he told us he wanted to make the Iron Horse suit. He wanted to be an Indian.”

CYRIL “CHIEF IRON HORSE” GREEN August 26, 1966 – March 20, 2013

CYRIL “CHIEF IRON HORSE” GREEN August 26, 1966 – March 20, 2013

Green, who joined the Flaming Arrows gang in 1992 as Second Chief, was determined to mask Indian despite the fact that he wasn’t able to walk or use his hands to draw or sew. He was, however, able to convey his costume design to an artist and his family and friends came together to make his suit. Chief Merk built his nephew’s first crown and Green’s uncle, Alfred Doucet, designed a rod to support the headdress so Iron Horse’s head wouldn’t have to bear its weight.

“He wore it proud,” Goodman says. “What made him special was his spirit and the motivation that he had towards getting the type of costume that he had inside of his head. Whatever he needed done, he got it done. He used what he had left and that was his brain.

“We didn’t look at him as being a wheelchair Indian,” Chief Kevin continues. “We looked at him as another human being out there with a costume on. At the same time, he inspired other guys that were in wheelchairs to let them know that that life is not over. We can still enjoy life. We can still do what other people do.”

Chief Iron Horse also inspired the children at Oretha Castle Haley Elementary School when he would visit there and participate in the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame ceremonies. At the time Green, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, was the Second Chief of the Young Cheyenne gang that was active in the same neighborhood as the school.

“The first couple of times, I guess they were surprised,” says Cherice “Queen Reesie” Harrison-Nelson, the Hall of Fame founder and the queen of the Guardians of the Flames tribe. “Then he became like a neighborhood hero to them because he lived in the neighborhood so they saw him in the community. He would always tell the children to stay in school and don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Chief Kevin explains that Green left the Flaming Arrows, a 7th Ward gang, because he lived in the 8th Ward and felt he needed to represent his community. “He wanted to be a part of his family tribe but he wanted to find his own identity.

“He felt the leadership inside himself and from his uncle (Chief Merk),” Goodman says of Green forming the Black Seminoles. He knew he could be a leader of the 8th Ward, and he did it.

“He came a long way,” Chief Kevin observes referring to Chief Iron Horse’s participation in the Mardi Gras Indian culture and his pursuit of an education including earning an associates degree from Delgado Community College.

“He was a beautiful person,” says Chief Kevin who will lead a tribute to Chief Iron Horse along with members from throughout the Black Indian Nation at the Jazz Fest on May 2, in the slot where the chief had been scheduled to perform. “If you met him you could feel the joy in his heart and the pride in what he did.”

Funeral services will be held for Cyril Green at 11 am on Tuesday, April 2, at Our Lady of the Sea Church, 1835 St. Roch Avenue.

Mulgrew Miller – Courtesy of the Sandbar

It’s difficult to bring in renowned, national jazz artists to perform at small- to medium-sized venues in New Orleans. The money just doesn’t add up. Nonetheless, this city has played host to some of jazz’s finest through the efforts of universities and non-profit organizations.

Case in point: Mulgrew Miller, a piano giant who’s played and/or recorded with greats like Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, vocalist Betty Carter and drummer Tony Williams’ quintet as well as distinguishing himself as a leader, arrives at Snug Harbor on Thursday, April 4, to perform with drummer Herlin Riley and bassist Jason Stewart. That wouldn’t have happened it weren’t for the Jazz at the Sandbar series, which is sponsored by the University of New Orleans Jazz Studies program. It is bringing Miller to town to perform on Wednesday, April 3, as part of the regular series that takes place at the Cove on the UNO campus. The pianist will also lead jazz workshops during his two-day residency.

“These artists are coming in primarily to do the educational visit to the University of New Orleans,” says series producer Jason Patterson, who also books Snug Harbor.

“There’s a number of different factors on how we choose guest artists to come in. We choose veteran artists who have a performance career and who also have a history as a jazz educator.”

Miller, with his track record as a musician and as the Director of Jazz Studies at Pennsylvania’s William Paterson University, of course, fills the bill on both qualifications.

“We also bring in at least a couple of the graduates from the program to welcome them back to town and show the kids the value of going to Jazz Studies program to pursue a career in jazz,” Patterson explains. On Wednesday, April 10, one such former student, saxophonist Rex Gregory will perform at the Cove, which, after major renovations now boasts state-of-the-art technology. Also attractive are the shows’ low admission price of $5 and early start times of 7 p.m.

“It’s unique be­cause it’s out at the Lakefront and it’s really the only music outlet in that area. There’s a number of people from Gen­tilly and Lakeview who are very loyal and come out every week.”

This article originally published in the April 1, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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