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Tekrema Center commemorates Katrina Anniversary

27th August 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

The importance of the arts in people’s lives has rarely been as evident as in the months and immediate years following Hurricane Katrina. The familiar beckoning of a single trumpet or tuba became the sound of hope in a city in despair.

On the evening of August 28, 2013, the Tekrema Center for Arts and Culture commemorates the 8th anniversary of the storm that led to the breaching of the levees and the flooding of New Orleans by turning to the creative arts – visual, dance, music – that helped so many get through such extremely trying times. The event takes place at the Center’s headquarters at 5640 Burgundy Street in the hard-hit, but on the rise, Lower Ninth Ward.

There will be an exhibition of the paintings of renowned artist and New Orleans native Ted Ellis and photos from Detroit native, now Lower Ninth resident, photographer and musician Joe Crachiola. Crachiola also picks up his saxophone to play in the Music + 1 jazz band that includes bassist Noel Carter and pianist Marcel Richardson that will be performing, weather permitting, outdoors in the Center’s grassy backyard. It has a special, neighborhood feel as those who’ve attended past concerts from the likes of saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. and Africa Brass can attest. The Tekrema Dance Theater, headed by the Center’s founder and director Greer Mendy, will perform an excerpt from a new work honoring the civil rights era.

Robert Green, a board member of the non-profit organization who is also involved in actor Brad Pitt’s “Make It Right Foundation,” agrees that the arts played a very big part in New Orleans recovery. “Basically, I’m going to go back to 2007 when they did Samuel Becket’s play “Waiting for Godot” in the Lower Ninth Ward. Two years after Hurricane Katrina everybody could understand the roles of the characters waiting for help.”

“What the play did,” Green continues, “was it gave us a chance to a laugh at our misery, to laugh at our despair, to laugh at the hard times we were going through. And that’s what the arts do. It gives us a way to sort of sooth the shattered beast in us that’s aching from all the pain that has been happening since Katrina.”

This event represents the first time that a commemoration of the anniversary has taken place at the Center. The reason, says Green, is so that those who work in the daytime will be able to participate. “We want to try to give everybody the opportunity to have that experience to celebrate something that affected their lives.”

White Buffalo Day Celebration

The birth of a white buffalo is seen a sign of spiritual significance and rebirth among many Native American tribes. The symbol was embraced in New Orleans, particularly by members of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians, with White Buffalo Day becoming an annual celebration since 1994.

On Tuesday, August 27, Reverend Goat Carson, who has been central in creating interest in the tradition, will lead a ceremony at the Backstreet Cultural Mu­seum, 1116 Henriette Delille Street, in observance of White Buffalo Day. This year, the event will honor Big Chief David Montana of the Washitaw Mardi Gras Indian gang who in 2013 paid tribute to the white buffalo in the design of his beautifully crafted suit.

“The white buffalo comes in peace,” says Montana, the son of Big Chief Edward Montana and nephew of Big Chief Allison “Tootie” Montana. “It’s a powerful symbol to do,” acknowledges the chief who will wear his suit to the ceremony that begins at 3 p.m. It is followed by a procession to Congo Square in Armstrong Park.

Wynton Marsalis Reflects on Albert Murray

“He was my man,” says trumpeter Wynton Marsalis of Al­bert Murray an often controversial essayist, novelist, critic and jazz aficionado who was renowned for his intelligence and unique perspective on a vast number of subjects and particularly on that of racial relations. Murray, who was born in Alabama on May 12, 1916, died in New York on August 18, 2013 at the age of 97.

When Marsalis was about 17 or 18 jazz critic and novelist Stanley Crouch, took him to Murray’s house. The young trumpeter was immediately impressed by, he says, “the amount of knowledge he had about so many different things about African-American culture and about American culture.”

Marsalis was also struck by Murray’s original theories about the meaning of the blues. For instance, Murray once wrote: “The blues is not the creation of crushed-spirited people, it is the product of forward-looking, upward-striving people.”

“At that time we weren’t even thinking about the blues,” admits Marsalis, who has long since embraced the genre. “That was like something from the past.”

As quoted in Murray’s powerful obituary in the New York Times, the legendary bandleader Duke Elling­ton once called Murray “the unsquarest man I know.”

“Just to meet him and talk with him – he was a wellspring of knowledge,” Marsalis praises. “The type of concern he had for the culture – he knew about the literature, the music, the poetry…. The frame of reference he had was encyclopedic.

“I’d go up to his apartment in Har­lem and he would just start telling me to pull out this book and turn to page this, pull out this book and turn to page that,” Marsalis continues. “Whatever we were talking about, it was seriously on that page. There was book after book, afternoon after afternoon – I was always up there. He was like a grandfather.”

Decades after Crouch took Marsalis to meet Murray, the three were involved in the creation of the now-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center program that was established in 1991.

“The thing that he taught me was the value of knowledge and to want to pursue it – to always be participating in your own development and to be proud of it and aware of it. He stayed engaged at all times.”

This article originally published in the August 26, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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