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Episode #86: The Mardi Gras Indians—Stories from New Orleans

Episode #86: The Mardi Gras Indians—Stories from New Orleans

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Tootie Montana

Tootie Montana

 

Jelly Roll Morton talks of being a “Spy Boy” in the Mardi Gras Indian parades of his youth. Bo Dollis, of the Wild Magnolias, tells of sewing his suit of feathers and beads all night long. Tootie Montana masks for the first time after Mardi Gras started up again after being cancelled during World War II. Big Queen Ausettua makes connections between the black Mardi Gras Indian traditions of New Orleans and Africa. Sister Alison McCrary, a Catholic nun and social justice attorney, tells of Big Chief Tootie Montana’s death at the podium in City Council Chambers defending the rights of the Mardi Gras Indians to parade without harassment.

A collection of stories and interviews in honor of the Mardi Gras Indian tradition in New Orleans. With thanks to the Library of Congress, Nick Spitzer and American Routes, WWOZ and all of the Keepers of the Mardi Gras Indian Culture.

Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton

 

Big Queen Ausettua, Photo by Marcello Amari

Big Queen Ausettua, Photo by Marcello Amari

Back by Popular Demand / Kitchen Sisters Interviewing, Recording & Podcasting Workshop / Thursday Feb. 8

Back by Popular Demand / Kitchen Sisters Interviewing, Recording & Podcasting Workshop / Thursday Feb. 8

Time again for The Kitchen Sisters Interviewing, Recording & Podcasting Workshop. Davia Nelson is holding a new one Thursday, February 8 at Francis Coppola’s historic Zoetrope building in San Francisco. This three-hour session is designed for those who want to acquire and hone their skills for an array of audio projects — radio, podcasts, online stories, storytelling, oral histories, audio slideshows, family histories, news, documentaries and other multimedia platforms.

In the Workshop, Davia covers interviewing and miking techniques, sound gathering, use of archival audio, field recording techniques, recording equipment, how to make interviewees comfortable, how to frame evocative questions that make for compelling storytelling, how to build a story, and how to listen (which is harder than it looks). We also talk podcasting. Serious talk about getting your podcast going and giving it a real sound.

The workshop is customized to fit the projects you are working on. People who have attended in the past have come from radio, film, multimedia, detective agencies, newspapers, journalism, photography, oral history, historical societies, farms, music, ophthalmology, writing, libraries, archives, beer brewing, web design, restaurants, health care organizations, film, cheese-making and beyond. The groups are always lively and good contacts are made.

Morning Workshop: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
Cost: $150.00.
Tickets available through our friends at Eventbrite.

The workshop is in North Beach at 916 Kearny St. Of course, snacks will be served.

Please pass this announcement along to your community.

Expand your skills, meet new people, support the work of The Kitchen Sisters.

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Episode #85: House of Night: The Lost Creation Songs of the Mojave People

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The story of an aging pile of forgotten reel-to-reel tapes discovered on the shelf of a tribal elder on the Fort Mojave Reservation. Recorded by an amateur ethnographer in the 1960s, these tapes of the last Creation Song singer of the tribe recount the legends and origin of the Mojave people. They are oral maps of the desert region that were instrumental in helping to save the Ward Valley from becoming a nuclear waste dump site.

In the 1960s, a CBS radio engineer out of Los Angeles, drove out to the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Parker, Arizona with his portable reel-to-reel tape recorder with the idea of recording the Mojave Indians. There he met Emmett Van Fleet, an elder of the tribe and the last of the Creation Song singers. Over the course of several years, Guy Tyler made his weekend pilgrimages, and slowly and meticulously the two men recorded the 525 song cycle that recounts the legend of the creation and origin of the Mojave people, their traditions, and their oral maps that describe historical journeys, sacred sites, and directions about how to safely cross the Mojave Desert. Emmett Van Fleet left the tapes to his nephew Llewllyn Barrackman. As years went by and technology changed, the tapes were unplayed and forgotten until Phillip Klasky and the Storyscape Project worked to get the the tapes transferred and preserved.

In 1995, when action was taken to turn Ward Valley into a nuclear waste dump, traditional Mojave songs and song cycles helped save the endangered Ward Valley and Colorado River by proving the historic connection the Mojave have with this sacred land.

In 1999 The Kitchen Sisters travelled to the Mojave Reservation with writer and environmentalist Phil Klasky, to meet with LLewllyn Barrackman and other Mojave elders, birdsong singers and activists in the Ward Valley struggle.

Produced with Phillip Klasky, Director of the Storyscape Project.

Coming in 2018: The Keepers / Help Meet Our Match

Coming in 2018: The Keepers / Help Meet Our Match

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“People are always like, ‘Tell us why you like libraries.’ And it’s like why you like food — because it keeps you alive.”   — Colson Whitehead

Dear Friends,

Greetings at year’s end. We write to wish you well and to thank you for your support and spirit. We are about to embark on a new NPR and podcast series, The Keepers — stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians. Keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections they keep. Guardians of history, large and small, protectors of the free flow of information and ideas, eccentric individuals who take it upon themselves to preserve some part of our cultural heritage. The Keepers will premiere on Morning Edition, with a listenership of some 14 million people, early in 2018.

A generous group of donors, The Council of Keepers, including Susan Sillins, Susie Franklin, Barbara & Howard Wollner, has committed a matching challenge of $30,000 to bring these stories to air and inspire our supporters. Please help us raise this match.

This new series promises to be one of our most timely and powerful — a series of truth-seeking, richly layered, lushly produced stories that you, our community, make possible. We ask for your support for this new, compelling collection of stories and invite your tips and suggestions for who and what needs chronicling.

Please make a tax-deductible contribution to The Kitchen Sisters Productions today. With The Council of Keepers match your gift will be doubled.

Thank you for supporting the stories.

Love,
Nikki & Davia

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Photo courtesy of Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

Ep #84: Levee Stream Live from New Orleans

Ep #84: Levee Stream Live from New Orleans

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Nikki, Davia, host Cole Williams, Jamal Cyrus from Otabenga Jones & Associates

 

Levee Stream— a live neighborhood pop-up, Cadillac, radio station installation in New Orleans. Presented by Otabenga Jones & Associates and The Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with Project& as part of Prospect.4 New Orleans, an international exhibit of 73 artists creating artworks and events throughout New Orleans.

Part block party, part soap box—Levee Stream is a lively mix of music, DJs, and conversations with artists, activists, civil rights leaders, neighborhood entrepreneurs and visionaries taking place in the back seat of a cut-in-half 1959 pink Cadillac Coup de Ville with giant speakers in the trunk on Bayou Road, one of the oldest roads in the city.

Hosted by WWOZ DJ Cole Williams the show features interviews with Robert King and Albert Woodfox, members of the Angola 3 who were released from prison after decades of living in solitary confinement. Civil Rights pioneers Leona Tate and A.P. Tureaud Jr. Prospect.4 curator Trevor Schoonmaker and artists Hank Willis Thomas, Maria Berrio, and Jeff Whetstone. With music by legendary Hammond B3 organ player Joe Krown, contemporary jazz luminaries Kidd and Marlon Jordan,The Jones Sisters, DJ RQ Away and DJ Flash Gordon Parks.

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DJ RQ Away

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Davia with Jeff Whetstone

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Davia with Prospect.4 Artistic Director Trevor Schoonmaker

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The Jones Sisters

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Houston’s DJ Flash Gordon Parks

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Joe Krown

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Marlon Jordan

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Jamal Cyrus from Otabenga Jones & Associates with Hank Willis Thomas

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History of Conquest by Hank Willis Thomas

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Wildflowers by Maria Berrio

Support the Stories / An Archival Calling

Support the Stories / An Archival Calling

Photo postcard of Annie Wooten, circa 1920s from the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University

Photo postcard of Annie Wooten, circa 1920s from the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University


“My archival calling was, I believe, part of my spiritual calling.”
-Brenda Billups Square

Last week, we shared a story from New Orleans. The story of Leona Tate, who as a six-year-old was one of the first African American children to integrate an all-white school in New Orleans. Today we share a moment from a story about Brenda Billups Square, co-pastor of Beecher Memorial Congregational United Church of Christ and an archivist documenting New Orleans.

In 2018, we will be spending many hours with people like Brenda, as we embark on a new series for NPR called The Keepers — stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, collectors, curators and historians — keepers of the culture and the culture and collections they keep.

We are asking for your support to help create this rich, surprising, timely series about the people and stories behind collecting and protecting our history and culture.

donatenow

Giving Tuesday / Support the Stories

Giving Tuesday / Support the Stories

U.S. Marshals escort Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost from McDonogh #19, Nov 1960.


It’s Giving Tuesday and, as in years past, we’d like to give you a story.

For the past several months we’ve been traveling to New Orleans, gathering stories and sound for “Levee Stream,” a pop-up radio station installation collaboration with Otabenga Jones & Associates and Project& for the citywide exhibit Prospect.4. We’ve woven these interviews and recordings into an epic Sonic Prayer Flag, full of New Orleans voices, shards of sound and archival audio. Today we’d like to share a strand of this prayer flag, the story of Leona Tate…

November 14, 1960 — Four six-year-old girls, flanked by Federal Marshals, walked through screaming crowds and policemen on horseback as they approached their new schools for the first time. Leona thought it must be Mardi Gras. Gail Etienne thought they were going to kill her.

We are committed, now more than ever, to creating documentaries that chronicle untold stories of American culture and tradition, to keeping the nation’s airwaves vibrant, imaginative and accessible, and to building community through storytelling. It is you, our community, that makes these stories possible.

donatenow

Kitchen Sister Nikki with Leona Tate, Prospect.4: Levee Stream, New Orleans, Nov 2017

Kitchen Sister Nikki with Leona Tate, Prospect.4: Levee Stream, New Orleans, Nov 2017

Ep #83: Chicken Pills – A Hidden World of Jamaican Girls

Ep #83: Chicken Pills – A Hidden World of Jamaican Girls

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Every culture has its idealized woman, its standard of beauty that is valorized. Everywhere women are altering themselves in small and major ways to attempt the look that is celebrated. History is full of methods, home grown and scientific, used to attain these ideals— footbinding, corsetting, liposuction, emaciation, molding of the skull, face lifts, lip stretching…

In this story Hidden World of Girls travels to Jamaica — where cosmetic folk treatments and changing ideals of beauty are part of a the national debate going on in the music, the dancehalls and on the streets.

In Jamaica, especially in poorer areas, there is a saying among men, ” I don’t want a “maga” (meager) woman.” A maga woman, a slight or thin woman, says to the world that a man is poor and doesn’t have means to provide for her. A larger woman is a way of showing you have means and that you can afford to keep this woman fed.

“If you have no meat on your bones the society can’t see your wealth, your progress, your being,” said Professor Sonjah Stanley-Niaah. “This African standard of beauty, and it’s very much present in Jamaica. The body must be healthy and that health is expressed in some amount of fat. You musn’t just be able to slip through the arms of a man. The healthy body girl is anywhere from 160 to 210 pounds.So there’s a high level of interest and activity around modifying the body.”

In the 1990s, some women in Jamaica, longing to be large, started taking “Chicken Pills,” hormones sold to plump up the breasts and thighs of chickens.

In Jamaica we talked with twenty-one year old Raquel Jones who was cast in an independent film called “Chicken Pills,”by Jamaica born playwrightStorm. The film is about two teenage girls. One is getting more attention from the boys in the class. The other character, Lisa, is having self esteem problems so she turns to the chicken pills. “Here in Jamaica it’s pressure on teenage girls and women. We do stuff that increases these physical appearances, getting our bodies to look a certain way.

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, 1960, NEW ORLEANS

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, 1960, NEW ORLEANS

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U.S. Marshals escort Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost from McDonogh #19, November 14, 1960.

U.S. Marshals escort Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost from McDonogh #19, November 14, 1960.

 

November 14, 1960 — Four six-year-old girls, flanked by Federal Marshals, walked through screaming crowds and policemen on horseback as they approached their new schools for the first time. Leona Tate thought it must be Mardi Gras. Gail Etienne thought they were going to kill her.

Four years after the Supreme Court ruled to desegregate schools in Brown v Board of Education, schools in the south were dragging their feet. Finally, in 1960, the NAACP and a daring judge selected two schools in New Orleans to push forward with integration — McDonogh No.19 Elementary and William Frantz.

An application was put in the paper. From 135 families, four girls were selected. They were given psychological tests. Their families were prepared. Members of the Louisiana Legislature took out paid advertisements in the local paper encouraging parents to boycott the schools. There were threats of violence.

When the girls going to McDonogh No. 19 arrived in their classroom, the white children began to disappear.
One by one their parents took them out of school. For a year and a half the girls were the only children in the
school. Guarded night and day, they were not allowed to play outdoors. The windows were covered with brown paper.

The story of integrating the New Orleans Public schools in 1960 told by Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost
Williams, and Gail Etienne Stripling, who integrated McDonogh No.19 Elementary School, and retired Deputy U.S. Marshals Herschel Garner, Al Butler, and Charlie Burks who assisted with the integration efforts at the schools.

Leona Tate in 2017. Photo by Deborah Luster.

Leona Tate in 2017. Photo by Deborah Luster.

 

McDonogh No. 19 in 2017. Photo by Nikki Silva.

McDonogh No. 19 in 2017. Photo by Nikki Silva.

 

This story is part of Levee Stream, our Prospect 4 New Orleans project in collaboration with Otabenga Jones and Associates.

Made possible in part by Ruth U. Fertel Foundation and Project&

Special Thanks to:

Leona Tate — Leona Tate Founation for Change 

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Fergussen — PlessyandFerguson.org

Brenda Square — Amisted Research Center

Brenda Flora — Audiovisual Archivist at Amisted Research Center, Tulane University

Tulane University and their Through a Crowd Bravely Program— Several of the voices in our story were recorded on November, 2010 at Tulane University as part of a reunion and panel discussion on the 50th Anniversary of the integration of public schools in New Orleans. Voices featured from these archival recordings include: Leona Tate Tessie Prevost Williams, Gail Etienne Stripling, and retired Deputy US Marshals Charlie Burks, Herschel Garner and Al Butler. This gathering was the first time the women and the marshals had reunited since November 1960.  

For the WSBN archival news footage thanks toTaylor Chicoine and Ruta Aeolians, Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection UGA, Special Collections Library

Thanks to National endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts

Levee Stream: A Pop-Up Radio Station Installation, Nov 19, Opening Weekend, Prospect 4

Levee Stream: A Pop-Up Radio Station Installation, Nov 19, Opening Weekend, Prospect 4

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On Sunday afternoon, November 19th, opening weekend of Prospect.4, the legendary Houston arts collective, Otabenga Jones & Associates, Peabody Award winning NPR producers, The Kitchen Sisters and the acclaimed activist arts organization Project& come together on Bayou Road to present Levee Stream a day-long, street-corner, pop-up, Cadillac radio station-installation.

Part block party, part soapbox, Levee Stream is broadcasting live from noon til five from a 1959 Cadillac Coup de Ville — a lively mix of conversation and interviews with an array of international artists in town for Prospect.4, Bayou Road neighborhood regulars, entrepreneurs and visionaries, New Orleans artists and activists, live music, DJs, and a five hour “sonic prayer flag” that will unfurl across the afternoon and the neighborhood full of New Orleans voices, shards of sound and archival audio.

Come join this live five-hour afternoon event with NPR’s Kitchen Sisters and Otabenga Jones hosted by singer, bandleader, WWOZ DJ and arts activist, Cole Williams. Three DJs will be spinning across the day — New Orleans’ DJ RqAway (the people’s DJ), Matt Knowles of Domino Sound Record Shack, and Houston DJ, collector and ethnomusicologist, DJ Flash Gordon Parks. A few of the Prospect artists coming to be interviewed at the Cadillac include Hank Willis Thomas, John Akomfrah, Xaviera Simmons, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Monique Verdin, Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker, Cauleen Smith, Jeff Whetstone, Penny Siopis, and Odili Donald Odita. Gia Hamilton and artists from The Joan Mitchell Center will also be heard “on air” at the Caddy.

A stunning array of New Orleans artists, activists, chefs, bakers, architects appearing live in conversation at Levee Stream include: social justice activists, Robert King and Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson of the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation, the legendary DJ Soul Sister from WWOZ and beyond, Skylar Fein and skaters from Parisite Skate Park, Leona Tate of the McDonogh 3, Vera Warren-Williams from Community Book Center, Alon Shaya and many more.

Live music will fill the day from long-standing free jazz duo, Alvin Fielder & Kidd Jordan, The Jones Sisters with their deep gospel sound, Cole Williams, “Chicken Violins” from The Homer Plessy School led by Rebecca Crenshaw, Zion Trinity and Joe Krown on Hammond B3.

Levee Stream is a day of close listening, unusual encounters, neighborhood revelation and food. Of course food.

All kinds of cooking, food and drink will be part of the day from Pagoda Cafe, Coco Hut, The Half Shell, Alon Shaya & Pomegranate Hospitality, Graison Gill & Bellegarde Bakery, Cal Peternell formerly of Chez Panisse, Charlie Hallowell of Pizzaiolo and Boot & Shoe ServiceUncorked and the New Orleans Ice Cream Company.

Meet us on the corner. Hear the stories, voices, visions, issues and music live at the “station.” And record your own story in the tiny shotgun shack on wheels recording booth on the street next to Caddy (built by six high school students from unCommon Construction). Issues of culture, climate, arts, infrastructure, food, family, education and entertainment unfold across the day in an inventive, imaginative, collaborative way.

“Levee Stream” is made possible in part by The Ruth U. Fertel Foundation, Project& and McKenna Properties.

For more information and a complete list of participants visit kitchensisters.org/prospect

Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp
November 18, 2017 – February 25, 2018
prospectneworleans.org

What: Prospect.4: Levee Stream — Part block party, part soapbox, a live, one-day, pop-up neighborhood Cadillac radio station-installation

Who: Produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Otabenga Jones & Associates, Project&

When: Sunday, November 19, 2017, Noon – 5:00pm

Where: 2500 Bayou Rd, New Orleans (the confluence of Bayou Road, Desoto & No. Dorgenois)