Culture

The people of New Orleans are as vibrant and diverse as their ancestors, hailing from Africa, America, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. From our food to our architecture, our culture is deeply rooted in tradition and history. The beautiful grand mansions and oak tress on St. Charles Avenue and the balconies in the French Quarter are all reflective of our city’s heritage.

Starting with red beans and rice on Monday, makin’ groceries on Wednesday, and fried fish Fridays, we indulge in our deep traditions every day of the week.

Darryl Montana

Son and successor of Big Chief Allison Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas “Hunters” Mardi Gras Indian Tribe, is heir to a rich and visually stunning tradition that originated in New Orleans in the 19th century. While the exact origins of the Mardi Gras Indian culture are vague, the historical record documents that African-American citizens of New Orleans were parading in Indian costuming by the late 1880s, originating as a way for African Americans to stage subtle protests against white repression and violence. Through the costume detailing and song lyrics, New Orleans’s black culture found a way to stage a skillful revolution through art.

Carol Bebelle

Writer, poet, and producer, Carole Bebelle has spent nearly 20 years as an administrator and planner of education, social, and health programs. Carole is the cofounder of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans.

Anthony Bean

Anthony Bean Community Theater and Acting School was established the Spring of 2000 to meet the demands of New Orleans area residents interested in learning and participating in dramatic art, offering a fully operational day and evening school in dramatic arts, including both acting, stage design and management.

Kermit Ruffins

A jazz trumpeter, singer and composer from New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been heavily influenced by Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan and Eddy Jefferson. He co-founded the Rebirth Brass Band in 1983 while attending Clark High School, also in the Tremé neighborhood. Ruffins made his first recordings with the Rebirth in 1984. Ruffins founded the Barbecue Swingers in 1992, a traditional jazz quintet. Kermit is famous for cooking barbecue at his shows. Every Thursday since the early 1990s, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers have played a weekly show at Vaughan’s Bar in the Bywater neighborhood which is very popular with both locals and visitors.

Leah Chase

Known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, Chase promoted African American art and Creole cooking. Her restaurant, Dooky Chase, was known as a gathering place during the 1960s among many who participated in the Civil Rights movement; and, her restaurant was known as a gallery due to its extensive African American Art collection. Leah Chase was born on January 6, 1923 to Creole parents in Madisonville, Louisiana, United States. When Chase was 14 years old, she moved to New Orleans to live with relatives and attend St. Mary’s Academy. After high school, Chase worked in the Colonial Restaurant in the French Quarter in New Orleans. In 1945, she married musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase II, whose parents owned the Dooky Chase Restaurant. Chase began working at the restaurant during the 1950s and, over time, she eventually converted the menu to reflect her own family’s Creole recipes. She also developed an interest in African American art and began to display dozens of paintings by local African American artists.

Irma Thomas

Known as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans,” Thomas is a contemporary of Etta James & Aretha Franklin, having a large cult following among soul aficionados. Her first hit, “You Can Have My Husband (But Don’t Mess With My Man),” hit 22 on the Billboard R&B chart, and had a string of successful releases afterward. In 1991, she earned her first ever Grammy nomination for “Live! Simply the Best,” and in 1999, she earned a second Grammy nomination with the album, “Sing It!” Finally, in 2007, she earned her first Grammy for her album “After the Rain,” winning for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

Kathe Hambrick

An African American raised in rural Louisiana, she left, vowing never to return. She moved to Los Angeles, worked for I.B.M, and then, when she got laid off and her father became sick, she returned to Louisiana to help out. She was very depressed to be back in the middle of “plantation syndrome,” where everywhere she turned there were plantation restaurants, plantation roads, plantation houses. One day, she went to the river, stood on the levee, and had a vision where she saw the slaves working in the sugar cane fields and standing under the oak trees. She started to cry uncontrollably. Then a light breeze passed by her and she heard a voice telling her to go on plantation tours, asking questions about the black people who worked there. To her dismay, almost nothing was known about where the slaves lived, how many there were, or where they came from in Africa. She began to meet with historical societies, plantation owners, anyone who had information. And the more Kathe learned, the more she wanted to know. She hoped someone else would record and tell the story of the slaves; she resisted the call, but one day she couldn’t resist it any more. She began to have mystical experiences, where the sugar cane field lay down in front of her, where she had a vision of a weeping slave woman asking why it had happened to them. It was as though the spirit of the ancestors was calling to Kathe, and she knew she had to tell the slave story herself.

Don Hubbard

A local entrepreneur, Hubbard honed his leadership skills in New Orleans desegregation battles, organizing the Gentilly East Development Association, working with Moon Landrieu’s administration running programs in the Desire Housing Development, under Total Community Action (TCA), establishing a string of neighborhood and child development centers and job programs. In November, 2005, Hubbard was appointed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco as a Commissioner on the Morial Convention Center of New Orleans (MCCNO) governing board. Today, Hubbard runs his own business as owner of The Hubbard Mansion on historic St. Charles Avenue, saying he is “still in the struggle for a stronger community”.

Terence Blanchard

An American jazz musician and composer, he has been one of the top trumpet players in jazz since the 1980s, and has worked with some of the legends of the genre, rising to prominence through his association with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from 1982-1986. He has also played with Lionel Hampton and was the co-leader of a group with Donald Harrison for many years. He also appeared on the soundtracks of several Spike Lee films and appears in Lee’s 2006 Hurricane Katrina documentary, When the Levees Broke, for which he also wrote the original score. Blanchard has recorded as a leader for Columbia Records and Blue Note Records and is known for his african-fusion style of playing which makes him unique from other trumpet players from his generation such as Wynton Marsalis. He is currently serving as Artistic Director at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.