Read this: The Wind In The Reeds by Wendell Pierce

The Wind In The Reeds
by Wendell Pierce

“We make our stories. And our stories make us.” 

Spending the weekend at home looking after a sick little puppy meant I had plenty of time to read (yay), so I thought it’d be good to start the week with a new book to add to your reading lists… This book was a beautiful read, but I’m truly struggling to know how to define it…

Written by New Orleanian Wendell Pierce, an acclaimed actor who was part of arguably one of the best television dramas of all time (The Wire) and probably my favourite series of all time (Treme), this book explores:
– African American history in the south
– his family’s specific history
– the importance of religion and education in African American families
– his path to becoming not just an actor, but a true artist
– the people who influenced both his life and career
– his role in bringing his city back together after the horrors that came with Hurricane KatrinaIt’s not a strict autobiography, in that Pierce tells so many more stories than just his own, and gives such a touching insight into the lives and trials of his family and community.

He wrote a lot about his family, and the enormous debt of gratitude he owed to his parents. He spoke of how hard they worked in a time where they were so oppressed, when segregation was as horrible as you could imagine, and he write with such dignity that you can’t help but feel so much towards their struggles. Reading about how his father worked two jobs so that Pierce and his brothers could have the education their parents both firmly believed they were entitled to was heart breaking and inspiring at the same time; Pierce also write about his father’s most prized possession, a letter framed and hung on the wall declaring his final mortgage payment and that he was in fact the sole owner of his own home. Something that I’ve never thought twice about, the ability to apply for a mortgage to own my own home – that was a battle for his parents.

He writes about his time spent filming both The Wire and Treme, and if you haven’t seen them, I’d recommend making that a priority. Both are the creations of producer David Simon, and Pierce write about how they were created not just as stories or entertainment, but as true documentaries of life on the streets of Baltimore and post-Katrina New Orleans, respectively. Pierce’s work on both shows was incredible, and reading about his experiences at the times he was filming gave a lot more insight.

Those passages really struck me for another reason; I like to think of my blog as my time capsule, my running documentary of what my life is right now. Pierce writes about the fact that with something like Treme, future generations will be able to watch it with their grandparents and understand that that was really what they lived through, without all of the Hollywood dramatisation. That’s truly a precious gift to pass on.

While I’m not a religious person myself, my parents are, and I could relate to a lot of what he wrote on this topic as well. While not a strict Sunday church-goer, his faith and love for God came because he so loved and respected his mother and father, and they in turn loved God. His faith, in a way, was through and in his parents; that made sense to me. While the majority of his family were very religious, there were a few who shunned it completely. His mother said that men are fallible, but that’s no reason to turn your back on your faith. He and his brothers were encouraged to question the views that the church presented – perhaps if I’d had that encouragement rather than strict instructions to follow blindly and dumbly, I’d still have a little faith.

The importance of family also shone through very strongly – how having someone to lean on when times are tough is a necessity, and how you are never truly alone. And it wasn’t just his immediate family; it was extended family and the community. When one struggled, the others picked up the slack. He took that concept all the way back to a traditional New Orleanian tradition of second lines and Mardi Gras crews, group and clubs. Learning more about the traditions of New Orleans from someone who lived there was fantastic, too, and what held my interest the most.

So as you can see, it’s a bit of a mish mash, but at the end of the day, it’s about empowerment and overcoming. It’s a truly beautiful read; grab a copy here  : )

 

“Hope is a memory that desires. If we can remember who we were and what we had, and can act in concert to reenact the rituals that defined us, we might find in that the hope to go on, despite the indifference of others to our fate.”

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New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

On June 16th 1881, 134 years ago today, the New Orleans Times Picayune printed the obituary of recently deceased Marie Laveau, the infamous Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Stick with me while I commemorate her death by re-visiting the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum – I swear it’s not as weird as it sounds! Voodoo is pretty popular in New Orleans as an alternative religion and belief system, and this little museum is a really great place to start if you want to learn a little more about it (for a start, Voodoo is not traditionally used to “hurt” or “curse” people!). It was created by New Orleans Creole native and cultural preservationist Charles Massicot Gandolfo in 1972, and is basically a little old house full of all things Voodoo.

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It’ll cost you only USD$5.00 for entry, and we were given an information guide before we ventured in, which had a great FAQ page, as well as a run down of the four big focuses in the museum, which I’ve drawn from for the information below:

Marie Laveau
The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau was a free woman of colour and a well known healer and leader of the city’s Voodoo community.

Historic Hallway
The entrance to the museum is via a small, old, creaky hallway with a few pieces of note on the walls. There are pictures of popular Voodoo practitioners, a map showing the Voodoo journey, and something I found really amazing was the original passport; wooden masks used by tribes on the move to indicate who they were and where they were from, passport masks!

Gris-Gris Room
A “gris-gris” is both the act and the object of a magical superpower, but it is rarely used for evil as per common misconceptions. The four main areas of gris-gris use are for love & sex, power & domination, fortune & luck, and undoing another gris-Gris.

Altar Room
This room was not only gorgeous to look at, but functional as well. Both Voodoo practitioners and visitors leave offerings at the altars (photos, personal items like cosmetics and hair clips, jewellery, etc) as offerings to the Voodoo spirits for gris-Gris favours. You’ll also notice some Catholic saints who have merged over the centuries in function, name and image with ancient Voodoo spirits.

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It doesn’t take long to wander through the few rooms, but if you do have the time and the interest in it, there’s so much to read about on your way through, and some really fascinating objects and photos to accompany it all. Worth the visit if you have a bit of time to spare between drinks and po boys!

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