Mardi Gras 2020 has Me Ready to Return.

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( Mardi Gras day in New Orleans owes me nothing this year. It was a bittersweet journey back to one of my favorite memories with my father. He was the beginning of my understanding of Mardi Gras. He loved this season, marched the parades, took us to them as children, and walked the same routes with me as I marched when I was a kid. The history, and culture of New Orleans was placed in my heart by my father. This year was my first time returning to this celebration since he passed. I wanted my husband, and my children to experience a space that is near to my heart. I admit once we made it the parade route it took everything not to look around and cry, but I could feel my dad. It was time to teach my kids what I had been taught. It was now their time to be introduced to a culture that must be root in your heart with love. It is a culture whose principles kept me when I live in different states and encountered various hardships. I was told that I had been trying to work my way home since my parents moved. The truth of that hit home this Mardi Gras Day.

Mardi Gras day began at 5am for us, and by 7am we were on Basin getting a good spot for the Zulu parade. My babies were full of wonder, more so my six year old, and had a million questions about everything they saw. They saw a representation of themselves. A sea of black folks having a great time, eating, sharing, enjoying music from what appeared to be competing DJs as they waited for the parade to start. The environment exuded community….it was authentic to the city I love. I found myself remembering being in the exact same spot with my father, and while plenty had changed…just as much remained the same. My sons played with kids they just met like they had known them for years…as they were on the grass with hotdogs. My husband met different people and fit in as if he were from here. I realized in that moment this is a scene of what I want for my family…culture and community.

Once the Zulu parade began I found myself as excited as my 6 year old. My son marveled as marching bands with eyes that once looked like mind, and he was truly excited when he caught his first coconut. All of us were in the full “throw me something” mode as everyone in our area caught items and shared with each other. There was nothing in this moment that was vile, violent, or negative at all. Folks weren’t so drunk there was no regard for children or others. It was strangers coming together and leaving as acquaintances hoping maybe our kids can hangout some time.

After the parade my son’s saw the Mardi Gras Indians and they were in their own little world of enchantment. I sat back wondering if this is what my dad felt the first time I saw Zulu Mardi Gras day, the Indians, and all the festivities. I wish with all my heart he could have experienced this day with us, but I know he was there. If nothing else I realized this is my place, my community, my home and I’m ready to return. When one say’s I’m moving back to New Orleans they are usually confronted with many reasons they should change their mind. It’s no longer a conversation…I’m going home.

Staff Writer; Christian Starr

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