Actor’s tweets misrepresent gesture of remembrance and respect by Kabuki Hats

It’s easy to understand how a gesture intended as a display of community love and respect can be misinterpreted. What’s not so easy to fathom is when the fallout can have unwarranted negative impact to a local, internationally-recognized craftswoman to the detriment of her business.

Actor Wendell Pierce tweeted the following regarding Kabuki Hats — created, owned, and operated by Tracy Thomson — on 7/14/12:


 The link referenced is as follows:

ImageMr. Pierce adds the following subsequent comments via Twitter:

ImageWhat’s unfortunate is that, Mr. Pierce (who has 33,000+ followers on Twitter), sadly got the intent of this gesture completely wrong.

Tracy Thomson (who does not have a Twitter account) was alerted to these tweets today and offered the following in response via Facebook:

“Okay, I am horrified to understand that Wendell pierce has tweeted numerous awful things about the memorial watch that I made. I don’t tweet, but want him to understand that in NO WAY did I profit from these watches I GAVE AWAY as a tribute, at my expense, and with the permission of the photographer. The copyright I added says explicitly ‘this image may be distributed without compensation,’ which means I was GIVING it to the family to do what they want with it. There was NO PROFIT MADE from this gesture that was made in love of Uncle Lionel. Can someone help me set the record straight? Try to do something GOOD and have my reputation destroyed by a celebrity, that just ain’t right. Thanks for your help.”

She adds, “Mr Pierce, I want to set the record straight. I created these paper watches as a FREE tribute to our beloved Uncle Lionel, for the family, and for his huge extended worldwide family. It was NEVER my intention to sell or make a profit; in fact, when I was handing out dozens of them at the second line, in the rain, a guy offered me a dollar. I declined, telling him they were free for all. I have been asked by Markieth, Lionel’s nephew, to make memorial watches for the pallbearers at Lionel’s funeral. I have made beautiful tributes at many New Orleans funerals, from banners to flags to fans, and have never asked to be compensated. As you might notice, I do not even have my website printed on the watch. People wore them in the second line, proudly, on their left hand, as Lionel did. I hope your followers DO click on the link that you posted above, there is a full explanation of my intentions, and they can print one out for themselves, as a tribute, not a trinket. Have a great day in Paris.”

Mr. Pierce, I do believe that you owe Ms. Thomson a sincere apology. While your concern regarding the representation of Uncle Lionel’s image is laudable, I would hope that, in the future, you’ll exercise more care and consideration before causing genuine and unwarranted harm to the reputation of another local icon’s livelihood.

As one reader replied, “It’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black, since he [Pierce] actually does monetarily profit from the destruction of our city… ahem.” Another added, “Has anyone pointed out to him that [the television show] ‘Treme’ is a commercial exploitation of the deaths of all the victims of crime and disaster? And that he makes a paycheck from it?”

Historic French Quarter and Faubourg Tremé defaced with graffiti advertising Coca-Cola products

It is my opinion that the City of New Orleans is being pimped out promoted at an unprecedented level (to a degree that gives rise to what could be described as “neighborhood fatigue”). Such heavy promotion rarely occurs without unintended consequences: for example, illegal, ugly, and damaging guerrilla marketing campaigns. This kind of defacement is unconscionable and must be addressed immediately.

The following is a letter I sent this evening to elected officials and law enforcement; I’m tired, so it was brief and to the point.

Spray-painted stenciled graffiti advertising a Coca-Cola product in conjunction with the NCAA Men’s Final Four event.

Honorable Mayor Landrieu, Councilmembers Palmer and Clarkson, and NOPD 8th District Commander Walls:

The attached photos depict advertising associated with the NCAA Men’s Final Four event for Coca-Cola products — spray-painted on sidewalks and pavement (including flagstones) in the French Quarter and Faubourg Tremé (and perhaps other) neighborhoods in our city. I ask, is this really how we want companies to behave when our city hosts national events?

This advertising is also prohibited by a recently adopted New Orleans ordinance:

Sec. 134-128. – Advertisements on streets, telegraph poles, etc., prohibited.

(a)  It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to post or paint advertisements of any kind on any street, sidewalk, public buildings, utility poles, light standards, street signs, parking meters, trees located in public right-of-way or traffic signal standards.

(b)  Any unlawful posted or painted advertisement on any street, sidewalk, public buildings, utility poles, light standards, street signs, parking meters, trees located in public rights-of-way or traffic signal standard shall be seized and removed.

(c)  It shall be the responsibility of the Department of Sanitation or the Department of Parks and Parkways to devise a system of removal for such signs.

(d)  It shall be unlawful to distribute or cause to be distributed any commercial product samples, commercial advertising brochures, leaflets pamphlets or commercial literature of any kind on the streets and sidewalks of the city, except as otherwise provided in this Code.

(M.C.S., Ord. No. 24452, § 1, 6-2-11)


Spray-painted stenciled graffiti advertisement on flagstone surface for another Coca-Cola product.

Can you please reply to this email indicating how you intend to address this defacement of public property?

Thank you for your time, consideration, and prompt response.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It is regrettable that there isn’t an easy solution or means to expedite addressing such issues promptly when they arise. Situations like this will be ongoing concerns; the hope is for action on the part of our City’s Administration that will yield consistent improvement. While some of the factors that cause defacement or damage can be abated, vigilance and timely remedies must be implemented.

Likewise, the consistent enforcement of existing and new ordinances will also determine the degree of success experienced in addressing these issues over time. While private property owners can be compelled to take action to address, for example, structural or blight issues, there is no similar mechanism available to compel the city to address such defacement promptly or focus on enforcement.

Stated simply, the most significant difference between historic beauty and hazardous decay is cumulative, uninterrupted neglect. The continued degradation of the historic heart of New Orleans cannot remain unaddressed, particularly if one considers that our amazing city will be in an ever-increasing spotlight while hosting the 2013 Super Bowl and celebrating its 300th Anniversary in 2018.

A portion of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Park re-opened to the public (finally!)

Another (partial) milestone was reached today in the City that Care Forgot’s recovery from the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: a portion of the Louis Armstrong Park in the Faubourg Tremé neighborhood re-opened!

The Tremé Brass Band kicked things off playing jazz traditionals and favorites at today’s Armstrong Park re-opening ceremony!Various public officials (including Mayor Landrieu) at the Armstrong Park re-opening ceremony; it was noted that the Faubourg Tremé neighborhood will celebrate its 200th Anniversary next week!A trio of amazing ladies serving as our cultural ambassadors, including professional second liner Ms. Jennifer (left) and Big Queen Cherice (center) led the procession of participants and attendees to Congo Square at the Armstrong Park re-opening ceremony.Tremé Brass Band & Afro-Caribbean music and dancing returned to Congo Square in the re-opened Armstrong Park (finally!) post-Katrina!

Sadly, however, the park’s iconic main entrance on North Rampart Street at St. Ann will remain closed for the time being, but the entrance at Dumaine Street will be open as of Monday, 11/18/11. The St. Peter Street entrance to Congo Square is presently scheduled to open in mid-June 2012. At this time, only most of the lagoon area in front of the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts will be open daily from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Two large sections of the 32-acre park remain closed: a parking lot between the theater and St. Philip Street and the portion of St. Ann Street near the Municipal Auditorium; these areas are anticipated to be open to the public again before the end of 2011.

NOLA Noteworthy

A random roundup of my personal picks of the best from local blogs and other NOLA-related news.

In Treme news, in response to the last episode, Sam Jasper at the Back of Town blog has written a beautiful and thoughtful post about the culture and tradition of  place and the inevitability of change, “It Just Don’t Smell Right Up In Here”.  Big Chief Albert Lambreaux is showing more of his cantankerous side while in New York recording Indian chants for a proposed record release. The title of the post comes directly from Big Chief’s mouth. Sam writes in part,

“His son has come around to the tradition in his way, but it’s not Albert’s way, and that’s mortality hitting ya in the face. Not just his own, but possibly the old ways, the culture he is so totally self-identified with and by. I know many elderly Native Americans who are terrified that their grandchildren won’t know any of the songs, traditions, creation stories, or medicine ways. In fact, several years ago, I believe it was the Shawnee who were given back sacred objects that had been held at the Smithsonian for a very long time. They let the Smithsonian keep them because no one alive knew what to do with them anymore.”

As an aside,in an earlier thread, Sam talked about the character Aunt MiMi, commenting as how she wanted to be Aunt MiMi. Huh. I’m acquainted with Sam and have heard a few of her stories. I think Aunt MiMi would be thrilled to be her. Sam is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. She’s a born teacher and storyteller who shares her knowledge and life experiences with an open heart, bypassing the need to instruct. I highly recommend her personal blog, NOLA Slate, although she doesn’t post nearly enough to feed this starving reader. (Check out this amazing post.)

Former mayor Ray Nagin released his self-published Katrina memoir last week resulting in a frenzy of blog posts, opinions, tweets and grumblings all over town. The best thing I’ve read hands-down is Michael Homan’s post, “Pharaoh Nagin”. No spoilers here – you must go read it.

Local indie designer Kerry Fitts was featured in the Times-Picayune last Thursday. (Sorry I don’t have a link.) After the earthquake in Japan Kerry allocated a portion of her sales from her Etsy shop to ArkBark, a non-profit group that was rescuing pets left behind in the radiation zone. Shortly thereafter she began exchanging emails about a possible fund-raiser and is traveling to Japan in July to participate in that event. She is donating her original designs for dogs and seeking additional donations from other local crafters. For more info about this amazing woman see my interview with her here.

One of my favorite local blogs is “NOLA Details” where the blogger Carla shares a NOLA-related photo every day. My favorite reoccurring theme on this blog is “Fun Porches” and we surely have plenty of those  here in NOLA so I don’t anticipate she’ll run out of candidates any time soon! Here’s one of  my favorites. Carla has another blog, “Watching NOLA Nature”, described as “Explorations in the urban oasis of New Orleans”. I really like how she zeroes in on the little things that go unnoticed in our every day lives. She reminds us of the wonder of nature and the beauty that is all around us. It’s a great little Zen moment everyday that I really look forward to.

Are you a tweeter? If so, my pick for Tweeter To Follow is @gadboiselensnola for informative up-to-the-minute reports from many of our city services department meetings including the City Council meetings, the City Planning Commission meetings and the Housing and Human Needs Committee meetings (all in the last 12 days!), among many others. Karen has made it so easy for us to keep up with what’s happening it would be a shame not to follow her.

Finally, I want to give a little shout-out to local blog “New Orleans Write Spot” that currently has one of my pieces posted. Susan Prevost (whom I interviewed here) publishes local talent and has the welcome mat out for local writers who are interested in publishing there. It’s a great place to read a bit of poetry and prose and support local talent.

Remember, you can follow us on Twitter and on Delicious to keep up with what we’re talking (also found in the sidebar) about or just wait for here for my random NOLA Noteworthy posts. Take care, y’all.

Update: I just want to add a post on NoLA Rising I read this morning (6/30) about the musical house that’s being created in  Bywater. Internationally known artist Swoon is involved along with many local artists. I recently viewed & photographed a scale model of the house from the street (seen below). Go to ReX’s website to read about it and view the video that details this community-minded event.

NOLA Noteworthy

Good morning, NOLA!

Here for your pleasure is another random (as in whenever I get around to it) post of links that impressed me from the NOLA blogosphere as well as articles of interest that are not local but are NOLA-related. Without further ado, you must click over to:

  • Karen Beninato wrote her review of episode 13 of HBO’s Treme, “On Your Way Down”. I’ve mentioned Karen’s reviews here before because I like her style of writing clearly and knowledgeably, as a local,  but without getting mired down in minutia. This episode drew upon the explosion of violence we experienced in the city in 2006 – a situation that was especially heart-wrenching to those of us who experienced the spirit soothing balm of a violence-free few months in the wake of the storm. Probably the only positive, however short-lived, that came out of the devastation. This episode depicted the robbery and rape of our feisty and strong LaDonna and I particularly like how Karen took the opportunity to educate her readers on  rape statistics in New Orleans and to recent political attempts to “reclassify rape victims as “rape accusers,” and  “efforts to split sexual assaults into two different terms, rape and “forcible rape”. Great job, Karen!
  • The rising of the river and threat of flooding was, and continues to be, a concern for New Orleanians and Southeast Louisiana residents. Several local bloggers and photographers have posted pictures of the rising water. Kate over at What I Saw Riding My Bike Around Today blog posted what is a stunning photo of the engorged river from the Holy Cross community with the cityscape in the background. The tranquility of the scene belies the seriousness of the situation but, sweet baby Jesus, you cannot help but admire the beauty of it. Arthur over at Calliope Street blog has been watching people watching the river and posted several photos taken from the French Quarter area and Liprap posted a slide show of river photos that look like they were taken at The Fly.
  • Harry Shearer was on Real Time With Bill Mahr Friday night. I have to confess this was the first time I’d ever watched the show and I tuned in strictly to see Harry. I’m glad I did because I think I like Bill and his show but I know I love Harry who has worked his butt off trying to educate people about the great levee failure of 2005 and exactly who is responsible. He talked a bit about his film, The Big Uneasy, but didn’t get nearly the amount of time to expand on it that I would have liked. Not only did I like this episode because of Harry but also because of Bill’s commentary about Bin Laden’s death, Christians and the teachings of Jesus at the end of the show. Y’all must watch. But not if you’re an easily offended person who thinks you’re a Christian. Just sayin.
  • Dambala at American Zombie went to court Friday for a well-earned day of entertainment compliments of the Mark St. Pierre trial and, in turn, entertains us with a blow-by-blow. Eat your heart out, MSM.
  • If you’re into the local literary scene or just like to know who the hot poets and writers are and who are signing their books around town, check out Mark Folse’s weekly lit post, Odd Words, every Thursday.
  • Aura Fedora’s latest podcast on Backstage On The Bayou is an interview with NOLA’s own hip-hop artist, Truth Universal. Don’t miss it.

Well, it’s past midnight and I’m ready to visit la-la land so off I go. Remember, you can catch many of these stories, and more, weekly via NOLAFemmes on Twitter. Or, you can wait for the random post here. Until next time….

NOLA Noteworthy

OK, boys and girls, here is the next installment of NOLA Noteworthy, my personal picks of the best from local blogs and websites that I’ve read in the past week, in no particular order.

  • Season 2 of Treme begins April 24 and the Nola-based blog Back of Town is awakening from it’s between seasons slumber. If you haven’t read this blog you’re missing out on a nice forum for local chatter and background information that you won’t read anywhere else. Check it out.
  • Speaking of Treme, my choice for local blog quote of the week goes to  Cliff’s Crib (referring to this brouhaha):
    “I want to tell David Simon and the folks connected with Treme that even though the mayor went ahead and demolished the block of blighted houses featured on your promotion pictures that you shouldn’t worry. We have dozens of blocks like that. You can choose a new one for each individual episode if you want to. ”  Word.
  • Editor B. over at B.Rox gives an update about the design and construction of the Lafitte Corridor greenway, a project he’s been involved with for five years now. In the following post, Hike Report 2011, he gives a first-hand account of this years’ Lafitte Corridor hike.
  • Disenfranchised Citizen posted yet another of his hard-hitting, no holds barred opinion pieces on the continuing disaster that is the aftermath of the BP oil spill, And So It Begins: Year 2.  Drake has become the go-to man for late-breaking, well researched and concise  information regarding all issues related to the Macondo spill. Keep your eyes on that space.
  • Architecture Research posted an interesting piece, with photo,  about the Cultural Center for New Orleans that was proposed in 1963. In part it reads, “With an estimated cost of $18 million, the plaza was to extend from the Orleans-Basin Connection to St. Philip Street, and from N. Rampart to N. Villere Streets. Widespread site clearance began in 1966, after the relocation of 122 families. Hampered by financial shortfalls, the CC was delayed and eventually abandoned. “
  • That Cultural Center post puts me in mind of another not fully funded project that has relocated families in Nola. Inside The Footprint talks about and  links us to recent comments made by State Treasurer John Kennedy about the financing for the proposed University Medical Center hospital in lower mid-city.
  • I recently discovered a new blog – well, new to me – called Riverside and instantly fell in love. It has got to be one of the most complete resources I’ve ever seen for all things New Orleans. It has everything from where to eat in Nola to where to shop to a list of local blogs to local music, art and videos to upcoming events, etc, etc, etc. I particularly like a video he posted which is a great snapshot of life in One Square Mile (around 4th and St.Charles) of the city and the people who live there. So cool.

Do you have a favorite story from a local blog you’d like to share? Just email me at nolafemmes at gmail dot com and we’ll publish it on NOLA Noteworthy with your name.
Like what you’ve read here? Follow us on Twitter for daily tweets of everything we find interesting about NOLA and other subjects.

30 Days 2 Year 5: A Photographic Slide Show

Since we’re at the mid-way mark of our journey to August 29, the 5th anniversary of the failure of the federally built levees in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, (whew!) I’ve put together all the photos from the previous 29 days into a slide show.

Many thanks to the people who have contributed photos to this project so far. All photos except five (that I’m aware of) were taken within the past four weeks with the others taken in the past year so we’ve captured a pretty accurate portrayal of  some of New Orleans’ neighborhoods as they are today. We’ve got the good and the bad, the neglected and the restored. Every home and community is a part of our shared experience, our city and our lives whether the occupants are here or still in exile.

Once a New Orleanian, always a New Orleanian.

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A Season in the Treme

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

I trudged through Treme.

The first episode made me crawl and squirm inside so badly I wanted to rip open my old leather sofa and get inside with the decomposing cheerios and wine stains. At first I thought it was the forced dialogue – overt references to red beans on Mondays, second lines, carnival, hell… there was even a voodoo scene. But things got better, and minor faults aside, it was infinitely superior to any film or show I’d ever seen about New Orleans. But it was still falling flat for me, desperately screaming from the start, Hey, I’m a New Orleans show! I’m full of New Orleans-y stuff that will make you midwesterners want to sell everything and join the steamy bacchanal down here.

But I stuck it out. I kept watching out of obligation, like when your kid makes you a crappy finger painting and you stick it on the fridge like a budding friggin’ Picasso made it. It was “our” show so we had to watch it. But as things progressed I began to discover why it really made me uncomfortable.

I felt like I was watching one of my home movies; not in quality, but in content. It was unnerving to watch people, places, and events I was so familiar with on a daily basis. Intimate details of my life were now being exposed on television. Conversations I’d had in bars and cafe’s with friends, backyard parties I’d had with family – the camaraderie eerily accurate. I spent most of my adult life reveling in the ‘bohemian’ ideal portrayed on the show. Now I felt reduced to a script. Intellectually violated for entertainment value. But I was taking it all too personally. You never want to admit when someone has you pegged. I wanted to punch the snot out of David Simon. And I wanted to kiss him stupefied for getting it so damned right.

This is the best film depiction of New Orleans ever made. And likely the best that ever will be made. The attention to detail is so brutally authentic in some scenes that I just sat there whispering inside “please don’t do this to me“. And yet I find myself so grateful that this city was finally put into the hands of brilliantly capable filmmakers. Professional artists with a rebellious streak to match our own. The way every episode hangs onto a music scene just too long – it’s a homage to a city that never really gets credit for what it gives to the world, and definitely a ‘piss off’ to people who want formulaic television.

As the episodes went on I kept waiting for the show to fail. I’m particularly sensitive to political grandstanding on TV. After its wobbly start I knew at any moment Treme was going careen to its death with the complex social issues of Nola strapped to its back. And I almost thought I had them. I was convinced that when Albert took on public housing, that this would be the divisive move that drove off half the audience. But after barreling around with the topic, they landed abruptly, but safely and gracefully with it, like Capt Sully on the Hudson.

Overall, this is how Treme handled many of Nola’s sensitive social and political problems. Instead of trying to solve them, or get on a sappy liberal soapbox, they just floated above them with zen mastery. This is just the way it is. Life is a big gray area. Deal, you twitchy absolutists.

While I related strongly to many aspects of the show, I also thought it conveyed a romanticized, and even fetishized, version of Nola – the one all the outsiders want to gawk at and fondle. For instance, I was born here in the 70s and lived here all but one year of my 35 so far. I did not grow up listening to local music except carnival music, which I considered ‘holiday’ music. Perhaps the 70s were a dark age for all culture in America. But when I think of music during my early years, I don’t think of funky local tunes, I think of the same shitty arena rock and disco that everyone else does. The pretentious preservationists love to pretend that they grew up dancing in the street with Mardi Gras Indians, but I can promise you, while a handful may have, most did not. To this day, I have never seen an Indian in person, and I’d never even HEARD of them until I was in graduate school. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a second line in my life either, and don’t know anyone pre-Katrina who wanted one. It wasn’t until post-storm cultural revival became chic that a bunch of middle class white people wanted second lines all of a sudden – or to attend MG Indian parades, or go to music clubs/see bands that could barely make the bills pre-K. I don’t think my ignorance of these things is a poor reflection on me, I think it just means I live naturally in my own city and don’t seek out “cultural”, or worse, “ethnic” things to do. That is just too sickeningly superficial to live with.

I also eat red beans and rice when I damn well feel like it.

I don’t mean to insult the revival – in fact I’m thrilled about it. Better late than never. Plus, I’m enjoying learning all these things about old Nola that I never knew about. But I’m sick of both local (and imported) hypocrites pretending like they were always on board with preserving Our Unique Culture™. Just be honest with yourselves. And please spare us your shallow condescending hipster fantasies about being the cool white guy the black folks tolerate. These parts of Treme make me squirm the worst. The immigrant street musician, Sonny, epitomizes the cultural freeloader here – the guy who thinks he “gets it”, but so doesn’t.

What it comes down to is that people who do NOT live here will determine if Treme is successful, and this show is for their entertainment. And I’m okay with that. For us locals, or for me personally anyway, this show is more like therapy. It’s forcing me to look at things I shelved away in the abandoned storage closet of my mind so I’d have the strength to move on. So I wouldn’t selfishly indulge in the pain and jump in the river like Creigh. Treme feels too much like my real life. Why would I want to watch my everyday shit, or past drama, when I could do the escapist thing and watch sexy vampires shag on HBO’s other Louisiana show?

But not all things on film are for entertainment. You don’t go to the movies to see Harry Potter for the same reasons you go see Schindler’s List. Some films are complex art inspired by gritty realities that are constructed to make you think. Some are just fun roller coaster rides designed to make you squeal with excitement. Treme is more the former. I like both experiences in film, but Treme is just so personal. If you’re local, you won’t likely have ‘fun’ watching it, or even enjoy it. But you’ll feel better, albeit exhausted when it’s over, like you just got something heavy off your chest.

There’s a thread in the final episode where Davis (the typical Nola cheerleader) is trying to convince his friend with benefits, Janette (who has been defeated by the city in every way imaginable) to stay in New Orleans by taking her on a tour of the city. I’ve done this more times than I can count, playing the roles of both Davis and Janette depending on where I was in life. I’ve begged some people to stay, while I’ve advised others to escape while they could. This depended on where they were in life. Other times it was I who was about to run, and being swayed by others. I know what it is to love this place, and I know what it is to hate it. It’s not for everyone. And Treme is just like that. If you’re a local, I can only recommend the show if I know you well enough to convince you to stay… or go.

More Local Talk About Treme

As promised, I’m bringing you a short but sweet link-loaded post about what locals are thinking and saying about Treme. Y’all may have already seen these stories but I think they bear repeating, just in case someone hasn’t seen them.

But first I want to let y’all know about what’s going on over at NOLA Defender. Ben commented on one of my earlier posts that he planned to interview locals for their thoughts on the show and today is his first such post. The first interview is with John Herman who’s been playing with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band since the age of 14. Be sure to check it out.

Both of the following pieces were of special interest to me because they’re written by women who are native New Orleanians.
Treme Through New Orleans Eyes by Beth Herstein on Women’s Voices For Change.
Treme-tized by Eve Kidd Crawford on My New

And if you’re a brass band fan you’ll like this link on NPR to some great tunes by five of our brass bands including The Dirty Dozen doing My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now.

For more buzz on what locals are saying about Treme be sure to visit Humid Beings’ Tremeter.

That is all.