Super Sunday At Bayou St. John – 27 May 2007

by admin on 2017/05/27

This set of pictures made on Sunday 27 May 2007 in New Orleans was one of the bases for what later became Jimbaux’s Journal.

You are looking at pictures taken at Bayou St. John in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans at an event known as Super Sunday.

The costumed participants in this organized spectacle are known as Mardi Gras Indians, groups of people who have an interesting history.

This event is usually held in March around St. Joseph’s Day, but I believe some conflict of some sort prevented that this year.

These costumes are quite elaborate, aren’t they?

That’s plenty of dedication for this old tradition.

Two months after this event, after I had processed some images, I sent several of them out in a mass e-mail to friends and acquaintances that included a description of events.

Here’s what I wrote in one of the messages.

Back in May, I attended “Super Sunday” along Bayou Saint John just a few blocks from where I live.  Super Sunday is the day in the late spring in which the various “tribes” of the Mardi Gras Indians — or “Black Indians” — of New Orleans gather to parade and show off.

The Mardi Gras Indians are a unique and peculiar element of the New Orleans culture, and they’re difficult to describe.  Historians disagree on both the means of the origin as well as to the time.  It’s a tradition that started in the mid-1800s or the mid-1700s, depending on whom you ask.

Back in the old days, black people in New Orleans, wether slave or free, suffered plenty of racial discrimination and often sought alliances with other outcasts of society: the Native Americans.  It has been argued that slaves and free blacks would fashion themselves as Indians in order to celebrate Mardi Gras with less persecution.  It’s also been argued that Indians helped fleeing slaves navigate through the swamps and backwoods, and that there was plenty of intermarrying between the groups.  It is known that plenty of the local black population today has some amount of Native blood.

The night before Super Sunday, I was out at the Bayou Boogaloo on the banks of Bayou Saint John celebrating with some of the folks in my neighborhood.  They told me about Super Sunday, and I decided to get the camera equipment and return the next morning for the tribal festivities to be held in the same place.

In the old days, there was plenty of fighting and violence — including killings — amongst the “tribes” on the gathering days.  When a tribe would parade through a neighborhood, many of the locals would flee for safety.  In about the 1940s and 1950s,  the tribes realized that the violence wasn’t necessary, and by the 1960s, there was no more violence amongst the tribes.  Now, instead of fleeing, many locals as well as tourist are attracted by the festivities.

A friend really liked these drummer pictures.

In that e-mail message, I continued.

The revelers play music.  Back in the more violent days, the function of the percussion was more to inspire fear in competitive tribes.  There is still plenty of competition amongst the tribes today, but it manifest itself in the effort put into making and sporting the various costumes rather than in violence.

I suppose that that’s what organized armies of old did, too.

The Shadow Warrior wrote this to me in response.

Those are some really nice shots. My dad used to take me out early
MardiGras morning to see the Indians, and he’d take pictures of them.
This was uptown around Washington Ave. We lived uptown until I was 5.

What would be nice to get photos of are the skeletons. The mostly
operate in Baywater, and the east end of the Quarter. They are usually
prowling around before dawn, and “retire” after a few hours. The Mardi
Gras skeletons tradition dates back about 50 years.

I wanted to get shots of them, but after I started working for the Hilton,
Mardi Gras was always a work day.

He had a big impact on me, and he died in 2013.

This dude was scary!

This event happens every year, and it has become a great local spectacle.

So, it was through some of the responses to the e-mail photo essay that I started getting the idea that I needed a website of some sort.

Here’s what a then-recently-former work contact wrote.

GREAT PICTURES!!!!
You REALLY should be in photo-journalism. When I opened the first few, I SWEAR, I thought these were vacation pictures from Jamaica/Brasil or somewhere, then I saw the Can Company Bldg and read the message.
WOW!
Good to hear from you, I hope all is well, talk to you soon!

So, that got me thinking.

The huge problem, however, is that, even a decade later, what seems to be the best use of my God-given abilities isn’t something that can put food in my belly and keep a roof over my head, even though there is a market for the product and service itself; it’s just not a market that will pay money or food.

So, that’s why there likely will soon be a Patreon page for my work, so that anyone who values my work and has the means to do so can have a couple of dollars automatically drafted from his or her credit card in order to send to me so that I can keep doing this!

Below is a closer-up view of the same image above.

I can’t do the work that I am best suited to do if I don’t eat or have shelter.

So, hopefully, some of you can help!

I’d like to be able to continue to do the work that I am best suited to do; to not be able to do so would be existential death.

Here’s the can company building that Steve mentioned in his message.

Here is Bayou St. John.

I do love this place, though it is too crowded at times, because others, too, love it.

There was a group of college students from Berkeley, California, who were in town to help with Katrina recovery, and I chit-chatted with them for awhile.

This is Lily; she was part of that group, and I vaguely remember that so was a sister of hers.

Five years to the day after I took these images, I took a colossal and colorful set of pictures nearby, one of my most memorable sets of mostly train pictures.

And the pictures from yesterday were from the first day of the Bayou Boogaloo.

I seem to recall that this Super Sunday event just coincided with and sort of indirectly became a part of the Sunday of Bayou Boogaloo on this day.

This looks like a playfight of some sort, perhaps between father and son.

So, that’s all from the Bayou Boogaloo and Super Sunday.

Six hours later, I’m hangin’ out and drinkin’ with Isaías and some of the amigos, and Isa photographs me while I photograph him.

That’s all.

Thank you.

JBX

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