Welcome to the NOLA DIASPORA, Mardi Gras 2015 edition.
It is Valentine’s Day, and my piece is the last to be readied for this issue of NOLA DIASPORA.
As I finish it, however, I realize that that is how it had to be. Since reaching adulthood, I have been somewhat cynical about this holiday, but the close conjunction of Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras makes me rethink my attitude and highlights the theme of this issue: friends and family.
Like Valentine’s Day and its celebrations, that phrase is often used in a commercial and somewhat superficial way. Charges of commercialization have also been levelled at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, but in my opinion, Mardi Gras and New Orleans always transcends attempts to market, codify, and exploit the city’s creativity and joie de vivre.
This is the fifth anniversary of the journal’s launch; August will mark the tenth anniversary of Katrina and the levee-break. Those are the kinds of anniversaries that make one think. Only last week a close friend and advisor remarked that he couldn’t believe that it had been ten years because so few lessons had been learned from the storm and its aftermath or in the rebuilding process.
This issue looks closely at community and at the friends and family—by birth and by choice—at the root of community. The germination was an email from a reader who notified us that Lynn Wilson, a beloved NOLA resident for many years, a wonderful counsellor, and a great friend, had died. She wanted us to commemorate that passing. I wondered how to do that in a meaningful way, and it took a while to figure out the answer. I contacted her sister, photographer Trine Wilson, and asked her to contribute to the journal. She has supplied the photograph of the Mardi Gras mask (a gift to Lynn Wilson from a friend) that graces this introduction, a photograph of Ms. Wilson for her original 2011 essay, and several more photographs for Art Place.
Mardi Gras Mask by Trine Wilson, © April 2010
Michael McClure, from our editorial team, also contributes photographs for Art Place. Both a critic and creative writer, he has added photography to the list of arts and activities that feed his soul.
NOLA DIASPORA is also delighted to include our second Mississippi voice; Kay Harris was in Biloxi for the storm and now lives in Jackson. She reminds us that the aftermath of the storm still lingers within the rebuilding.
The ever-ebullient, but still hard-core, tell-it-as-it-is Arthur Pfister, aka Professor Arturo, joins us again with two poems, “I Am So New Orleans” and “Prognostications 2015.” Reading them will make you fully commit to living this year fully. Cynicism is here as are the corruptions that cause it. However, friends, family, and community rule: on Valentine’s Day, on Mardi Gras, and always.
If there is one thing that was threatened but that did not fail in Katrina and the levee-break, in the BP oil explosion, and in the stringent economic period that has shadowed the nation since that time, it is family. I have to believe that the term is being used with greater heart, inclusivity, diversity, ever since and ever after these disasters.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Mardi Gras!
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