Saint Bernard, a sister Parish of New Orleans located just down river from the old city, has significantly contributed to the rich history and culture of Louisiana. Indigenous peoples once lived along the parish bayous and prairies, and in cypress swamp forest that were once so thick one could not see the sun. Early colonial journals note that the “boeuf savage,” buffalo, roamed along the historic distributary now known as Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs. The Islenos, Canary Islanders, were settled along the historic bayou in the seventeen hundreds, when the Spanish had possession of the Louisiana territory. Italians, Creoles, Africans, American Indians, Acadians, Spaniards, former Yugoslavians and many others have called these fertile lands and bountiful waters home.
Across south Louisiana, there once was a thriving dancehall tradition. Just about every small community had a dancehall, sometime two or more even. These were sacred places, where community would gather to dance and eat and talk and celebrate. Unfortunately, like our coastal wetlands, the dancehall culture is disappearing in St. Bernard.
In an attempt to resurrect the old community rituals, WWNO, A Studio in the Woods, Los Islenos Society and The Land Memory Bank have partnered to present a Sunday Dancehall down Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs. Join us as we celebrate coastal food and culture and converse about southeast Louisiana’s hopes, challenges and adaptations.
Family-style local foodways feast, foraged by Blaise Pezold, prepared by award winning Chef Michael Gulotta (formerly of Restaurant August and current owner of Mopho,) paired with Louisiana rhythm & bluesman Guitar Lightnin’ & His Thunderband and a St. Bernard photo exhibit “Honoring our Ancestors” by Monique Verdin.
Coastal conversation facilitated by A Studio in the Woods artist in resident Christy George and Tulane University faculty partner Laura Murphy, PhD, Carnegie Corporation of New York Professor of Social Entrepreneurship (Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences and the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking.)
WWNO is the NPR member station for New Orleans and the 13 parishes of southeast Louisiana, broadcasting on 89.9 FM — and on KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area — as a public service of the University of New Orleans. Since mid-2014 our Coastal Desk reporting team has been producing frequent news reports and in-depth features covering coastal erosion and restoration; hurricane protection; offshore energy and other coastal businesses; wildlife and fisheries impacts; and coastal communities and culture. wwno.org/programs/coastal-desk
A Studio in the Woods is dedicated to preserving the endangered bottomland hardwood forest and providing within it a peaceful retreat where visual, literary and performing artists can work uninterrupted. Author Christy George (Oregon, January 2016) is currently in residence working on her creative non-fiction book Vanishing Hometowns with Tulane University faculty partner Laura Murphy, PhD, Carnegie Corporation of New York Professor of Social Entrepreneurship (Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences and the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking.) Christy and Laura are collaborating to host the Sunday Dancehall, facilitating conversations across generations and geography by bringing together people from Gulf Coast communities. astudiointhewoods.org
Los Islenos Heritage and Cultural Society is dedicated to preserving the Spanish language, legends, crafts, customs, folklore, rituals, music and history of our Spanish Isleños heritage by: maintaining an Isleños museum and multi-cultural village in eastern St. Bernard Parish. www.losislenos.org
The Land Memory Bank is building a seed bank and community record of the unique coastal cultures and native ecology, present in the challenged wetlands of southeast Louisiana. This experiential project is dedicated to inspiring and actualizing Mississippi River Delta preservation, restoration and adaptations through cultural happenings, strategic installations and as a digital archive. landmemorybank.org
Special thanks to our sponsors the Carnegie Corporation of New York, WWNO, A Studio in the Woods, Los Islenos Society, Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking, Tulane University & Platforms Fund.