We went to New Orleans for 3 days, after Christmas but before the highest season of Mardi Gras and stumbled upon this site on our second day there. We were told about an African drum circle on Saturday. Arriving early to check out all the exhibits, we waited for the circle and dancer to come together. There were just 5 of us, another couple, and a young man who wandered into the courtyard from the street.
The percussionist, Michael, gave us our parts to drum and the young man danced with the dancer, Kelly. My husband turned out to be pretty good at this, but I was terrible. Michael handed me a shaker that could do minimal damage to the aesthetic. Younger me might have been embarrassed or worse yet, just stop. But really, who cares?
Michael and Kelly were as gracious and lovely as one could hope. I had more uninhibited fun than in a long time. Since the pandemic started, my existence shrank to the four walls of our home for 165 hours out of a 168-hour week. Like everyone in the world, the stresses have gotten to me although we have not endured as much suffering as others. NOLA trip was a tonic, providing relief and joy.
One more thought to share. I am a huge fan of the U.S. National Park Service. If anyone ever visits southern Louisiana, there are actually 6 locations for the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. Lafitte is a controversial character by 21st century standards, a Frenchman, a pirate, and probable slave trader who copped a plea deal with the US government. He had been arrested, but offered to provide material support to Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans in exchange for a full pardon. I guess that is why he has a National Park named after him.
The slave trading is hard to swallow, especially given the events of the last few years. I think that the rangers get a lot of comments from visitors. The ranger I spoke with was careful to say that he was a man of times. I hope that the site stays open, still under Lafitte’s name, because it gives us a place to consider the past, but also way to build new realities for the future – hence the importance of the African drumming program one Saturday in January.