Saturday, September 10, 2005

When Cultures Fail to Understand One Another...

A Prayer for New Orleans

By Tom Masland

Once American slavery’s busiest marketplace, the city represents much more culturally than a place that throws a great party.


...I combed the final stretch of beach, where I’ve often found revealing flotsam—many empty crack vials in the 1990s, and now and then a useful piece of timber. Glittery green and yellow ribbon was wrapped around the mahogany stick with bead eyes. Red and white thread bound the stick to a slender branch of bamboo. My six plus years in Africa, just ended, told me this was an occult offering. At lunchtime in midtown Manhattan, I learned that the offering was on a mission for Oshun, the Spirit of the River in the ancient West African religious tradition called Ifá. Her main color is yellow.


It has to pain the people of New Orleans when outsiders trivialize their unique Creole (to use the polite term) culture. The best-selling author Anne Rice, whose horror novels dwell on death, Christianity and the supernatural, railed about this in last Sunday’s New York Times: New Orleans, she wrote, “Has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land.” She concludes: “During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us 'Sin City,' and turned your backs.”

(Read entire article here)


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