The television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods has finally arrived. Shadow. Wednesday. Bilquis. Mad Sweeney. The gang’s all here. And a storm’s coming.
Some thoughts and comments.
This year after a 4am breakfast party, a night of Dimanche Gras and knowing we have to be on the road to meet our band at 10:00am for Monday mas, we didn’t go into town for Jouvert. Instead, we stayed in Chaguanas–where my father grew up. Liming with my cousin Freddy from the early morning, we made it out to see masses of people (one set ah people!) wining, flinging mud and paint, drinking rum & Stag, and jumping up with the big trucks that rumbled down the main road. Jouvert may not be as big in Chaguanas as it is in Port-of-Spain, but for many it’s enough. Thought this might be a good time to re-post last year’s blog on the early morning festivities and its origin. So if yuh don’t know…
*photo taken this morning, somewhere in Chaguanas.
Ghosts, ghouls, werewolves and skeletons are what most of us think of us on Halloween. But as a recent NPR article reminds, many of us have brought our own monsters and folktales from different cultures to add to this blend. And like so much else in America, our imagining is made richer by it. The denizens of our many diasporas now haunt our Halloweens.
Sisters of the Spear is an anthology of “seventeen original and exciting” fantasy tales featuring heroines of color, set in realms of magic, monsters and myth outside of the Eurocentric norm. Yes Virginia, there is life–and fantastic stories to be told–beyond Westeros.
“Ayen and Bull”- art by Jason Reeves. Story by “moi”
In 1900 a black laborer named Robert Charles set off a massive manhunt after an altercation with New Orleans police. Before all was done, Charles would shoot well over 20 whites sent to apprehend him, killing several. Altogether, 28 people (the exact number is truly unknown) would die in riots, including Charles, who made a last stand in a burning building. The violence that surrounded him continued to swirl and claim others even after his death. The last turbulent days of Charles life would make him a monster to many and a folk hero to others. For black musicians, he became one of the legendary “bad men”–those near mythic black anti-heroes of superhuman capabilities, whose acts of defiance were both celebratory, captivating and frightening.
painting: Cruel Old Stagger Lee, by Van Orno
Someone asked me once to describe J’Ouvert (Jou-vay), the early morning ritual that ushers in the first day of Carnival, sometimes still called Old Years Mas on the island republic of Trinidad & Tobago. I fumbled for words. J’Ouvert is wild. J’Ouvert is frenzy. J’Ouvert is pounding bass on a big truck, steel pan, rattling cowbells or just the “ting-a-ling ting-a-ling” of bottle of spoon. J’Ouvert is masquerade with or without actual masks. J’Ouvert is whining and “back back.” J’Ouvert is sexuality both liberated and restrained. J’Ouvert is the sacred and profane, the humorous and the macabre. J’Ouvert is the warning hint of a riot that organizes itself into chaos. J’Ouvert is ex-slaves with flaming torches and chains threatening to burn it all down. J’Ouvert is rum. Lots and lots of rum. J’Ouvert is devils–red devils, blue devils, devils dripping black tar and spitting fire. J’Ouvert is baby powder and paint. J’Ouvert is MUD. MUD. MUD. J’Ouvert in the end, is magic. Wonderful, fantastic, dangerous magic.
*photo courtesy of the film After Mas, taken by Joseph Mora
In 1900 a black laborer named Robert Charles set off a massive manhunt after an altercation with several New Orleans police officers. Before all was done, Charles would shoot well over 20 whites sent to apprehend him, killing several. Altogether, 28 people (the exact number is truly unknown) would die in riots, including Charles, who made a last stand in a burning building. The violence that surrounded him continued to swirl and claim others even after his death. Previously unknown, the last turbulent days of Charles life would make him a monster to many and a folk hero to others. For blues artists he became one of the legendary “bad men”–those near mythic black personas of superhuman capabilities whose defiance of white authority was both frightening, dangerous and captivating all at once. He even had a ballad written in his honor. The famed Jelly Roll Morton would relate his own experience of the event in an oral tale to musicologist and archivist Alan Lomax, tying Robert Charles to an influential moment in the creation and dispersal of American Jazz.