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The Culture: New Orleans natives say newcomers are profiting off black traditions

“Ya’ll take pictures of us. Ya’ll put us on your commercials. You send us all over the world and we don’t get a dime!” one concerned resident said.


Janice Kimble has been a Baby Doll her entire life. Her cultural ties go back generations. 

"My grandmother was a Gold Digger Baby Doll in the 1920s and my sister took up her name. And I branched off to be my own Treme Baby Doll," Kimble said. 

"People come to New Orleans to see all of this and so that's what we try to keep it alive,” she said. 

The same goes for Glenn Jones, owner of Blackmasking.org. 

"We chronicle the culture of this city, which many people know as Mardi Gras Indians, but they actually started 100 years prior to,” Jones said. 

From the Indians to the Social Aid and Pleasure Club, preserving New Orleans black culture is a treasure many like Jones and Kimble fear is withering away. 

"We interviewed over 37 of the Big Chiefs in this community. On our website you'll see their words and their concerns about how they have been treated in the city, and the fact that the city makes $900 million a year off of this culture, non-profits come in and use that culture to get festivals and whatnot. And these Indians are actually paid little to nothing,” Jones said. 

Jones’s concerns were expressed with dozens of others inside of the Treme Center Tuesday evening during a community meeting about New Orleans culture. 

“We're going to be communicating, to get ideas, recommendations and offer the fact that we are here to create opportunities to continue our culture and tradition. And so we want to know how we can work together to do that,” Lisa Alexis, Director of the Office of Cultural Economy for the City of New Orleans said. 

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For these New Orleanians who’ve been here for generations, they fear newcomers and gentrification are erasing everything they know. 

“Ya’ll take pictures of us. Ya’ll put us on your commercials. You send us all over the world and we don’t get a dime!” one concerned resident said. 

"My understanding is right now our culture and the culture that we bring here in New Orleans is, we don't want it to be weakened or watered down. I have an understanding that there are other concerns that others are coming into the city and maybe trying to mimic the culture. I want our culture-bearers to know that what we have here is authentic and genuine and we're not going to allow that to happen,” Alexis said. 

That's a promise those in the crowd want fulfilled, ensuring that their rich traditions that were passed down to them get carried on for generations to come. 

The city says if you missed the meeting Tuesday, they will have other meetings in the near future. 

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