xavier univ

Top Universities for Creoles and Cajuns

Well we are adding another “TOP” to our list, there are many “top lists” and we think Creoles and Cajuns deserve some “top lists” also! In saying that, we have compiled a list of the top universities and colleges for Creole and Cajun students. We kept the list simple and only looked for a few things to help ensure a stronger list of universities for Creoles & Cajuns.

What we looked for…

1) Universities that have some sort of Cajun/Creole studies program

2) Universities that are known to have a population of Cajun/Creole students

3) Universities that are culturally diverse, that will encourage Cajun/Creole students to celebrate their heritage in a diverse setting

*some universities may or may not have all 3 listed above*

lsu

Our Top Choices

LSU: (Louisiana State University)

Chosen because of its location in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and dedication to the local culture.

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College (most often referred to as Louisiana State University orLSU) is a public coeducational university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The University was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy. The current LSU main campus was dedicated in 1926, and consists of more than 250 buildings constructed in the style of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, and occupies a 650-acre (2.6 km²) plateau on the banks of the Mississippi River.

LSU is the flagship institution of the Louisiana State University System, and the largest institution of higher education in Louisiana in terms of student enrollment. In 2011, the University enrolled nearly 24,000 undergraduate and over 5,000 graduate students in 14 schools and colleges. Several of LSU’s graduate schools, such as the E.J. Ourso College of Business and the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, have received national recognition in their respective fields of study.

Enrollment: 30,000

Chancellor: F. King Alexander  (Source: Wikipedia)

ULL

ULL: (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Chosen because of its location in Lafayette, Louisiana and dedication to the local culture.

*Creole/Cajun studies available*

University of Louisiana at Lafayette is a coeducational, public, research university located in Lafayette, in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It has the largest enrollment within the nine-campus University of Louisiana System and has the second largest enrollment in Louisiana.

Enrollment: 16,885

President: E. Joseph Savoie (Source: Wikipedia)

NSU

NSU (Northwest State University):

Chosen because of its location in Natchitoches, Louisiana and dedication to the local culture (Creole Heritage Center)

NSU was founded in 1884 as the Louisiana State Normal School. It was the first school in Louisiana to offer degree programs in nursing and business education.

Enrollment: 9,244

Chancellor: Randall Webb (Source: Wikipedia)

TULANE

Tulane:

Chosen because of its location in New Orleans and dedication to the local culture.

“Students at Tulane have unique opportunities for exploring the French, Creole and Cajun cultures of Louisiana. Our location affords us a privileged vantage point from which to observe other situations of localized or marginalized languages and cultures in their relationship to broader, often hegemonic forces: France’s regional languages (Occitan, Breton, Alsatian, etc.) in conflict with the official language revered as an inviolable symbol of national unity; immigrant cultural practices (such as the wearing of the veil) in conflict with French cultural norms; creole languages stigmatized as corrupt forms of the standard, etc. In our various fields of research, a focus on the local provides both a revealing lens through which to view the global and a healthy check on universalizing theories of culture and language.”

Enrollment: 13,462

President: Michael Fitts (Source: Tulane)

INDIANA UNIVERSITY

Indiana University:

Chosen because of it’s Creole Institute

The Creole Institute at Indiana University is recognized as the only center in the United States that is equipped to deal in depth with linguistic and related educational issues in Haiti . It specializes in research and training in the area of applied linguistics with a focus on French-based creoles. The Institute is also heavily involved in the study of French outside of France , especially varieties found in North America with special reference to Louisiana .

Enrollment: 110,000

President: Michael McRobbie (Source: Indiana Univ)

SOUTHERN

Southern University Baton Rouge:

Historically black college located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Baton Rouge campus is located on Scott’s Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in the northern section of the City of Baton Rouge. The campus encompasses 512 acres, with an agricultural experimental station on an additional 372-acre site, located five miles north of the main campus. The University is a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Enrollment: 7,300

Chancellor: James Llorens (Source: Wikipedia)

xavier univ

Xavier: 

Chosen because of its location in New Orleans and the first and only black Catholic HBCU, many Creoles are Catholic and this is an added bonus.

Located in New Orleans, Xavier University of Louisiana was established in 1925 when St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded the coeducational secondary school from which it evolved. Drexel, supported by the interest of a substantial inheritance from her father, banker-financier Francis Drexel, founded and staffed many institutions throughout the United States in an effort to help educate Native Americans and African Americans.

Aware of the serious lack of Catholic-oriented education available to young Blacks in the South, St. Katharine came to New Orleans and established a high school on the site previously occupied by Southern University. The High School continues on today as Xavier University Preparatory School, also known as Xavier Prep. A Normal School, offering one of the few career fields (teaching) open to Blacks at the time, was added two years later. In 1925 Xavier University became a reality when the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established. The first degrees were awarded three years later. In 1927, a College of Pharmacy was opened.

Enrollment: 3,200

President: Norman Francis (Source: Wikipedia)

 

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figs

Creole Preserves

Well, we have another delicious South Louisiana treat, something uniquely Creole and easy to whip up. The great, Dana Rodrigue a South Louisiana native has another summertime treat for you!

“Its an easy summertime treat, thanks to the fig trees and the abundance of figs in Louisiana in the summertime.” -Dana Rodrigue

 

FIG PRESERVES

1. 8 cups of freshly-picked figs, washed and stems removed 4 cups granulated white sugar 1 cup water Pinch salt

2. Wash figs and remove stems.

3. In a dutch oven, combine figs, sugar, water and salt.

4. Stir gently.

5, Cook over a low flame, stirring occasionally until syrup is thickened to desired consistency, thin or thick.

6. Cooking may take a few hours. Store preserves in sterilized glass jars, canned and sealed.

7. Enjoy with bread, butter and a tall glass of cold milk. Exceptionally sweet, but so good!

 

figs

 

Dana Rodrigue

Dana Rodrigue, a proud Creole and South Louisiana native, she is currently our Cuisine Writer for The Jambalaya Magazine.

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lemoyne_bros300x219

Finding French Fathers

FLUER DE LIS

 

The definition of a Louisiana Creole has changed over time. There was a time when only those who could prove direct decent from a French colonist (before Louisiana became an Anglicized state) could call themselves Creole. Even though I knew my family had been in “The Boot” since the beginning of time, I felt the need to prove my Creoleness in this way. Much to my joy, I was quickly able to confirm my ancestry to several colonists, often men.

As I began to dig further, I noticed these French Fathers shared certain traits. They tended to wed later in life. I furthered my research and realized that though Creole men wed later in life, that did not mean they were expected to be celibate. This was my first thought due to the strong Catholic influences. Quite the contrary, virility was encouraged. It proved a man had a man’s appetite for life and love. Many Creole fathers had a rainbow coalition of children: some colored and some not. Often these men, if they were able, maintained two separate households simultaneously.

After confirming my French fathers in my ancestry, I did what any modern genealogist would do: I published my research online. The results are often not so welcoming. Distant relative insist we are not related once they realize I am a woman of color. Others pretend I don’t exist and never responded to my queries. Still others question me thoroughly, wishing for me to “prove” these are indeed my people. The problem with the American race system is that we have fallen into the trap of believing that it is true. We believe that if someone looks different, then they are different. We believe that we are better than. We focus on our differences rather than on our commonalities. Here’s a secret Creole family: WE ARE ALL RELATED, WE JUST DON’T KNOW HOW.

So, in this new age of online ancestor hunting, don’t be surprised if you find an unexpected cousin. Creole families are large, faith-centered, fun-filled, and multi-colored. We should celebrate our heritage by embracing one another. Forget about these man-made rules about color and race. They are lies meant to separate us from one another. Creole has no color. We are one family. #TeamCreole

 

-Julia Dumas 

julia dumas

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Why Houston owes a THANKYA BABYYYYY to Louisiana

The city of Houston is a Texas city. It truly resembles the heart of everything Texas. The city is full of big cars, big homes, good BBQ, and Frenchy’s Creole Chicken. I am so sorry, did I say, Frenchy’s Creole chicken. Well, I want to bring up a topic, the Creole affect on the city of Houston. Let’s talk…

The city of Houston isn’t far from the Louisiana border, and is a very successful city. I mean Texas in general has a strong economy, many good public schools, and the sky is the limit. I believe Texas truly is the heart of the “American dream“. The opportunities for a good life in Texas are endless. Needless to say, people in Louisiana have known this for decades.

The state of Louisiana, is culturally un-American. The state has it’s own languages, ethnic groups, foods, holidays, and laws. Unfortunately, the state also lacks many things other American states have. The state lacks good public schools,  job opportunities and the gaps between the poor and rich are extremely large. Not to mention, the state has had many corrupt politicians and the occasional natural disaster.

Because of these things, people from Southwest Louisiana were often forced to find a safe haven in Houston. The first major wave of Louisiana Creoles to Houston occurred after the Great Flood of 1927. The Mississippi River flooded and the swamps and bayous of south Louisiana flooded towns, villages, and rural communities. The images were devastating.

 

Louisiana flood of 1921 - 1shotgun houses flooded

For many of these rural Southwest Louisianians, they had to find a new life. They needed homes, jobs, and better opportunities for their children. So they did what many immigrants do today, move, all be it, they migrated into Texas.

The next door neighbor Texas may have been a few hours away or less for many of these newcomers but it was culturally different. When these South Louisianans would’ve arrived in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Houston would’ve been a busy port city. A place that was growing, a place that was also segregated.

So how would these “Creoles” incorporate themselves into Houston’s cultural climate was a mystery. The city’s black population may and may not have accepted their newcomers. Because, although these Creoles were mainly people of color, something separated them from their black Texan counterparts, language.

During the early 20th century, many rural Southwest Louisianians still conversed in their native Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole languages. Also many of these newcomers were Catholic. From reading the Creole Chronicles from the Creole Heritage Center, the local Hispanic Catholic community wasn’t very welcoming to the new Creole Catholic population.

So the birth of the “Frenchtown community” in the 5th Ward was created. In saying this, these Louisianians got to work. They built rows of Shotgun houses, similar to those in Louisiana. They built their own place of worship, Our Mother of Mercy Church. They continued to speak in Creole and they brought their culture. These people would raise money to have Creole speaking musicians from Louisiana come and entertain them. They began to extend their Louisiana love into the Texas Gulf.

Today, the descendants of these early Creole settlers number into the tens of thousands around Houston. They are proud Texans, but they understand the sacrifices of their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They continue to be Texan, but they continue to celebrate their Louisiana heritage. These people have opened Creole restaurants, helped Our Mother of Mercy church to grow, and started other churches of several denominations. They have started multi-million dollar businesses in Houston, like Frenchys. They are in political offices across the region. They have truly changed the cultural, political, and economic landscape of Houston.

———————–Shall we continue on?———————–

In Houston before 2005 you could find tens of thousands of Louisiana descendants. Our families left Louisiana for many reasons, Houston was often the first choice. These Louisianians brought their culture as with any other cultural groups in Houston. But, in 2005, something happened in Southeast Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina. This Hurricane devastated the lives of thousands in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast. This natural disaster similar to the one in 1927, once again put many Louisianians in the mindset of rebuilding a new life somewhere else.

Well thousands of Southeast Louisiana residents fled to Houston, many were forced to leave. When they arrived to Houston, a number of these residents stayed in Houston. An estimated 250,000 residents found themselves in Houston post-Katrina. No one knows the exact amount of people that decided to stay, but in 2007 an estimated 40,000 New Orleanians were still in Houston. The city also had gained more than 145,000 new residents since 2000 to 2010. (info according to CNN story: Katrina Evacuees shift Houston’s identity)

The culture of Southeast Louisiana (New Orleans metro) is similar to Southwest Louisiana but there are some differences. I mean with any geographic or cultural group of people there are differences. Before 2005, a lot of  the influx of Louisianians to Houston were from rural and smaller cities and towns in Southwest Louisiana. They brought their Creole Zydeco music and form of living. All be it the next wave of Louisianians in the “Bayou City” of Houston, were city folks. They were New Orleanians.

They too carried their unique heritage, undoubtedly Creole to Houston. The vast majority of these people took opportunities to receive a better education, look for better jobs, and make a life in a new city that somehow had a Louisiana feel to it. A new city that also had many shotgun homes, a new city full of people with similar last names that were in New Orleans like Broussard, Guidry, and Boudreaux. These newcomers in many ways felt at home.

The new wave of Louisianians helped to add more Creole culture to Houston.  For example, Texas Brass Band, a Houston band playing traditional New Orleans music. These newcomers helped to open more restaurants, for example, the number of Po-boy shops in Houston has grown. The city even has the “Houston Creole Festival” a Mardi Gras celebration in the H-Town.

The presence of our Louisiana people is very very strong in Houston. I can turn on the radio and hip-hop stations love to play Bounce Remixes as if they were in the N.O. I can find stations with programming just for Creole Zydeco. I can find fresh seafood (including crawfish) in almost every neighborhood of the city. I can encounter people daily with Louisiana last names.

(All one has to do is look in the phone book and tell me how many Guillorys you see)

In saying this I know one thing, Houston has A LOT of flavor, style, and culture because of the tens of thousands of Louisianians who have migrated. The best thing is throughout the generations, the culture still lives.

I can tell you this, Louisianians and Creoles may have left Louisiana, but BABYYYY the culture is still going strong.

Here is a list of *SOME* Creole festivals in Houston

1. Houston Creole Heritage Festival-Mardi Gras

2. Solo Zydeco Festival

3.  Houston Crawfish Festival

4. The Creole Heritage & Zydeco Festival

Now, I won’t say Houston was a boring city before (shhhh some say it was) but look at this footage of a 5th Anniversary Remembrance for Hurricane Katrina, I think Louisiana has added some flavor to the city of Houston!

Images of the Louisiana Creole Presence in Houston

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-Jambalaya Magazine Contributor

running

Top 5 Weight Loss Gimmicks That Just Don’t Work

Top 5 Weight Loss Gimmicks That Just Don’t Work

by Sam Cook, III

It’s summertime in Louisiana, which means festivals, crawfish boils and ??? And what would a summer in the Pelican State be without a trip to Blue Bayou? Want to lose weight, gain muscle and get ‘summertime fine?’ Here are a few tips from certified personal trainer and fitness entrepreneur Sam Cook, III on how to get in great shape by bikini season:

1. Sauna Suits

We’ve all seen folks walking or jogging while wearing a stretchy black or grey material reminiscent of a garbage bag. Typically made of nylon, they’re called sauna suits, and are actually used by many professional athletes such as mixed martial artists, boxers and wrestlers in order to shed weight quickly before a weigh-in. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of us, sauna suits won’t cause us to shed unwanted body fat. The weight loss that does result from wearing a sauna suit is due to excessive sweating, which causes a reduction in water weight. Sadly, this effect is usually temporary.

 

2. Waist trimmer belts

Trimmer belts (essentially elastic girdles) are an old fad that has come back to prominence with the advent of ‘waist training.’ Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. As a matter of fact, wearing something around any part of your body won’t make you shed fat. Similar to sauna suits, waist trimmer belts assist in creating body heat and cause you to sweat more. You might see some weight loss due to water loss, but when you drink water or any other liquids, you’ll return to your normal weight.

 

3. Protein shakes and supplements

This one might come as a surprise to many readers, and comes with a caveat. For the average person working out, protein shakes likely won’t do much good. This is, in part, due to the American diet. Americans consume more protein than any other culture, thus making protein shakes, which are intended to increase the amount of protein one consumes, relatively unnecessary. While the body does, in fact, convert protein into glucose for energy, it can also convert it into fat. Overdoing it with protein shakes and other supplements, especially when training lacks intensity or isn’t strenuous enough, can actually result in weight gain.

For athletes, additional protein is necessary, and may merit increased protein intake via supplements. For the rest of us? All the protein we need to fuel our bodies will usually come from our meals. Save yourself a few bucks (protein supplements are expensive) and just buy a couple of packs of chicken breast.

4. ‘Quick Fix’ Workouts

Working out is hard. You get tired, your muscles get sore, you become sweaty and smelly. And then, there’s the tricky fact that results sometimes come much more slowly than you’d expected.

Cue the ‘quick fix’ workouts: 6 Minute abs. 10 minute cardio. 30-day butt blaster. Whatever.

Quick fix workouts usually don’t work simply because they’re not strenuous enough to result in calorie burns that would cause weight loss. Studies have shown that it takes the body between 15 and 20 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic training for the body to begin to reach into its fat stores for energy.

 

5. I Lift Weights–I Don’t Need Cardio!

Like protein shakes, this one isn’t a black-and-white issue. If you’re really looking to shed fat and are overweight, cardio is the way to go due to its calorie-burning qualities. While cardiovascular training won’t make your muscles bigger, it is definitely the way to go for overweight persons who want to see an overall reduction in weight. Aerobic exercisers tend to lose weight more quickly than strength trainers, as well.

There are some programs that combine both cardiovascular and strength training, such as metabolic resistance training and, at times, high intensity interval training. But if you’re really looking to shed weight, don’t skip the cardio.

 

Lagniappe: So How Do I Do It?

We’ve focused a lot on what not to do during in order to lose weight. Now, let’s focus on what you should do to lose weight.

The foundation of any weight loss program is a healthy diet. Avoid fast food, sugary sodas, and foods that are high in calories. For men, a healthy range for daily caloric intake is about 1800 net calories. For women, it’s roughly 1200 net calories. Net calories refers to calories after you calculate how many calories you’ve burned due to your workout.

Aside from diet, physical activity is a must. Most health professionals agree that moderate intensity exercise four times a week is best to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. It’s important to consult with a physician prior to beginning any fitness regimen in order to find the workout that’s best for you.

SJ Cook

Sam Cook, III is a certified personal trainer and fitness entrepreneur who resides in New Orleans, La. He is the owner of the Torture Chamber Fitness Boot Camp. Sam is also an amateur cyclist who is training for the Tour de Jefferson this November.

 

CREOLE MUSICIANS

Why saying I’m black wasn’t enough…(Who am I really…)

I was born in Dallas, Texas. But I grew up moving around a lot. My parents were in the constant pursuit of higher education and working in the ministry. I moved to Austin, Texas as a toddler and then at the age of six we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The vast majority of my childhood was spent in the small city of Tulsa. A  good place to raise a family, Tulsa was an “all-American” type of place.

I made some of the best childhood friends in Tulsa. I remember playing on the streets until the lights came on. I remember having great fun in my church’s children’s ministry, doing crazy things during Vacation Bible School, and always begging my parents to allow my best friend, Gabe to spend the night. I even remember a time we tried to watch ALL of the Star Wars series in one night. All be it, we were unsuccessful.

In Tulsa something happened that changed my life. I had my first “race” encounter at the age of six. I mean at the age of six, do we really understand the concepts of race, culture, and ethnicity?

(Here is the story)

When my family and I first arrived to Tulsa, Oklahoma, we didn’t have a place to stay initially. So, we spent a short time in a local motel. I remember nothing else from this time period but this one incident. I saw my dad standing on the balcony. I adored my dad growing up, so I went where he went. So I ventured outside of the motel room. I looked up at his face, and saw he had a concerned and somewhat worried look. I then looked through the black bars of the balcony and looked down. I saw dozens of men in white. They had pointed white hats on, and all I could see was their eyes. Now, I did not mention my birthdate, but we are talking about the 1990s, not the 1960s.

KKK

Ku Klux Klan Image

I had a conversation that many dads have with their children, especially minority families. My father had to explain the world to me earlier then he wanted. I was now required at the age of 6 to understand race. The skin I was born in would make life a littler harder for me. I would have to work twice as hard to accomplish many things and work twice as hard to keep a good image.

At the age of six in the 1990s, I was a few feet away from the most iconic image of racism in America. I had no idea at the time that these men represented a group dating back to the late 1800s, a group created to scare the newly freed slaves. A group that had raped my people, intimidated my people, and murdered my people, including my great grandfather in Louisiana, well at least that is one theory.

LOSS OF HISTORY & HERITAGE

I grew up taking this experience more “positive” than others. I grew up being a big promoter of culture, diversity, and understanding others. I started the “Culture Awareness” club in high school and even my city’s first International Festival. Where literally students from every inch of the world celebrated and promoted their culture. I mean it was awesome seeing the Colombian booth next to the Nigerian booth, while the Korean Hip Hop students performed, while the Indian students wore traditional clothing.

But, throughout high school, I felt like something was missing. You see, I went to high school in a suburb of Dallas, a very diverse area. Not just cowboys and country folk. We had students from every ethnic background, race, and culture represented. I had friends who were Ethiopian, Nigerian, Mexican, Colombian, Cuban, and French. I grew up around culture. However, myself and other black students were missing something.

I quickly grasped the idea in high school, that society has told me I am black. But, black has no place of origin. Well, at least that is what I thought. I mean a Cuban comes from Cuba, a Nigerian comes from Nigeria, a Korean comes from South or North Korea. So, where does a black come from? I felt saying “Africa” wasn’t enough. I mean when is the last time an Asian-American, told you their roots are from “Asia” or a Latino says their roots are from “Latin America”. Normally, you will get a specific country or countries. (FYI- There are 55 countries in Africa)

I felt like I was cheated and robbed of something. Out of the 1,300 students in the school, mainly the African-Americans were the only ones who couldn’t give a place of origin other than, Africa. I’ll be honest, some didn’t claim Africa, they were simply black and hey I get it, it has been 300 years since Africa…

I will say this, I am not still upset by slavery. But, I understand that aftermaths of slavery in America still lives in the lives of Americans today. I feel as though I was robbed of a heritage and culture and history. My ancestors were robbed from their homeland, and robbed from their language, culture, and identity. However, they were forced to help preserve another people’s culture and heritage. (….this is not a story of defeat, keep reading)

MY LOUISIANA ROOTS

I spent high school claiming to have Nigerian roots, because I had a strong feeling my ancestors came from the land of Igbo. But, entering into college I realized I needed to do more and find this missing link in my background. The push to do so was strong, as if my ancestors were wanting me to reconnect to my past. As if they were tired of being “silenced”.

When my grandmother “mawmaw” passed away in 2004. This idea of my people’s identity began to consume me. I wanted to know, who am I, really? I mean, we as humans are designed to want to know who we are and where we come from. I mean, why does the Bible spend so much time on listing Jesus’s genealogy, it is important. Our ancestors live through us, we are their descendants.

My search of my grandmother’s lineage led me deep into the bayous of Louisiana. She was a Louisiana native who migrated to Texas. I was able to reconnect to a culture and identity my family had slowly migrated away from, as my ancestors migrated from South Louisiana to Texas.

orea hill

My grandmother grew up picking cotton in Caddo Parish. She was the child of a skinny and lengthy man, Willie Hill, and a short and quite lady Emma Roberson, a native of Natchitoches, Louisiana. My great grandmother Emma is described as being a humble lady, who enjoyed eating red beans and rice. A food that is indeed African and most “African-diaspora” cultures have a version of red beans and rice, whether in Louisiana, Haiti, or Cuba.

So to continue on, I began a long (nearly 7 year) search on who I am. I always knew my mother’s family was from Louisiana, but this time, I was looking for who they were, and who I was. I found out my family has been in Louisiana for at least 200 years. The French, Spanish, and now American land of Louisiana was built on the backs of my ancestors. I began to search for family in Louisiana, and began to hear stories. I began to realize, my family wasn’t just from Louisiana. They were Louisiana. They had origins in Central & South Louisiana, and were linked to a native group of Louisiana, the Creoles.

Now, the word Creole, I did not hear a lot growing up. But, I did everything in my power to get a better understanding. I spent hours on the computers, talking to family members, and finding new family members. I began to understand my present-day family because of this, because like I said, our ancestors live through us. For example, the way my family talked, the accent, the food we ate, it all began to make since, Louisiana seemed to be giving me answers.

I began to understand how complex of a language my ancestors spoke, Creole (click to hear Louisiana Creole language), a mix between African words and French. I was amazed to meet a group of older woman in Pointe Coupee parish, who sings negro spirituals in Louisiana Creole. I soon realized one was married to a distant cousin and to be able to hear the language my family lost a long time ago, was amazing. I then began to understand that the term Creole to me, was a way of linking myself to my ancestors.

They were brought from Africa to work in the fields of Louisiana, but unlike other southern states, since Louisiana was a French colony, this enabled them to incorporate a lot of their culture and to what is now a blended, multicultural society that is found in Louisiana. I also began to encounter stories that my ancestors were taken from Senegal, a place the French brought slaves from. ( A recent DNA test, does in fact show my African ancestry is Senegalese and Nigerian)

WHY LOUISIANA IS HOME 

Today, in many ways, I consider Louisiana my homeland along with Africa. I no longer look for who I am. I know who I am. I spent the last two years living in Louisiana, learning about my family and the culture, realizing my ancestor’s legacy was only a few hours from my birth city.

I know have vowed myself to always promoting my heritage, because my ancestor’s stories and culture deserves to be shared with the world. They were the children in the sugarcane fields, cutting down sugarcane. They were the African slaves on the “pirot” (a small boat) rowing through the bayous of Louisiana, collecting Spanish moss to make goods to sell to buy their freedom. My ancestors were slaves, baptized Catholic and eventually became Baptist post-slavery, and believed that someday a better life would come. My ancestors even as recent, as my great grandmother Emma, was a sharecropper in the fields of Central Louisiana.

I have vowed, that in the every day hustle and bustle of a big city life, I will not forget my heritage. The idea of a “melting pot” means we all become one thing. I feel as if a lot of African history has already been “melted away” and forgotten. But, I will not forget my ancestors. I will not be apart of the “melting pot”. They  built the unique culture of Louisiana. They are my people, they were brought from the lands of Senegambia and Nigeria. But, they made Louisiana their new home, they danced in Congo Square (New Orleans) and created Jazz, they did not forget their African language. In fact, they fused it into the French language (Louisiana was a Former French colony, hence the “French Quarter” in New Orleans).

Today, I have family that call themselves many things, black, African-Americans, Creole, Texans, Louisianians, Dallas natives, Shreveport Natives, New Orleanians, and so forth, but one thing is for sure; I understand myself better for taking this journey. We as people of color, have to preserve our history and culture, it is our identify.

louisiana home

So, some think I maybe to “proud about my roots” but it is only because my lineage endured a lot and donated a lot to this world, who wouldn’t be proud of that. So, the next time I am with a Cuban, Nigerian, a Frenchman, and I am asked, where do your people come from, I say, “Louisiana by way of Africa” I tell them my people gave you jazz, zydeco, gumbo, and even created their own language.”

“When members of a society wish to secure that society’s rich heritage they cherish their arts and respect their artists. The esteem with which we regard the multiple cultures offered in our country enhances our possibilities for healthy survival and continued social development.”

― Maya Angelou

——————–

This is dedicated to my cousins, aunts, uncles, and descendants of the Robersons of Pointe Coupee, Natchitoches, and Caddo Parishes. (RIP Willie Hill | Emma Roberson | Orea Hill)

And to my Roberson ancestors who started it all (family names circa mid 1800s): Adelle, Jean-Baptiste, Henriette, William, Armond, Thomas, Rosina, Augustus, and to those who I have yet to find…. if you don’t know your family story, find it out, your future depends on the past!

Hill Reunion

-Elroy Johnson IV

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Cultural Images of Louisiana

rosary

Creole Yes, Catholic No

 

Apart from language, one widely held mark of the Louisiana Creole identity is being Roman Catholic. In fact, many of our beloved customs (ex. King cakes and La Toussaint) are Catholic traditions, and without some knowledge of the Catholic faith one cannot properly understand Creole life and culture. But apart from understanding these things, some would even assert that one cannot be Creole without being Roman Catholic, and to this I must humbly disagree for two reasons:

 

1. The primary mark of being Louisiana Creole is genealogy, NOT religion – What ultimately makes one Creole is family history, and specifically ancestral ties with French and/or Spanish Louisiana. Though one might speak our language, observe our customs and practice Roman Catholicism, their “Creolenness“ is nothing without the right genealogy.

2. The immigrant cultures that made and shaped Louisiana Creole culture were NOT all Catholic or even Christian. – It is no secret that non-French and non-Spanish immigrants married into Creole families, and left their mark on Creole culture. One such group of immigrants were ethnic Germans, who in some cases were devout Lutherans. And when weconsider our African and Native American ancestors, we must not forget that many of themwere of other religions (ex. Islam and Animism to name a few), and have left left vestiges oftheir faith traditions in many of our customs.

So again, in response to the assertion that one cannot be Creole without Roman Catholicism, I must humbly disagee. Being Creole is not about a specific religious identity or the lack thereof. Instead it is all about a common heritage that includes Catholics, Protestants, those of non-Chrisian religions, those who question faith with uncertainty and those who have no faith. And when we see ourselves from this perspective, we tear down yet another wall among the many unfortunate barriers that have brought division among us. But apart from putting down division, we also open the door to an enriching dialogue that helps us to better understand who we are and how to deal with the religious diversity among us. Sure we will not all agree due to our various distinctives and convictions, but agreement is not the goal of enriching dialogue or what makes it enriching. Instead the main goal is clearly understanding our differences that we might coexist in genuine honesty and respond to each other with openness and (most importantly) love.

-Scotty Williams

scotty williams

 

About the Author:

Scotty Williams is Presbyterian minister who currently serves as Associate Pastor of the International Protestant Church of Zürich. He is a proud Louisianian from a family that hails from Caddo, Webster, and Pointe Couppé parish. Since his first days of studying theology, Scotty has sought to articulate Protestant thought from a Louisiana Creole perspective. Apart from being a pastor, his most important role is being a good husband to his lovely and patient wife Maria.