“Colorful History Documented
Mardi Gras Indian S&P Club
Cultural Education Center
Ronald W. Lewis
In the Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans, lives a man whose life is dedicated to preserving a culture that could have been washed away by the surging waters of hurricane Katrina. Much of Ronald W. Lewis’s collection was lost to the floodwaters, but he steadfastly rode out the storm and returned to his small museum and set to work saving what could be saved, and adding to his collection of artifacts, books and photos, newspaper articles and scrapbooks.
He greets visitors at the Cultural Education Center located in his backyard, on a daily basis. You can call ahead for an appointment or luckily happen upon a guided tour already in progress, like we did yesterday.
The small building is busting at the seams with bead and feather work created by himself and others who dance and strut the Mardi Gras streets each year, preserving and asserting the Black Indian Culture that was born in the early 1800’s. As I understood Mr Lewis’ spoken history story, slaves were given Sundays off by the French. This created opportunity for native people and slaves to mix socially, thus creating a Black Indian culture.
During our visit we heard stories of the hurricane, of his work to preserve cultural diversity through preservation of the House of Dance and Feathers. He told us of the challenges people of the Ward experienced and continue to experience getting back home, and his hopes that his center will be a beacon that people can find their way home by.