by StephanieMayne on Sep.07, 2011, under Weekly Topics
What portion of or story from the book was most relevant for Week One?
Love Letter and Last Week
By Becky Retz
Mr. Mayfield asked us to take a look at his book and pick the essay that most paralleled last week. I have to admit that I don’t keep up with the news. I think, for the most part, it is a waste of my time. So, I can’t really say which essay is the best reflection of what was going on in the grand scheme of things last week.
But I can pick the one that tells the story of what happened to me in the past week. During that time, I attended a performance of Mr. Mayfield’s band one evening and volunteered at a second performance a few nights later. The essay (and song) “Mo’ Better Blues” is the one I thought of when witnessing those shows. In the essay, Mr. Mayfield talks about how jazz musicians have traditionally been portrayed as desperate (and often strung-out) men, struggling to survive. But in Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues” they are seen as “cool and hip” – to Mr. Mayfield, a much more accurate and inspiring portrayal.
It is that kind of inspiring cool that I experienced sitting in that club. Through their instruments, those musicians were communicating to their audience on a level that could not accurately be expressed with words. Just like the song “Mo’ Better Blues,” it was emotionally exhausting and spiritually uplifting all at the same time. The performance was a reflection of who and what we are as a people here. They were speaking to and for all of us. The second night, while the band was taking a short break, an old man walked out of the club and over to the ticket table where I was working. He smiled and quietly said, “It just makes you feel so proud to be a New Orleanian.” I nodded. I knew exactly what he meant.
None of the essays in Professor Mayfields book match anything I did last week. All of the essays do, however, say something about my life as a New Orleans native. What person born in this city is not an artist of some kind? And what artist does not put his or her love into their work? Who here has never dressed in elaborate costume, or tried to explain to a tourist at Mardi Gras why we have African-American Indians and what Jocimo Fina Hey means? The rich history of the Mardi Gras Indians, how it is the nod to the heritage of escaped slaves assimilating themselves into their adoptive Native family. The language, although impossible to translate, tells us much of what those men and women faced, leaving their friends, family, life, even language behind. Who from this city doesn’t have a sore spot where exploiting humans is concerned, the way Africans, Germans, Italians and Irishman were exploited in this city until the 1950’s or later. Professor Mayfield completely captures the heritage and the culture and the heart in all New Orleanians.
I believe that a portion of Superstar and a portion of The Mardi Gras Second Line both touch on something that happened in week one.
August 29th was the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Like Professor Mayfield says in Superstar, “Katrina brought about so much loss” for many people. Professor Mayfield also mentions how he lost every real picture of his father in the storm. This was the case for many New Orleanians, as we too lost many of our non-replaceable items due to water, heat, and humidity. As the anniversaries of Katrina roll around each year, New Orleanians are reminded of that time in our life when it seemed like the world stood still. The citizens still manage to shine through and make the city of New Orleans the great city that it is today.
“The people make the city come alive”, says Mayfield in the section titled The Mardi Gras Second Line. Without the people of New Orleans, the city wouldn’t have made such an extravagant comeback after the devastation of Katrina. Just as before the storm, we still have the best food, the best music, the best architecture, the best people, and the best Second Lines. Nothing will ever change that!
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