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How We Do Mardi Gras: Unique Ways SSW Staff and Faculty Honor Carnival

Celebrations afford people opportunities to connect – to get away from our desks and selves and spend time with family and friends. The Carnival Season that precedes Mardi Gras is a wonderful time to form those bonds and increase a sense of community and pride. The Faculty and Staff of Tulane University School of Social Work connect students, neighbors, friends, and family to knowledge, resources, research, and support that empowers us and strengthens our resilience. They extend this engagement through all the fun ways the city celebrates.

Dr. Patrick Bordnick has fully embraced Mardi Gras since moving here to become the Dean of the School of Social Work. He and his family attend as many parades as they can and often dress up, including being the Tenth Doctor of Doctor Who fame at this year’s Chewbacchus. For most events, you’ll find them on St. Charles toward the beginning of the route making friends with fellow spectators and talking to prospective students about our graduate degree programs. He rides with his spouse Dr. Allison Stock in the Krewe of Tucks and takes considerable pride in creating the krewe’s signature throw, the plunger. This year, he’s glittered and glued dozens of these special works of art, including one themed after The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and King Cake. Speaking of King Cake, the Dean regularly brings these sweet treats for students, staff, and faculty to enjoy on campus. We estimate we’ll have enjoyed at least 25 different varieties by Mardi Gras.

Assistant Professor Dr. Samantha Francois is New Orleans born and raised, and her dad was the Wild Man for the Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians. Seeing the Mardi Gras Indians has always been a part of how she celebrates on Mardi Gras Day. Parade going has not been a favored part of Carnival for her because of discrimination against African-Americans by White parade riders, which still takes place in some krewes. Nevertheless, going to parades has become a significant part of her Carnival because her son loves catching throws, and she loves the marching bands. She’s been a member of the Mystic Krewe of Nyx since 2015, so riding in a parade has also become a part of what she loves about Carnival. She’s also super excited about her husband riding in Endymion this year, which means she will be able to see that parade in the Superdome at the Extravaganza.

Academic Success Coach Stephanie Moore Kreamer is a Float Lieutenant in the Mystic Krewe of Nyx. That means she is responsible for the safety of the women on her float, organizing social and philanthropic events throughout the year, and typically facilitating that float’s unique headdress design. The Mystic Krewe of Nyx is not only the largest krewe to parade ever, with 3447 riders, but it has the special distinction of being all women. Nyx dedicates countless hours and funds to a philanthropic cause. It has collaborated with New Orleans Recreation Development Commission to dedicate the next three years to building three all-ability inclusive playgrounds within Orleans Parish. The first one opened last month in Mid-City.

Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Nubian Sun is a member of the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale. It is not just a Mardi Gras Krewe. It is deeply committed to the well-being of our communities and the nurturance of New Orleans culture through a multitude of activities year-round. They party hard, live gracefully, and serve hard! According to their website, the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale is formed for women for social purposes, to establish between its members ties of friendship, sociability, and esteem for the promotion of good fellowship. Founded in 2013, Femme Fatale was the first krewe formed by African American women for African American women, although all women are welcome. Their colors are candy apple red, black, and white, and their signature throw is a designer lady’s compact, symbolizing a constant inward and outward reflection. The Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale produces several hugely successful community engagement events including its annual "Say Yes to the Prom Dress," which provides gowns and accessories - free of charge - to hundreds of teenage girls around the city.

For DSW Program Director Dr. Tonya Hansel, her spouse, and her children, Carnival is about family and seeing the joy on her children’s faces when they catch a strand of beads or are given a coveted throw.  She also loves how they know the “rules” of Carnival, which, for her include

  • Never try to cross through or in front of a marching band.
  • Catch with your right hand, so the left can protect your face.
  • Listen to the adults when they tell you to scoot back.
  • If you see a child without a stuffed animal, give them one of the ones you caught.
  • King cake is a staple breakfast item.
  • No picking up beads off the ground.
  • Watch out for the younger children.
  • Know where your ladder is at all times.

Dr. Hansel's favorite activity is to catch Zulu and Rex on Fat Tuesday morning, walk to Verti Mart for an “all that jazz” sub, and then on to Frenchmen for a fantastic street party. 

For New Orleans, Mardi Gras reinforces a sense of community—a culture, of music, family, friends, and connectedness to the value of life.  Carnival has a philanthropic side, and this article highlights ties between Carnival and the values of Social Work.

As Dr. Francois said, “What Mardi Gras means to New Orleans is celebrating in spite of pain, suffering, neglect, poverty, racism, lying politicians, and poor city services and infrastructure. It's a party by the people and for the people.”