summer tour - mobile

sunrise today finds us in mobile, alabama, the gulf city that is the home to the oldest mardi gras celebration in the united states. in 1703, french settlers held the new world's first mardi gras party at the old mobile site and the revelry has continued, disturbed only by the civil war, for more than three hundred years now. through the centuries, a firmly entrenched segregation has resulted in two separate, and unequal, mardi gras celebrations in the city - one for the black community and one for the white community. each faction have their own mystic societies, parades, royal courts and coronations. interaction between the two groups is minimal. the system is indicative of the city's complex racial history and its inability to shake the spectre of its slaveholding past. if you would like to delve further into the colorful/checkered history of the event and the economic and social stratification surrounding it, you should take a look at margaret brown's insightful documentary, the order of myths (2008).

brown, herself a product of mobile mardi gras royalty, turns her camera on these two closely orbiting worlds to illustrate this particularly southern answer to the perplexing, persistent questions we face in twenty-first century, "post-racial" america. through her examination of the these traditions in the heart of this "last stronghold of segregation", brown ultimately reveals connections that underline the gray, rather than the black and the white. if you would like to see it, pbs has it available for streaming as part of their independent lens series. to view the film, just go here and press play. there is also more information about the filmmakers and the process of assembling the film. i saw this at sxsw a couple of years ago and was quite impressed with both the film and margaret brown's sincerity, wit and sensitivity in fielding questions afterward. highly recommended.

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