Kermit Ruffins to host benefit for Backstreet Cultural Museum, 9/1

The Backstreet Cultural Museum which is located in the heart of the Tremé neighborhood, is known as a “powerhouse of knowledge.” The museum makes up for its relatively small size by its vast collection of memorabilia related to the black culture of New Orleans including Mardi Gras Indian suits, social aid and pleasure outfits, and jazz funeral ephemera. This museum needs support and this Friday night Kermit’s Mother-in-Law Lounge is the place to be.

I first wrote about the museum back in the early 1990s when longtime director Sylvester Francis opened his establishment in the former Blandin Funeral home across the street from St. Augustine Church. Francis was motivated to start collecting Mardi Gras Indian suits after he saw one moldering in the backyard of an Indian friend. I also covered last year’s benefit for TVD.

It may be hard to believe in the current cultural climate of New Orleans that Indians used to simply discard the artistry they had worked so hard to create. They also used to take the suits apart to reuse beads and other elements of the unique creations.

As outside awareness of the tight-knit communities of the black Indian gangs and social aid and pleasure clubs has grown, so has a focus on the effort that goes into creating and maintaining the culture. The Backstreet, as everyone called it, has been at the forefront of increasing that awareness through the museum itself and yearly outreach efforts at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

When people come to visit New Orleans one of the first places I tell them to check out is the side-by-side galleries at the museum. One hall features dozens of Mardi Gras Indian suits, the other is dedicated to the artifacts of the social aid and pleasure club culture.

Everyone leaves overwhelmed with the collection and with the dedicated docents who know more about this culture than anyone else because they live it. It’s like talking to the wine maker about his wine or the chef about his food.

So consider heading over to Kermit’s Mother-in-Law Lounge on Friday evening. The event starts at 6:30 PM and Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers will be performing.

Admission is $20 with $15 dollar advance tickets available at the museum.

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