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New Orleans Tourism

Sylvester Francis was walking home at the end of Mardi Gras when he saw a part of someone’s costume lying in the street.

30 years later, it became the first official piece in the Backstreet Museum's collection when its doors opened to the public.

"He saw someone take the suit off and discard it, without even looking back," Bruce Barnes, current president of the Backstreet Museum, says about the founder's impulse to nab the garb.


Clearly, it was no longer of any use to its owner since Mardi Gras was over. In fact, all across the city, people were taking off their beautiful custom-made costumes and throwing them in the trash.

To Francis, that was a crying shame.

"That moment sparked him to create a space where people could see the beauty and the work of what it takes to create a Mardi Gras Indian suit," Barnes says.

In 1999, Francis took his collection of costumes, photographs, films, and other paraphernalia from the parts of New Orleans culture that often go unseen and put them on display for all to see. And so, the Backstreet Cultural Museum was born.

[rebelmouse-image 19532671 dam="1" original_size="2816x2112" caption="Mardi Gras Indian costumes from past years are displayed at the museum. Photo via Barry Solow/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Mardi Gras Indian costumes from past years are displayed at the museum. Photo via Barry Solow/Wikimedia Commons.

For non-natives of New Orleans, mention of the city can conjure the image of huge costumed celebrations, joyful second-line brass band parades, and tons of beads.

But there's a whole subculture in New Orleans that many beyond the city limits have never seen. That's because it's made mostly of black groups whose culture was born out of slavery and segregation — parts of history that society often tries to forget.

When Mardi Gras began, anyone who was considered "second-class" was not allowed to participate in the city’s main krewes, or parading groups.

"You couldn’t create a krewe and so forth and say we’re gonna parade down St. Charles Avenue," Barnes says. "It wasn’t allowed." Instead, marginalized groups took to the outer neighborhoods, where they donned masks and outfits and held their own parades.

This pattern of disenfranchised communities establishing groups of their own started out of necessity but then became proud tradition. Over time, these "second-class" traditions became as strong, if not stronger, than the original Mardi Gras celebration itself.

[rebelmouse-image 19532672 dam="1" original_size="593x383" caption="Mardi Gras, 1973. Photo via Porter/Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club of New Orleans/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Mardi Gras, 1973. Photo via Porter/Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club of New Orleans/Wikimedia Commons.

Today, many residents of New Orleans are proud members of clubs and groups their ancestors established generations ago.

The first is the Mardi Gras Indians, a black masking group that named itself in an homage to the Native Americans who helped slaves escape to freedom. On Mardi Gras, when the rest of the city takes to the main streets, the Mardi Gras Indians parade through the neighborhoods.

"They’re celebrating another tradition, sort of in defiance of years of enslavement, of segregation, or disenfranchisement from all sorts of different groups of people," Barnes says. Their suits, rescued by Francis, now reside in the Backstreet Museum.

[rebelmouse-image 19532673 dam="1" original_size="960x720" caption="The 2013 parade's King Zulu rides atop his float. Photo via Ford Brackin/Pixabay." expand=1]The 2013 parade's King Zulu rides atop his float. Photo via Ford Brackin/Pixabay.

The museum also houses artifacts from the Skull and Bones Gang and the Baby Dolls, two other groups that parade on Mardi Gras.

Barnes himself is the chief of the Northside Skull and Bones Gang, a group of black men who dress as skeletons and go through the neighborhoods of New Orleans with a message.  

Says Barnes, "We remind people about living a good, productive life, how to avoid a short life, a life cut too short through drugs, through violence, through all of these things that can potentially happen to you."

[rebelmouse-image 19532674 dam="1" original_size="960x916" caption="Barnes and other members of the Northside Skull and Bones gang pose in costume. Photo via Rick Oliver/Facebook." expand=1]Barnes and other members of the Northside Skull and Bones gang pose in costume. Photo via Rick Oliver/Facebook.

But just because the skeletons are all men doesn’t mean that black women are left out of the fun. That's where the Baby Dolls come in.

"Baby Dolls are another black Afro-Creole tradition," Barnes says. "They have bonnets, they have silk satin dresses, baskets that carry baby bottles with drinks in them, like rum and coke, stuff like that." Just like the skeletons, the baby dolls promenade not in the main parade, but around the smaller neighborhoods of town.

[rebelmouse-image 19532675 dam="1" original_size="800x533" caption="A Baby Doll in full costume marches in the 2011 Zulu Mardi Gras parade. Photo via Brad Coy/Flickr." expand=1]A Baby Doll in full costume marches in the 2011 Zulu Mardi Gras parade. Photo via Brad Coy/Flickr.

In reality, all New Orleans parade culture is closely tied with the culture of the disenfranchised — not just the traditions surrounding Mardi Gras.

Insurance and any type of social aid were much more difficult to acquire for people considered to be "second-class." Those people had to look elsewhere for help.

"You lose your job, you get hurt on the job — it's a burden. Or you could drop dead," Barnes says. "The hardest thing for people who don't have money to do is to pay for a funeral."

In response, social aid and pleasure clubs formed in order to help members' afford health care, funerals, and day-to-day necessities when they came upon hard times.

When social aid and pleasure clubs held those funerals, the entire association got involved — which is how those quintessentially New Orleans jazz funeral parades came to be.

Francis himself took part in many of those brass band funerals and kept photos, videos, pamphlets, and more documenting each and every one.

[rebelmouse-image 19532676 dam="1" original_size="1578x1461" caption="A row of grand marshals parades in front of the Olympia brass band in a 1981 jazz-funeral-style parade. Photo via U.S. National Health Service/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]A row of grand marshals parades in front of the Olympia brass band in a 1981 jazz-funeral-style parade. Photo via U.S. National Health Service/Wikimedia Commons.

Today, the Backstreet Museum exists not just to preserve this culture, but to perpetuate it.

"We do different things throughout the year," Barnes says. "People who want to get connected with the spirit of what the city is, the carnival, those kinds of traditions. Anthropologists, sociologists — they all show up."

In a way, the Backstreet Museum has become its own sort of benevolent society, open to community members and the curious alike. Like the social aid and pleasure clubs that preceded it, everyone is welcome.

Pop Culture

She bought the perfect wedding dress that went viral on TikTok. It was only $3.75.

Lynch is part of a growing crowd of newlyweds going against the regular wedding tradition of spending loads of money.

Making a priceless memory.

At first glance, one might think that Jillian Lynch wore a traditional (read: expensive) dress to her wedding. After all, it did look glamorous on her. But this 32-year-old bride has a secret superpower: thrifting.

Lynch posted her bargain hunt on TikTok, sharing that she had been perusing thrift shops in Ohio for four days in a row, with the actual ceremony being only a month away. Lynch then displays an elegant ivory-colored Camila Coelho dress. Fitting perfectly, still brand new and with the tags on it, no less.

You can find that exact same dress on Revolve for $220. Lynch bought it for only $3.75.
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Images provided by Pacifico

Making waves in the best way

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At last, summer is here. And for many people, that means it's time for heading to the beach and maybe even catching some waves. Surfing is a quintessential summertime activity for those who live in coastal communities—it’s not only really fun and challenging, it’s also a great way to celebrate Mother Nature’s beauty. Even after a wipeout, the cool water mixed with warm sunshine offers a certain kind of euphoria. Or, you know, just hanging back on the sand is plenty fun too. Simply being outdoors near the ocean is its own reward.

pacifico quiksilver beach cleanupLet’s protect the places where outdoor adventure happensAll photos provided by Pacifico

However, it's well known that our beautiful beaches are suffering the consequences of overcrowding, pollution and littering. What was once a way of playing in nature is now slowly destroying it. And of course, this affects beachgoers everywhere. The sad truth is—without taking action to preserve all the natural joys the earth provides, we will eventually lose them.

But there is hope. Two popular brands that both have roots in surf culture have teamed up to help make trips to the beach a more sustainable pastime. The best part? You don’t have to know how to hang ten in order to participate.

Pacifico®, a pilsner-style lager originally brought to the U.S. by surfers, and Quiksilver, an iconic apparel company loved by both surfers and beach goers alike, have created a brand-new range of clothing and accessories with sustainability in mind.

Take a look below. These threads are great for all kinds of fun in the sun, without compromising the environment.

pacifico quicksilver beach cleanupsReady to make some waves

The collection launches on July 5 and includes tees and woven shirts, boardshorts, hats, flip-flops and a special beach towel and tote bag. The unique collaboration features the vibrant, colorful designs that are the hallmark of Quiksilver combined with Pacifico elements, created to make a positive impact.

Each item has been thoughtfully curated to minimize an environmental footprint and protect the outdoors. The hats, for example, are made from NetPlus® by Bureo®, a raw material created from South American recycled fishing nets. Additionally, the board shorts are made from recycled plastic bottles, and tees are made with 100% organic cotton. Pretty rad stuff, to put it in surfer lingo.

The prices on these pieces are equally rad, ranging from $28 flip-flops to $60 boardshorts.

In keeping with the sustainable ethos and protecting the places we play, Pacifico and Quiksilver will celebrate the products’ launch by hosting two beach cleanups. The first is on July 5 at Sunset Point in Malibu, California, from 4-5:30pm, and the second is on July 9th at Deerfield Beach in Florida from 8:30 – 10:30am.

pacifico quicksilver clothing lineCleaning up and looking good while doing it

Theses beach cleanups are open to anyone over the age of 21 who’s ready to have some fun while taking care of nature’s playground.

Those who can’t make it to the beach (bummer, dude) don’t have to miss out on all the fun. The new collection will be available on July 5th at www.quiksilver.com/mens-collab-pacifico. And even if you don’t surf, never plan to surf, have no desire to even be near a surfboard, rest assured, the apparel is still cool. Plus sustainable choices are always good fashion.

Our planet provides us with an endless supply of beauty and adventure. But without more mindful actions from humanity, its natural wonders will eventually diminish. Fortunately Pacifico and Quiksilver are making it easier than ever for people to enjoy the great outdoors without jeopardizing it. That’s a wave worth riding.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


Being married is like being half of a two-headed monster. It's impossible to avoid regular disagreements when you're bound to another person for the rest of your life. Even the perfect marriage (if there was such a thing) would have its daily frustrations. Funnily enough, most fights aren't caused by big decisions but the simple, day-to-day questions, such as "What do you want for dinner?"; "Are we free Friday night?"; and "What movie do you want to see?"

Here are some hilarious tweets that just about every married couple will understand.

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