This New Orleans building is home to an unbelievable treasure trove of culture.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture