POSTED Mon. Jun 10, 2013
Melanated & Peauxdunque
Robin Baudier
Written by ROBIN BAUDIER
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When I went to the Sunday Shorts Reading Series, I was struck, every step of the way, by a feeling of how singularly New Orleans the experience was—driving through flocks of Jazz Festers flapping their ponchos at passing cabs in the rain, opening the doors of the Red Star Gallery (2513 Bayou Rd) to be swathed in the familiar smoke of church incense, wandering around an empty gallery full of masks made from queen palm fronds because the writer I was meeting was running late. (To those unfamiliar with New Orleans time, late is comfortable, late is relaxed, late is how everything runs in this city.) But more New Orleans than any of these incidental details were the writing groups coming together that night to have a reading: the MelaNated Writers Collective and the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance.

Peauxdunque (that’s New Orleans French play for “Podunk,” and pronounced the same way) was founded in 2007 under the auspices of the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society, and is comprised of a wide cross section of New Orleans poets, fiction writers, essayists, and screenwriters. The MelaNated Writers Collective, an equally multi-genre group of 20 writers, was founded in 2010 by Jewel Bush with the goal of nurturing writers of color living and working in New Orleans’ “surprisingly vanilla” literary culture. How did they decide to come together for a month long reading series? According to founding MelaNated member Gian Smith, it was a natural fit because both groups share a number of members and even more of them are friends.

That friendship and camaraderie among writers set the tone of the evening as the gallery filled beyond the capacity of the neat rows of folding chairs. When I asked founding Peauxdunque writer Terri Shrum Stoor about her varied career as an actress, comedian and writer, she instead hugged fellow Peauxdunquians to her and waxed eloquently about their accomplishments. When Gian Smith’s smooth, baritone promptings eased the writers into a question and answer interlude with the audience, it was clear he cares not just about the writing process, but writers themselves. Without these intercessions, we wouldn’t hear about Oxford American’s Parish Chic columnist L. Kasimu Harris’ stint as a semi-professional baseball player or journalist and fiction writer Sabrina Canfield ruminations on spring, motherhood, and train hopping.

The reading series is the brainchild of NOYO presents, a production company whose members Gian Smith and Ayo Scott have a history of bringing poetry slams and spoken word to the Red Star Gallery on Saturday nights. This May they are taking their enterprise further and have rented out the gallery for a month of readings, art shows and events. The best way to learn more about MelaNated Writers Collective and how you could get invited to one of their pop-up writing sessions at a coffee shop or on a streetcar, the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance and their annual writing retreats or the many productions of NOYO presents, is to just go and see for yourself what these groups are about.

Photo of L. Kasimu Harris reading from “Dating in the Digital Age” by Robin Baudier

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    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
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    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

    WWNO

    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

    WWOZ

    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

    PRC

    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

    NOMA

    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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