NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– Long before the culture of televised on HBO, the New Orleans community of Treme had been popular for over 200 years.
Today, cradles an impressive multitude of culture, from my favorite place in the city to buy a bowl of gumbo, Lil Dizzy’s, to the home of the tattoo shop, Aart Accent Tattoo, and Piercings, owned by a woman known to be one of the first black tattoo artists in the country. Congo Square, located in Armstrong Park, once was the meeting place of hundreds of the enslaved selling their wares and filling the open air with drums on Sundays. Indeed, just as Dorothy once said, there is no place like home!
Treme is also rumored to be the birthplace of not word “jazz.” My Southern University A&M College professor of music history once said to me Jazz’s etymology stems from the word jasmine, saying jasmine perfume was commonly worn by “women of the night”… or prostitutes. Often times, these women would perform to the free-thinking expression of burgeoning jazz music.
Le Petite Jazz Museum is located on the backside of Treme. It is a very modest space containing a giant history. “Al” Jackson is the museum curator and founder and says, “Treme is the first thoroughly integrated neighborhood dating back to the middle-late 17th century.”
To be black and a resident of Treme means you have a lot to be proud of. Jackson says, that sizable amount of the property in the community was owned by people of African Ancestry early on. Most of these early property owners were women and from those trend-setting ladies came forth the history and culture of Treme, which would transcend the world.
“Musically speaking, we have fellows like Moreau Gottschalk, Victor Eugene McCarty the composer of classical music. Charles Lucien Lambert premiered La Flamenca in Paris in 1906, but his father was born here in Treme and relocated after having had studied at the Paris Conservatory of Music to Rio De Janeiro Brazil,” says Jackson.
At just a little over 400 acres, I hold fast to believing that no community has ever been so rich or significant to the legacy of America’s way of life.