Cherice Harrison-Nelson, also affectionately known as Queen Reesie, is the Maroon Queen of Guardians of the Flame, the co-founder and curator of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame (MGIHOF), and the Education Outreach Coordinator for the Guardians Institute in New Orleans, LA. This educator, artist, activist, Mommy Queen, and mother fights for justice for indigenous cultural traditions and has performed and lectured throughout the world.
Queen Reesie describes these traditions and rituals, sometimes called 'masking', as "the empirical evidence that somehow we found a way to remember our ancestral homeland. That all that we were stripped of: our dignity, our language, our culinary ways, ways of dress, all of those things—we found a way to remember and manifest it as something uniquely African-American and celebratory."
It was an honor to spend time with Ms. Harrison-Nelson, to interview her, and to be granted permission to shoot photos and video of the gorgeous, breathtaking creations in the MGIHOF. The ceremonies practiced and the ornate suits handmade and worn by the Maroon societies of New Orleans are amongst the greatest contributions in American history. To find out more about the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame and to donate to this crucially important organization and space, visit the MGIHOF page on Facebook: fb.me/mardigrasindian
An additional heartfelt thank you to the lovely and gracious Ms. Herreast Harrison, and the following individuals for their photos and video included in this work: Jeffrey David Ehrenreich, Jerry Moran, Al Kennedy, and Christopher Colletti.
AMERICAN WOMAN is a multimedia portrait and interview series about Black American women by Creative Director and photographer sarah huny young. americanwoman.co.