Vanishing Black Bars & Lounges 2018-
About the Series
On St. Bernard Ave., between Claiborne Ave., and N. Rampart St., in the heart of the 7th ward, a neighborhood that has been predominantly black for generations, it was six lounges. It was their respite from the rest of the world and the unfair treatment that faced in New Orleans. The lounges became a safe space, where patrons could buy affordable drinks, eat, listen to music and fraternize. If they were the Mississippi Delta, we’d call it a Jook Joint and in South Africa, it’s a shebeen, regardless of what it’s called and where it is, their importance to the culture and community are too often overlooked.
A few years ago, I bought Birney Imes’ Jook Joint, where he really captured the images of the place well--but, he told no stories. And in hindsight, that omission of people is approaching a white gaze. Between that book and Roy DeCarava’s photos, I was inspired to make book covering the black lounges in New Orleans in the distant future.
Now half of those bars on St. Bernard Ave., are now white-owned. And most of them have little to no reference to the previous establishment--their histories are gone. Will black masking Indians still walk down that avenue, will second-line groups still strut there if all of the lounges become white. What happens to the culture when it’s displaced? We can’t afford to wait for the distant future to embark on this documentation--the city is changing too fast.