NEW ORLEANS—The popular and historic Black Masking Indian traditions are rooted in the friendship developed between Africans who escaped the horrific institution of slavery and the Native Americans who provided them refuge.
Centuries later the descendants of these Africans transported to North America during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade parade the streets of New Orleans in beautiful, handcrafted outfits paying homage to the opportunity offered to their ancestors. Some refer to the Black Masking Indians as Mardi Gras Indians due to the tradition of their new suits being displayed on Fat Tuesday during the annual carnival celebration known as Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Mardi Gras is the largest tourist attraction in the city of New Orleans, attracting approximately 1.4 million visitors during the season. Today, people from all ethnic cultures participate in the celebration, but during the period of segregation Blacks held their own Mardi Gras celebration. Now post-segregation, many of the cultural attractions that make Mardi Gras so attractive derive from those social clubs, customs, and music created by Black people when they created their own Mardi Gras celebrations during segregation. The Black Masking Indians is one of the main attractions.
The Black Masking Indians spend an entire year handcrafting their unique and esthetically beautiful uniforms. Spread throughout the city of New Orleans are various tribes who come out during St. Joseph Night and Super Sunday to display their wares and compete artistically. This tradition has been going on for at least a century.
This year, a member of one of the oldest Black Masking Indian Tribes, the Creole Wild West, sewed a suit that was historic. Many of the Black Masking Indian suits have images of various Native Americans, names of the tribes, the neighborhoods they are from, pioneers of the tradition and more.
This year, the son of a family who were touched by the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad was able to manifest an idea that lingered in the mind of his father who also participated in the masking tradition. Horace “Spy Boy” Anderson designed an elaborate Indian suit that honored Master Fard Muhammad, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. His son wore a suit that paid homage to Mother Clara Muhammad.
The Spy Boy is the first member of the tribe that onlookers normally see. As the Spy Boy of the tribe, Mr. Anderson’s role is to send important communications to the chief of the tribe. “My family were impressed by a Black man they saw sharply dressed walking through the city where they lived outside of New Orleans,” he explained.
“Later my family moved to New Orleans where he ran into some brothers who were members of the Nation of Islam, and my father accepted the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. My father would later begin participating in the Black Masking Indians. As a child and into adulthood I heard my father and family members talking about desiring to have a suit that paid homage to the Black man’s lineage. So, this suit has been 48 years in the making. This suit is very emotional for me,” he stated.
Mr. Anderson informed the Student Minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 46, Willie Muhammad, about his desire to do so three years prior. “Brother Horace contacted me on social media expressing how he wanted to design a suit giving honor to the foundational figures of our Nation. Years later to see it is breathtaking,” said Mr. Muhammad.
“As a native of New Orleans, I know how valuable and how significant the Masking Indians are to New Orleans. To see a member adorn a suit with the Flag of Islam, the Saviour, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and Mother Clara really shows the powerful impact of the Teachings,” he continued.
“Super Sunday is a day when thousands of people in New Orleans come out to see the Indians, so thousands of people had the chance to see him and ask questions. Brother Horace, though not a registered member of the Nation of Islam, is a Believer in the Teachings and does not hesitate to make his love known. He had the most distinctive suit out of all who masked on that Sunday. As I watched I thought more about what we are asked to commit to memory in our Student Enrollment,” stated Mr. Muhammad.
Mr. Anderson received numerous compliments and questions about his suit. “The responses I received were very touching. One of the elder Muslim brothers touched the beadwork of the Saviour Master Fard Muhammad and said, ‘Look at our Father,’ while also giving thanks for Elijah and Farrakhan. There was a sister who said she was about to leave and came back to take a picture with me to show her appreciation for me honoring the Saviour, Messenger and the Minister,” said Mr. Anderson.
“Even Caucasians expressed admiration. One White man who knew who I had displayed said, ‘You are making a bold statement.’ I told him that was my desire, to make a bold statement,” said Horace “Spy Boy” Anderson.
Horace appeared on the weekly podcast hosted by Brother Willie Muhammad on National Network News (NNV). To learn more about this historic occurrence take a moment to watch the brief interview online on YouTube @mosque46av.—Submitted by Willie Muhammad