Dianne Honoré: The Black Storyville Baby Dolls
We welcomed historian and cultural preservationist Dianne Honoré to BK House on Thursday, May 12, 2022! Dianne's discussion focused on the history and present-day customs that center on the Black Storyville Baby Dolls. This tradition, started by Black women circa 1912 in an area just outside the French Quarter known as "Black Storyville", made a resurgence in 2004 and has grown to over 14 groups today. After founding the "Black Storyville Baby Dolls" group, Dianne saw the need to cultivate more educational outreach and community empowerment. It is through her guidance that the integrity of the practice is maintained and remains a community-driven tradition.
New Orleans 6th ward native Dianne “Gumbo Marie” Honore’ is a local history buff, event producer and award winning cultural preservationist who founded the Black Storyville Baby Dolls™, the Amazons Benevolent Society™, and co-founded Unheard Voices of Louisiana™. Dianne believes in awakening the past by giving voice to history. She has written, produced and presented many history-related music and food events, panel discussions, tours, and exhibits over several decades. In addition to appearances on nationally syndicated television and promotional materials for Louisiana tourism she also hosted a live local television show focused on New Orleans history and current events. She developed an "exhibit-store" called "Gumbo Marie" in which she curated rotating exhibits on Louisiana history, held classes and sold locally crafted products to support the exhibit space. Annually she produces "Baking for Breast Cancer" in conjunction with The Amazons Benevolent Society™ which raises funds for local cancer fighters. This year she was invited to make her debut as Queen of the legendary Yellow Pocahontas Hunters Black Masking Indian Tribe in the 7th ward New Orleans.
You can learn more about Dianne and visit her online shop at gumbomarie.com
Denise Augustine: Growing Up in Italian and Afro-Creole New Orleans
We welcomed historian and tour guide Denise Augustine to BK House on Wednesday, March 16, 2022! In conjunction with our bountiful St. Joseph's Altar that was on display, Denise give a lecture centered on the interconnectedness of Creole and Italian cultures. As a seventh generation Creole griot, she was born and raised in Tremé and the French Quarter when the two neighborhoods were filled with Afro-Creoles and Italians. These two communities lived closely together, sharing a common religion and love of food and family. Born in the 1950's, Denise is an eyewitness to this melting pot when the neighborhood was still very much mixed.
As the owner of the tour company Our Sacred Stories, Denise has been guiding walking tours in New Orleans for more than 20 years. Active in the local Voodoo community and as a Black Masking Babydoll, she connects her audiences to the authentic cultures and histories of New Orleans like nobody else. Having learned the art of storytelling through years of sitting at her grandmother’s kitchen table prepping for dinner in a small shotgun house in the Tremé, she is an expert at entertaining and engaging visitors with the unsung stories of New orleans. Denise has been a guest lecturer on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. She has taught throughout the city on Creole history and traditions, including Voodoo and Hoodoo rites and rituals. With every tour, she uses her deep connections to New Orleans’ communities to bring you closer to the city’s best food, music, cultures, and traditions.
2018 Tricentennial Lecture Series
In 2018, BK House and VCPORA were thrilled to host and co-present, The Vieux Carre at 300: New Perspectives on an Old Neighborhood, a 12-part series of educational lectures and programs highlighting unique aspects of French Quarter history in honor of New Orleans's tricentennial year.
The following programs were presented:
January: This Didn't Happen by Chance: 100 Years of Preservation in the French Quarter with John Stubbs, Director of Preservation Studies at Tulane School of Architecture
February: “Here Are the Freemen Who Claim Their Rights!”
with Mark Roudané, great-great grandson of Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez,
founder of the South’s first African-American newspaper and daily
March: How to Save a Neighborhood with Nathan Chapman and Keith Hardie
April: "Rosebloom and Pure White," Or So It Seemed presented by Dr. Mary Niall Mitchell
May: Grace King and New Orleans: The Place and People of Her Roots (And Ours) presented by Dr. Miki Pfeffer
June: Building an Epidemic City: Yellow Fever, Race, and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans presented by Dr. Urmi Engineer Willoughby
July: A Social History of the French Quarter Through Madame John's Legacy presented by John Magill
August: From Exile to Decadence: An LGBT+ History of the French Quarter presented by Frank Perez, President of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana
September: River Ramblings presented by historian and longtime river steamboat captain, Clarke "Doc" Hawley
October: A Fall Fête for the Building Arts! presented with The New Orleans Master Crafts Guild, and featuring Jeff Poree, Darryl Reeves and Jonn Hankins
November: Reflections of Cosimo Matassa: An Italian Perspective of the French Quarter presented by musician and historian Jack Stewart
December: Transitions: Vestiges of Lost New Orleanian Food Traditions presented by Liz Williams, a founder of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum
The Vieux Carre at 300 was presented with partial support from:
Piccolo Palermo: The Italian Immigrant Experience and the Beauregard-Keyes House
Our most recent exhibit, Piccolo Palermo, was open to the public from July-October of 2017. Piccolo Palermo examined the successes and trials of the Giaconas, a Sicilian family that owned the BK House and property from 1904-1925, and whose descendants remain active members of the New Orleans community today. BKH's lower French Quarter neighborhood was a haven for Italian (the majority of whom were Sicilian) immigrants during the early 20th century, and the exhibit explored both the Sicilian immigrant experience in New Orleans and the subsequent influence that the community has had on New Orleans enterprise and culture throughout the past 100 years.
The Giaconas' Early Years in New Orleans introduced visitors to the Giacona family through photographs, immigration, census and other records, as well as pictures of the BK House during the years that the family lived in and ran their wholesale wine business, C. Giacona & Co., out of the home's basement.
Left: Picture courtesy: Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division,
Tulane University Libraries. Right: The Giacona family immigration record from 1904.
A Family Portraits and Documents section of the exhibit displayed family portraits of early Giacona family members, on loan from Giacona descendants. Also displayed was a latin-language 1869 wedding record from Palermo, Sicily, and business papers and documents that the family left behind at the BK House when they sold it in the 1920s. The papers, which were discovered in the BKH attic in 2001, are written in both English and Italian and offer a rare personal glimpse into the lives and business of the Giacona family.
The Newspaper Timeline of Events followed major incidents that affected the Sicilian community in the late 1800s and early 1900s (when Sicilian immigration to New Orleans was at its peak). The Giacona family made the news many times during those years, noted for their prospering presence within the Italian community, and a few macabre incidents, as well.
Headline courtesy: Times-Picayune, 16 May 1916, p. 1. Via NewsBank.
With help from local videographer Joey Harmon, we interviewed three New Orleanians with Sicilian roots for the exhibit's Oral History section. Rosanna Giacona Shepherd is the daughter of Aniello Giacona, who was born at the BK House in 1910. Frank Maselli, the son of the renowned Joe Maselli, is the Chairman of the American Italian Cultural Center and Louisiana’s Honorary Consul to Italy. Dr. Robert Cangelosi grew up in the French Quarter in the 1930s and 40s and remembers Piccolo Palermo firsthand! For a taste of these interviews, visit this blog entry!
Lastly, An Intro to Piccolo Palermo, opened up the discussion to the neighborhood as a whole by utilizing images, cartoons, ads, and personal anecdotes from local families, such as the Brocatos, to bring to life both the early trials experienced by Sicilian immigrants and, later, the profound influence they have had on New Orleans.
Thank you so much to all of our friends, members, and visitors for helping make this exhibit a success!
Special thanks to: Rosanna Giacona Shepherd, Corrado Giacona II, Joey Harmon, Dr. Robert Cangelosi, Frank Maselli, Sal Serio, Professor Justin Nystrom, Stephanie Rios, Michael Redmann, Rebecca Smith, and Mark A. Vicknair.
Three generations of Giacona descendants joined us for the opening of the Piccolo Palermo exhibit on July 5th, 2017.
Historian Sal Serio, curator of the American Italian Cultural Center's Research Library, presents on Sicilian immigrant history in New Orleans and genealogy at the BK House on July 8th, 2017.
Professor Justin Nystrom of Loyola University gives a walking tour focusing on the Italian history of the lower French Quarter on Saturday, September 9th. Professor Nystrom is the author of the 2018 book, Creole Italian: Sicilian Immigrants and the Shaping of New Orleans Food Culture, and his research was important source material for the Piccolo Palermo exhibit.