"Chief Black Hawk"

We are raising funds for the production of our feature documentary "Chief Black Hawk" which is now on hiatus due to COVID-19.  A contribution from you will help to pay crew, rent equipment, and for post production help. Anything and everything is appreciated.



The Masking Mardi Gras Indian culture has many origin stories, with some saying that it began as homage to Native Americans giving refuge to escaped slaves to others saying that it was began as an offshoot of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Buffalo Soldiers exposure to Native Americans during America’s westward campaign. What we do know is that from the time that Americans decided to become a nation and to expand from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Native Americans were killed and moved from their land for the sake of America’s capitalist urge. In New Orleans, the fears of the African American community are similar… that over time, the culture of the city will slowly disappear, and what’s left will be monetized.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 population estimates, African Americans in New Orleans are more educated, but are looking for employment elsewhere. In a report by The Data Center, in 2017 there were 91,274 fewer African Americans living in New Orleans than there were in 2000. By comparison, there were only 7,945 fewer whites. In 2000, African Americans made up 67% of the city’s population. In 2017, that percentage, while still the majority, was only 59%. In contrast, the share of whites increased from 27% to 31%. While still higher than the national average, the share of adults 25 and older who had less than a high school degree fell from 25% to 14%. At the same time, the share of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher rose from 23 to 30%. But the incomes haven’t changed, especially in Orleans Parish. Housing isn’t affordable, and the city is becoming more segregated. Neighborhoods like the Bywarter, Treme, St. Roch, and St. Claude are being gentrified, and NOLA is losing her culture.

 To sum this up, in a city that still has a majority African American population, that population is slowly moving away, while the influx of other races are changing the makeup of NOLA. And although African Americans have been the majority of NOLA’s residents, they are minorities in wealth and ownership. In looking at the past of Native American cultures and the Masking Indians after them, we hope to create a visual anthropological document that touches on the past, displays the present, and questions the future of a distinct culture in America that many have seen, but few know about.

STORY
Terrance Williams Jr. aka Big Chief Tee is the Big Chief of The Black Hawk Hunters, a Mardi Gras Indian Tribe that carries on the Mardi Gras Masking Indian tradition. Every year, Big Chief Tee and his tribe create elaborate and beautiful suits, preparing to parade every Mardi Gras morning. It’s already a daunting task, but Terrance succeeds while also being a 10th grader at Isidore Newman High School, as well as an athlete and a band member. This documentary gives us a peek into Terrance’s life, following him as he continues to carry the torch of tradition while being one of the only African American kids at a predominantly white school, and how he runs a tribe, makes the prettiest suit, and does it all in the matter of months for Mardi Gras morning. But in order to explore exactly how Terrance is carrying the torch, this documentary also explores the origins of the Mardi Gras Masking Indian culture through the history of New Orleans and the beginnings of its culture that is still present today, providing a cohesive look into why tradition and culture is so important to the African American community in New Orleans today. Through interviews and storytelling, we look into the past to introduce you to the future, displaying how the past has been passed onto the present. 

Key Themes

TRADITION - How tradition has been passed on from Africa to now, and how Indian tradition has been passed down.
GENTRIFICATION AND CULTURAL APPROPRIATION
MENTAL HEALTH - How masking, tradition, and culture are positive towards the mental health of African Americans in NOLA.
HISTORY- The relationships between African Americans and Native Americans in the south during slavery and after the Civil War, as well as the general history of African Americans and Native Americans in the south during these periods.

Director’s Statement

In New Orleans, our culture is being sold and documented.  As an African American filmmaker, everything I write and direct represents an underrepresented community, no matter what the subject matter is, because my community is imbedded in me. I believe that diversity is important in TV and film, and me being a part of anything brings a different perspective and outlook to the project. We are at a turning point in our country and in our society where the voices of underrepresented people and communities are being given a little light, but not enough. I have wondered “why do I continue to pursue a profession that is almost impossible to be successful in, simply because of my skin?”, and the answer is that speaking to people through entertainment is one of the best ways for younger generations to understand our past, as well as our future in this world. Entertainment influences policy, science, relationships, and self-image. With the advent of new ways of bringing that technology to audiences through new means like streaming services, I will continue to struggle to find ways to spread my voice through my love of filmmaking and will continue to hold on to the hope of communicating with people, like me and unlike me, through words, sounds, and visions. I believe my perspective, as well as many others, are important to audiences because we all need diversity in our stories, and in the way we show the world, so that people have different perspectives of this world that we live in. The more diverse our entertainment is, the more chances there are for different audiences to see different perspectives, and that can only lead to more empathy and more love, and overall, this is what’s most important to me as a filmmaker.

Donations

  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 28 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $10 
    • 29 d
  • Jessica Gonzalez 
    • $25 
    • 29 d
  • Michael J Kenny 
    • $200 
    • 29 d
  • Bobby Yan 
    • $20 
    • 29 d
See all

Organizer

Jonathan Isaac Jackson 
Organizer
Harvey, LA
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