2015: Eighteen people are killed during a Mardi Gras parade. Mardi Gras is also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. Carnival is a period in the Christian calendar, beginning after the feast of the Epiphany (aka Three Kings Day and traditionally celebrated January 6) and the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The period often culminates in celebrations and parades on the day before the forty days of Lent begin, a time of sacrifice and atonement. Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti and there is a huge following there to celebrate this holiday. A parade was held on Champ de Mars. During this parade, around 2.48 AM, a disaster struck.
Fantom was the lead singer for a Haitian hip hop band or rap kreyòl called Barikad Crew, sometimes just called BC. The band was formed in 2002 and has had several tragedies befall them. Papa K-tafalk, Deja-Voo and Kondagana started the band to create music reflective of life in the slums of Haiti. They were commercially successful when their singles were released, allowing them to finally put out an entire album in 2007. The membership of the band has altered over time. In 2008 while travelling to a concert, Papa K-tafalk, Deja-Voo and Dade were killed in a car accident. Young Cliff was killed in the January 2010 earthquake that rocked the island. On this day, Fantom was riding atop a float in the parade when he made contact with a high-voltage power line. He survived the jolt and was in stable condition after the event.
The electrifying event caused a stampede among the revelers. It was at first thought that sixteen people were killed but later reports increased the numbers. Fifteen men and three women were killed and another 78 people were injured in the hysteria following the initial accident. Video of the event can be found at You Tube.
The Prime Minister of Haiti called for three days of mourning for the 18 people killed. There was also a state funeral and vigil for the victims held on February 21. In order to honor those who lost their lives on that fateful night, another parade, this one to be held in silence would follow the same route on Champ de Mars. The President of Haiti offered his condolences and the Minister of Communications announced the government’s plan to modernize the state electricity company to keep other events like this one from happening.
There’s a thing I’ve dreamed of all my life, and I’ll be damned if it don’t look like it’s about to come true-to be King of the Zulu’s parade. After that, I’ll be ready to die. – Louis Armstrong
I love Mardi Gras. I’m a street rat. – Mitch Landrieu
Do what you do. This Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, Twelfth Night, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, St. Paddy’s Day, and every day henceforth. Just do what you do. Live out your life and your traditions on your own terms. If it offends others, so be it. That’s their problem. – Chris Rose
It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans. – Mark Twain
February 27, 1827: Mardi Gras is celebrated for the first time in New Orleans, Louisiana with masked balls. Amazingly enough, the first public celebrations of Mardi Gras were somewhat violent and the celebration gained a negative reputation. During the 1840s and 50s, things were so bad, the press began calling for banning the event. In 1857 six men in New Orleans formed the Comus organization. They advocated for a safe and non-violent celebration such as they had been putting on for a New Year’s Eve parade in Mobile, Alabama since 1831. They prevailed and the celebrations continued, interrupted by the US Civil War.
Long ago in ancient Rome there was a circus-like celebration in mid-February called Lapercalia. The Catholic Church incorporated this feast into their own calendar and changed it’s name and meaning. Carnival [Italian for “without meat’] is a celebratory period lasting from January 6 [the feast of the Epiphany] until the beginning of Lent.
Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent or 40 days before Easter. King’s Cakes, treats of the season, are colored with the traditional Mardi Gras colors – purple for justice; green for faith; and gold for power. During the late 1700s while New Orleans was under French rule, there were masked balls and festivals. When the area came under Spanish rule, these were banned.
Then, in 1803 New Orleans finally fell under the jurisdiction of the US flag. It took until 1823 for the prohibition against masked balls to be lifted. In 1827 they were once again legalized. In 1837, they had their first parade in the tradition still practiced today. In 1870 the Twelfth Night Revelers joined the festivities and the next year golden beads hidden in cakes were presented to a young woman who became the first queen of Mardi Gras. By 1882, the Krewe of Proteus joined the parade and in 1890 the first marching club joined the parade. The fun continued to grow as the revelers descended on New Orleans. So … show us your … ummm … beads.
“[N]o party is any fun unless seasoned with folly.” – Desiderius Erasmus
“Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”” – Robin Williams
“I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.” – Nancie J. Carmody
“Drink, and dance and laugh and lie,
Love the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)” – Dorothy
Also on this day, in 1864, Andersonville prison opened.