ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: NEW ORLEANS’ CHARLES DUVERNAY
Luna: Who taught you how to bead?
Charles DuVernay: My cousin and my Big Chief Tyrone Pie Stephenson sat there and taught me how to do it, and it was weird, man. The first time you pick that needle up, and you sew that first little pearl down – the outline, we call that pearling – if you feel it like I felt it, you’re gonna feel it for life. If you’re like “eh” then you’re gonna hit and miss hit and miss. Those are the Indians we call three to four year Indians, because it takes them 3-4 years to make [a suit].
Luna: What’s a suit made by another tribe that you admire?
CD: Ooh dude there’s several. Outside Monogram, it would be The Spirit of Fayaya Big Chief Victor Harris [of] Mandingo Warriors. They’re more African type Indians. So they’re sewing things like seashells and beads and all kinds of stuff man but it’s a real African feel. They use stuff like kente cloth as well. Howard Miller and Terrence Mitchell of the Creole Wild West. Then I would say Black Seminole, Big Chief Kenneth Young. Also, I’ve got several tribes I admire man, if y’all got time. Big Chief Damoan Melancon, Google that guy. His tribe is the 9th Ward Hunters. Big Chief Romeo, in my personal opinion the best singer in the whole Indian Nation. He’s got a voice that just carries, at least [best] that I’ve ever heard. Also, Dowee Robair man, [from] 9th Ward Black Hatchet. That whole tribe we say “on fire.” We say “on fire” or “smoking” [then] you hot. His whole tribe is always hot.
Luna: What’s something that made you laugh recently?
CD: I was scared of this honestly, what we’re doing right now with Karen [GBA] and stuff. I’ve never done something like that, and then so many of us have been ripped off and messed over and just exploited. So I was a little nervous with that. And then it was just something completely different cause it was a tad bit gut wrenching to tear the suits down, after they take so long to build up, and you know me I could have watched them on the stands forever. But when Karen presented how we could do this and tell a story for the whole nation and shed more light on that culture, it was a no-brainer.
Luna: Describe your most fun Mardi Gras?
CD: I’d say the most fun Mardi Gras was 2020. I wore the blue suit with the dragons and stuff. That meant a whole lot to me because, to give a lil props right now to another cousin of mine, Big Chief Dump [helped me build that suit]. Passed away at 38 yrs old from a fatal brain condition. The doctor said you have a better chance at winning the Powerball than catching that disease. It shook the whole culture up because he was a giver, he had his tribe, but he was running around to different tribes helping those chiefs help their Indians [get] out on the streets. He was all about culture whether you were in his tribe or not.
Luna: Who is the last artist that moved you?
CD: Jay-Z always! I used to do a lot of rap music back in the day. I opened up for Tupac, House of Blues, Goodie Mob, Outkast, Juvenile, the whole Cash Money clique and all that stuff, Master P and all those guys. I'm actually getting ready to start working on a Mardi Gras Indian album.
Luna: What would you like to say to the younger generation of artists?
CD: Keep pushing. We have a lot of people that just knock you outta hate. You could be doing very well, they can see that, and they’ll just try to bring you down. Ignore the hate and keep moving.
Luna: What are you guilty of?
CD: Sometimes caring or giving too much, you know you give and you give, you care and you care, and a lot of times there are times you need that reciprocated back. Just for the mental part of it. And sometimes you just don’t get it [back] and I still keep giving. People kinda jack around sometimes but at the same time by doing so you get a lot of blessings, look where I’m sitting at right now. I’m guilty of that but probably will forever be guilty of that!