First, some background:
Julie Lea, Founder and Captain of the Krewe of Nyx – a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade established in 2012 “to unite women of diverse backgrounds for fun, friendship, and the merriment of the Mardi Gras season” – has come under fire lately for using the phrase “All Lives Matter” in a recent instagram post.
In response to Krewe members withdrawing from Nyx and demanding that she resign, she issued a half-hearted apology, saying she was unaware of the divisive nature of the words “All Lives Matter” but that she would not put her name behind Black Lives Matter, and that she would “not put a black person on the board, just because they are black.” Additionally, she refused to resign.
Here is a letter written to Ms. Lea by Nyx members, expressing why her apology is not accepted. Big Easy Magazine published it online on June 8th.
Below is my own letter to Ms. Lea, which I sent to her via the Contact Page of her website, https://julieleablog.wordpress.com, on June 10th, 2020. I also tried contacting her via the Krewe of Nyx email, but the message bounced back. I received no reply to my message.
After one month of engaging with this privately, I have decided to share the letter publicly, not because to “show off,” not to “publicly perform my ally ship,” not to “play whistleblower,” not to “draw attention” – but to be transparent. Part of me fears that I was wrong to go after Ms. Lea, that as a fellow white woman, I am being a hypocrite, projecting, attacking what I recognize and dislike in myself, and that I should have more compassion for her.
Spiritually, I feel guilt. I am taught that “punishment is God’s prerogative.”
But I am also taught that I have the right to use my voice and speak my opinions. Once is an opinion, twice is obnoxious. I decided to send the message to Julie, and then “let it go to God.”
I am not using my voice to attempt to change Ms. Lea, or even to judge her. But I think that vocalizing my reaction is worthwhile. It could be that other people feel the same way, and it could be that I have said something completely off-base, which will then result in dialogue & feedback that will lead to growth.
I am not attacking another white woman to disown and disconnect from my whiteness. I fully own my whiteness. Julie Lea’s whiteness is my whiteness. In confronting her whiteness, I confront my own.
Feedback and dialogue are welcome.
June 10th, 2020
Dear Ms. Lea:
My name is Bella Florence. I am a 21-year-old New Orleans native. I was educated Louise S. McGehee, Metairie Park Country Day, and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. I now study at New York University. I am white.
I am writing to let you know that I support the letter written to you by Christina Christ, Terrel Kent, Kelly Gilkey LeBlanc, Heather Green Matrana, Ciara Mercadel, Kelly Usury, which I accessed here:
I support all now-former members of Nyx who chose to withdraw. While I harbor no animosity towards you, I do feel that your words and actions in the recent past have been deeply hurtful and ofensive, not to mention inappropriate.
In addition to expressing my support of the women mentioned above, I am also writing to express two things:
1) I will no longer be attending Nyx or supporting Nyx in any capacity. While I will not attempt to manipulate the choices of my family and friends in this regard, I will certainly make my stance clear and lead by example.
2) I urge you to reconsider your decision to keep your captain position, rather than step-down. I urge you to step down. I also urge you to take the opportunity to look within yourself and do the work that we especially, as white people, must do each day to combat racism in our world.
I urge you – I implore you – to put your name behind Black Lives Matter. Not just your name – put your Entire Self.
A mentor of mine shared the following resource, which has been particularly helpful: A Daily Anti-Racism Newsletter by Wellness Practitioner Nicole Cardoza, delivered daily to your inbox. Each email includes a point of education and a call to action, usually a small, manageable action.
I listened to your most recent episode of “Let’s Get PURSE- Onal.” This sounds like an area that you can apply your own wisdom to – an opportunity to change your mindset and repair your relationship with race, white supremacy, New Orleans, and Black Lives.
I hope you take my words to heart. Please. Please take my words to heart. I mean you no harm – but I believe in what’s right. I believe that Black Lives Matter. And as long as you keep your current stance, I am unable to put myself behind you.
Since writing this letter almost one month ago, I have learned that Nyx discriminated against Trans people, as well. A June 24th Nola.com article by Doug MacCash says that Nyx “required prospective members to have been designated female on their birth certificates.”
Lea contested this claim, but I recommend you read the article to gain as much clarity as possible.
In short, I am writing because I want to support the greater good. Pointing fingers, attacking, and blaming are uncomfortable for me, but they seem to be part of the flow. If I am wrong to do this, I will learn in due time. Till then, thanks for witnessing and sharing the Process.
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