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Elders Sacred Talk Series with Kalamu ya Salaam and Big Chief Victor Harris

Wed, September 6th, 2023 at 5:30 PM

NOMA’s Art Thrives initiative for adults 55 and older is proud to partner with the Congo Square Preservation Society to present the Elders Sacred Talk Series, four panel discussions with prolific elder New Orleanians, celebrating the lives they lead while learning firsthand about the impact they’ve had on the city.

Join us on September 6, at 5:30 pm in NOMA’s Lapis Center for the Arts for the first program featuring our first two honorees of the series: poet, author, and scholar Kalamu ya Salaam and Victor Harris, Big Chief of the Mandingo Warriors/Spirit of Fi-Yi-Yi. Freddi Williams Evans of the Congo Square Preservation Society will moderate the conversation. Doors open at 5 pm. 

Free with museum admission. Louisiana residents receive free admission to NOMA on Wednesdays courtesy of The Helis Foundation. When you arrive at NOMA, check in at the admissions desk for directions to the Lapis Center for the Arts.

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About the Speakers

Kalamu ya Salaam

Kalamu ya Salaam was born Val Ferdinand III in New Orleans on March 24, 1947. Inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes and the Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans, Salaam became interested in writing and organizing for social change. During the Black Arts Movement, Salaam was a member of John O’Neal’s Free Southern Theater for five years and founded BLACKARTSOUTH. Changing his name along the way to Kalamu ya Salaam, which is Kiswahili for “pen of peace,” he founded Ahidiana Work Study Center. He also assumed the editorship of the Black Collegian magazine, a post he held from 1970 to 1983. Salaam published cultural and political essays in Black World, Black Scholar, and Black Books Bulletin. In 1977, he was part of the first African American activist delegation to the People’s Republic of China.

Today, he is a senior partner of Bright Moments, a public relations firm. He is also the founder of WordBand, a poetry performance group; the NOMMO Literary Society; and Runagate Press. Salaam has written seven books of poetry. Louisiana State University honored his play The Breath of Life, and BLK Love Song #1 won a Best of Fringe Award from The Manchester Evening News in England. A respected music writer and critic, he is the arts and entertainment editor for The New Orleans Tribune. He regularly contributes to Wavelength, The Louisiana Weekly, and The New Orleans Music Magazine. He was executive director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for many years and produced A NATION OF POETS for the National Black Arts Festival.

Big Chief Victor Harris

Having begun suiting as a Black Masking Indian at age fifteen, Victor Harris is the longest continuously suiting Black Masking Indian alive with over 50 years of suiting, following the untimely death of Chief of Chiefs Allison “Tootie” Montana, Big Chief of the Yellow Pocahontas. A Flagboy for the Yellow Pocahontas tribe since the mid-1960s, Harris became Big Chief of his tribe, the Mandingo Warriors, in 1984, after the epiphanic first calling of the Spirit of Fi-Yi-Yi, originally wearing a black suit. Today, Harris is one of the most recognizable chiefs in the city and a community leader.

About Congo Square Preservation Society

The Congo Square Preservation Society serves as a continuing catalyst in the resurrection and continuation of activities, advocacy, and preservation of historic and sacred Congo Square in New Orleans. Learn more at https://www.congosquarepreservationsociety.org/.

NOMA’s Art Thrives programs are supported by E.A. Michelson Philanthropy.


Wed, September 6th, 2023
5:30 PM
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New Orleans Museum of Art
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