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Elders Sacred Talk Series with Merline Kimble and Hearreast J. Harrison

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

NOMA’s Art Thrives initiative and the Congo Square Preservation Society present the Elders Sacred Talk Series with prolific elder New Orleanians, celebrating the lives they lead while learning firsthand about the impact they’ve had on the city.

On December 6, 5:30 pm, in NOMA’s Lapis Center for the Arts, the program will highlight Merline Kimble of the Gold Digger Baby Dolls and Herreast J. Harrison, artist and educator. 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.

Get Tickets

To book your ticket in advance, click the link above.

About the Speakers

Herreast J. Harrison

Herreast J. Harrison is an educator, artist, and founder of the Guardians Institute, which is the home of the Donald Harrison, Sr. Museum. Located in the Ninth Ward, the museum honors her late husband, Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr., founder of the Guardians of the Flame Masking Indian group. Harrison’s work through the institute includes promoting Masking Indian culture and youth literacy. She has traveled extensively to speak at schools and colleges locally, across the country and abroad. Her reading program has placed over 40,000 new books in the hands of children. 

As an artist, she creates beaded story narratives and quilted wall hangings embellished with beads reflecting Masking Indian and African American traditions. Harrison, who holds a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Southern University at New Orleans, was recognized as the Grand Griot of Maafa 2021 and received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Light Up for Literacy Award, among many others. At 86 years young, Harrison continues her passion-driven work to make her community a better place.

Merline Kimble

Merline Kimble is a cultural activist and lifelong resident of the Tremé neighborhood. She is frequently called upon to provide interviews for documentaries, films, and recordings, including with the Claiborne Avenue History Project, Southern University at New Orleans, and WWOZ. With inspiration from her grandmother Louise Recasner Phillips, Kimble played a major role in reviving the New Orleans Baby Doll masking tradition in the 1970s and again in the ’80s. She named her new group the Gold Diggers after her grandparents’ social aid and pleasure club. Her grandmother lived to see the younger women, dressed in colorful satin Baby Doll dresses, premiere their group on Mardi Gras Day at her home on Ursuline Avenue.

The revival of the Baby Doll tradition increased momentum in the early 2000s. Today, with over 25 groups, the tradition is cemented in the cultural identity of New Orleans with key women regarded as preservationists including Merline Kimble. The People United for Armstrong Park honored her in 2016 and placed her photo on New Orleans city buses.


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, December 6th, 2023
5:30 PM
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