Introducing Creole Organisations in the United States
It is again important to underline that when Creoles of the USA say they are French creoles, it has a very different meaning from what we would interpret it in the Caribbean or in the Indian Ocean. It is just a way to distinguish themselves from the other creoles i.e. Haitian and Spanish creoles. It is also true that most of the white and coloured creoles are of French descents i.e. they have their roots in the colonization of Louisiana by the French.
Nolan Melonson, is the chairman of the French Creole Cultural Scholarship Award which is based in Huston, Texas. The FCCSA was founded by Nolan and his wife Dale Sylvie in 1995. Since its inception many students have benefited from that scholarship. It aims at motivating young creoles of the USA towards higher level of education and also to take pride in their Creole culture. Nolan, wife Dale Sylvie and their friends Connie and Angela last year produced two volumes of Favourite Creole Recipes and from the sale of the books, a scholarship is awarded to Creole kids. Nolan explained at the Las Vegas Symposium that his team is working on an international cook book with recipes from all over the Creole world. Nolan Melonson is also the vice-president of the IOCP.
“The International French Creole Society” is probably the oldest Creole organization of the USA. It was founded by Gilbert Martin a French Creole in 1979. When I asked Gil whether he had any international connection when he founded the organization he sincerely replied in the negative but explained that he knew that there were creoles in the other parts of the world namely in Haiti and Guadeloupe and that he was hoping that one day he would connect with them. Since 1973 Gilbert has been engaged in researching the Creole roots and culture. His research led him to study closely the Louisiana Purchase Treaty and still advocate that because the treaty was breached, the Louisiana French Creoles are entitled the enjoy the respectable status of a nation. Among the founder members of his organizations are Terrell Delphin and Marion Ferreira. The Organisation is still in existence but as Gil being is now an old man and living in a nursing home, he is faced with some practical problems to keep the organization alive. Gil how he instructed Terrell Delphin about Creole history and culture in 1993 through long conversation over the phone. A copy of his Creole chronology was handed over to Terrell for a better understanding of the Creole plight. Gilbert Martin had always dreamed of setting up The Louisiana Creole Institute and even rented a house for that purpose and a big sign nailed on the front. The project was never realized. According to many academics and according to the French Creole website, Gilbert Martin is the greatest Creole alive today and his book the Creole Chronology was according to many, the best book about Creole.
Marrion Ferriera is the Founder of the Associates for the Preservation of the Creole Cultural Heritage. The organization is based in Los Angels and is still active. Marion was awarded the people’s award last year by the Creole Heritage Centre of Natchitoches for her militancy and devotion and dedication for the defence of Creole culture. Marion is a proud descendant of the Metoyer/Dupres of Cane River and on her mother’s side from the Oliver/Decuir/Ferdinand. Marion holds a bachelor degree in Sociology from the State Domingues Hills University. For the past 24 years Marion has devoted her life to saving the Creole Culture. She regularly attends Creole heritage events in order to promote the gathering of creoles in the United States as well as all over the world. Marion and her organization are engaged in a battle with the Catholic Church to recognize that Mother Henriette Dellille was a Creole of color and not an African American, which is totally different. Other members of the group are- Richard Augustine Comeaux, President, of San Jose, Calif. - Ronald Vidal, Vice President of Cypress, Calif. - Alfred E. Smith, Treasurer of Los Angeles, Calif.
The establishment NSU Creole Heritage Centre at North West University in 1998 was the fruit of an impassioned plea by Terrell Delphin. He is recognized to have the ability to weld together people of different racial and ethnic background and speak for people who often feel unrepresented. He has managed to organize all the creoles of Louisiana and his effort has spread across the United States. A special tribute to his abilities to cross racial l/cultural lines and encouraged multicultural interaction was paid by the City of Natchitoches who declared March 29, 1997 as Terrel Delphin Day. I had the pleasure of meeting Terrell Delphin May 2004 and remember him as a flamboyant personality and his unorthodox opening speech when he said “ Do not ask me to define who is a Creole as I know I am a Creole.’’ He also said Creole culture has no colour so do not try to make it a racial issue. Terrell is at present the Chairman of the Board of the NSU CHC. He has worked with various state legislative and educational groups in developing means to enhance the historical teaching to give a more accurate and complete description of Creole culture in the United States. The Assistant-Director of the centre is Janet Colson.
Creole Heritage Education and Research Society (CHERS) is another Creole organization based in New Orleans. As its name denotes this organization is very active in areas of research but also very active in introducing the Creole language and dance to the Creole community in New Orleans. The responsible for CHERS is Michelle Olinger.