42 Tribes Week 15: Big Chief Carl Reed

From the time Carl Reed could walk out his door with or without his parents’ permission, he has been in love with the Black Masking culture. At the age of seven he saw his idol and later mentor mask for the first time. The late Big Chief Butter Bo of the White Eagle tribe gave the young Carl Reed his first dream. His first goal to set his sights on becoming a big Chief one day himself. Not only did he achieve that goal but has been featured on National Geographic and 60 minutes to name a few.

Chief downplays his achievements and impact his gang has had. As chief says “A lot of guys do this for shows and recognition, some did bigger shows than other. I wasn’t in it for that so that didn’t bother me. The respect of other chiefs, and the spirit that comes over me when I put my suit on knowing once I put those boots and that crown on my head what I really was representing as a black Mardi Gras Indian. It was powerful, that is all Big Chief Carl Reed ever wanted.”

Q) When was the first time you saw Big Chief Ronald “Butter Bo” Pierre?
A) “He was my idol since I was a little biddy boy. I remember I was living on Adams Street. I was a lil kid (7 years old) and I was amazed by Mardi Gras Indians. Back than in those days they would come out 4 or 5 in the morning, it wasn’t no 12noon and 1 or 2 in the evening. I’m talking old school, the root off, I’m hearing the tambourine. I hear the wild man out there hooping and hollering. People scared, at that time of morning people you don’t hear that kind of sound in the neighborhood. Bad me, lil Bad Carl, I run through the alley, go to the front and I see the Indian coming down looking like a big peacock! I ran back inside! I was more excited, but woke my parents up saying something wrong. My uncle said that’s the Indians. I was too little to know about them but, what I saw was powerful.”

Q) Chief Butter Bo was such a mentor to you what did he leave with you.
A) “When I met him as child he told me I had to learn how to sew. There was a little spot where all the Indians hung out and did they lil bead work, drank they lil wine, did they lil thing, and put that handa wanda music on and man I was like, I like this!! You know I turned into a beadier at an early age, fell in love with. I wasn’t as good as some of the other guys because I was new to it. Than after a year are so he fell off and went to penitently, and he was the first one to start a gang in Angola. They made suits out of paper Mache. The red white and blue.”

Q) What was the feeling you got when you first masked?
A) “It was just like magic when I put it on. The vibe came over me and it was like…. Well let me say it like this, Let me ask you did you ever see something you wanted to do or heard anybody ask what you would like to do? What’s your fantasy? That was it. My dream came true! It so magical to me to show my neighborhood I got yawl, I GOT YALL!”

Q) What’s your thoughts on the difference between uptown and downtown?
A) “Back in the day when I was coming up masking there was a lot of tribes that didn’t like each other, uptown and  downtown. That didn’t go in my head, I respect all Indians as Indians. We BLACK in this our culture. This is what we have to preserve, for us as a culture to pass down on to our lil ones coming behind us. With that being said and done, Man when two tribes meet and know how to meet it’s the most beautiful thing you ever want to see. All in all I taught my grandkids the right way. I was taught the right way. I had a lot of good mentors.”

Q) Do you believe that violence in this culture is due to Indians not knowing the culture?
A) “That’s because of the simple reason, they come out there and they have not been taught the right way. The Chief of the gang is supposed to teach his braves the dos and don’ts. How to meet, ya know. If it don’t look good….TUway Pocaway. Many Indians say that and don’t know what it means. You go your way, I go mine.”

Q) What is the spirit of your Gang?
A) “The spirit of my gang is family.”

Q) What tools did this culture give you?
A)” It gave me strength to look at my brothers a different way. It put something in me where I can take one of my brothers and be a mentor, that makes me feel good to give back what I received.”

Q) What is your definition of Black Masking Culture?
A) “Respect, dedication, honor and strength of a black man. That’s where I will go with that one.”

 

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