As a child, in California I was only identified as African American. On every application my mom filled out for me, under the ethnicity bubble she would fill in Black or African American. So, I identified myself as Black or African American. If you ask a Black Creole person what is their ethnicity, they will say Black, or African American. In grade school, I would hesitate to call myself Creole because I quickly observed some people liked Creoles, while others simply did not. By the time I reached college, I just wanted to be accepted. I would never deny being Creole, but I also did not voluntarily mention it. I thought to myself, if I am Black, I’m Black. However, one day, I had a girlfriend hand me a book called, “The Forgotten People” by Gary B. Mills. This book shared the history of Cane River’s Creole People of Color. This was the beginning of me learning the history of Louisiana. Years later, my aunt sent me a book in the mail called, “Red River”, by Lalita Tademy. The same author also wrote, “Cane River” which was one of Oprah’s favorite books of all time in the Oprah Book Club. Many years later, I decided to search my genealogy. I discovered my ancestors are all deeply rooted in Louisiana from generation to generation on my mama side and my daddy’s side. I had no idea. I wanted to learn more.
Creole Life is a culture of its own, yet we are considered Black people. Creole people are a population of people with their own unique rich culture and history. This is not taught in school or shared much in African American history. It can be hard to understand unless you are Creole, so I will try to shed light if I can. Creoles have their own music, food, language, style, and history much different than many. The creole culture was formed in Louisiana. We speak Creole (broken French), cook seafood with rice, eat meat with bread, play Big Band, Zydeco, Blues, Jazz and even Country music. Creole people were considered free people of color. Many Creole people will tell you that their ancestors were free, owning their own land. I found this to be true, but I kept digging in history because I wanted to know how could this be.
Black creole people are a mixed race of people. I have found that we are connected to African blood. Our culture however, was birthed after former slaves had become free. Our story is unique. Louisiana historically is known for its importing and exporting. Louisiana is also known for its good times and fun. Italian, German, Irish, Cuban, Mexican, Canadian, Portuguese, Spanish, and lots of French men found interest in Louisiana for work and making a living. Some decided to settle in Louisiana and began having families. There's stories of settlers falling in love with African slave women, buying their freedom, giving them land, and having children by them. The children became many of the colored creole people of Louisiana. The women were wise, buying their families freedom, saving money, multiplying and turning over profits from their farms. Over time, the colored creoles became a self sufficient, sustaining group of people. Also, many freed slaves in Louisiana fled the plantations, and were embraced by the Indians. Stories tell us the Indians shared their land, food, shelter and made black Indian babies with the freed Africans. All of the mixed race children were raised together on free land. Black creoles have lived through lots of rejection. They have been considered not white enough, Indian enough or black enough for many. By law, black creole children were all called Negro or Colored because if their African blood. In turn, the Creoles learned to live close together on their land, helped one another, raising children. Most families did not move because of this strong bond. Today there’s Creole families living in the same city as their ancestors from as far as five generations back. Some have moved to other parts of Louisiana but not too far from home. Creole people love family, good times, and most are not prejudice as you can imagine. Creoles are often mistaken for Hawaiian, Samoan, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Middle Eastern, Caucasian or bi-racial children. Black creole people have lots of stories they tell about their grandparents and ancestors. That is one of my greatest joys about being Creole. Truth is, most stories cannot be proven, and you can start an argument in less than 50 seconds bringing up history in a Creole family. We are honestly a melting pot of people from mainly Europe, South America and Africa. Creole people love to feed you, and everybody has some sort of craft they are naturally gifted with. Most creoles are good with their hands, love to dance, and play that good music. Many Creole people are entrepreneurs. Most are known by what they do. Their creative skills often provide a way of living for family. Many creoles have become very successful business people in the marketplace throughout upcoming generations. I love my Creole people. I love the food, creativity, and the hospitality ingrained in us. I’m grateful to my family and especially my grandparents for all their stories. I’m thankful for my in-laws that are grounded in Creole culture and ways of living. Black Creoles are relevant and matter in American history. We are a unique mix of American people within the black community. To my Creole people reading this, I love you and I see. May Creole culture live rich inside of you and me.
Note* Look for the children's book, The Praline Lady coming soon.... published by Pelican Publishing Company in Louisiana. Author: Kirstie Myvett / Illustrator: Kameko Madere