NewCorp has served as convener of the Mardi Gras Indian nations including the Yellow Pocahontas, Mohawk Hunters, Washitaw Nation, Apache Nation, Naypayshni Cherokee Warriors, Fiyiyi, Indians of the Nation, Hard Head Hunters and Golden Camanche. These groups have formed the Black Mardi Gras Indian Cooperative.
Newcorp has helped the Cooperative develop an operating agreement for their business model and to identify potential markets for retail and manufacturing activities.
“Most of our city’s not bankable,” says Vaugn Fauria, the chief executive officer for NewCorp Incorporated, a community development financial institution. “You know, if you’ve never had any exposure to business then sometimes it’s very hard to understand how you get from one point to the next.”
So Fauria shows people.
NewCorp is a non-traditional bank which likes to be family and friends, as well as business coach and moneylender, to the community it serves.
“Newcorp’s mission is actually to act as a catalyst for wealth in our disadvantaged communities,” explains Fauria. “So whatever that translates into is what we need to do.”
In other words, NewCorp works with people who make great cultural contributions to New Orleans and helps them make what they already do financially viable so that they can keep doing it.
“You better protect everything that is worth anything to you,” advises Fauria.
Take, for example, Mardi Gras Indians.
“I had a number of Black Mardi Gras Indians that were independently my clients,” explains Fauria. So NewCorp convened a coop between these independent business contractors – different nations of Indians. NewCorp gives the Black Mardi Gras Indian Coop convening room and promotes their business decisions: what they decide to market and brand.
“What we know it will offer them is an opportunity to monetize much of what they do right now for free, but everybody else capitalizes on.”
NewCorp helps the Black Mardi Gras Coop monetize what they do by offering resources: attending festivals all around the world, selling their elaborately beaded suits, and deconstructing their suits in order to sell them one piece at a time.
Fauria leads me to a three-dimensional case. Inside is an elaborately beaded portion of a Mardi Gras Indian suit.
“That one’s called Judy’s Garden,” explains Fauria, pointing. “That’s the suit that it came from. This is a piece off of Darryl Montana — Chief Darryl Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas — and it’s a bird and flowers. It’s presented with what appears to be a red cactus lily and small flowers that look like dogwood, and a bird that is blue and gold. We’re trying to make it so that the bird appears to be in flight. Many of the suits, Downtown especially, are 3-D suits.”
“Oh what’s this?” I ask, pointing to another case. “Is this another piece?”
“Oh yes. That’s Benny.”
That’s Benny Ratcliff, a member of the 9th Ward Navajo Mardi Gras Indians.
“This is Benny’s piece. And actually we sold this piece. You see how they put the pinecone and they have the butterfly going up the branch. And that branch comes off of a pine tree. The one in the front, he positioned the butterfly on an orchid stem. Oh my god, it’s so beautiful. And they’ve wrapped them in copper. It’s just gorgeous. You can see the beading on it. It’s exquisite.”
Thanks in part to NewCorp, the people making that exquisite work – the embodiment of New Orleans culture – are the ones getting paid for it.
Written by Eve Abrams for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Learn more about NewCorp.