One afternoon I got a craving for some seafood. My hunger drove me to visit the downtown location of Po’ Boys Creole CafÃ©.
I met with a friend there and start skimming the menu.
Jambalaya, gumbo and other tasty foods from the bayou tantalized my taste buds.
During my meal, I noticed some shocking art on the restaurant walls. Black – and I do mean black – figurines comprise the “Po’ Boys Jazz Band.”
Not only are they tar black, but have exaggeratedly large, beet red lips with unrealistically white teeth that make their lips stand out even more.
I’m not saying all of Po’ Boys’ decoration is inappropriate. There are a lot of Mardi Gras souvenirs in the restaurant as well and that celebration is historically Creole.
There’s even a poster with a more realistic representation of blacks in a jazz band at the Po’ Boys on Pensacola Street but the art that stands out to me is the inaccurate and insulting works of the downtown restaurant.
Po’ Boys Co-Owner Carmen Calibrese said, “Since so many jazz bands and clubs in New Orleans are of, you know, African-American descent, we just thought it’d be cool to have it (the figurines) in the (downtown) store.”
I have two problems with this band.
One, because Po’ Boys is supposedly a Creole restaurant, the art it displays implies that their subjects are Creole as well. However, these figurines are clearly not Creole.
Two, the restaurant doesn’t fairly and respectfully represent the black race through these works. Under different circumstances, I might dismiss the choice of decoration as ignorant or even racist but for the owners to call their establishment Creole and imply that this art represents Creole and black people is a flat-out lie.
Po’ Boys’ owners are being racially insensitive.
One description of the Louisiana Creole is: “French-speaking white descendants of early French or Spanish settlers; less commonly, it is applied to mulattos speaking a creolized version of French and Spanish.”
So what Po’ Boys failed to portray is Creoles are people who are white or racially mixed.
I know jazz is rooted in black culture but if we’re referring to jazz players in New Orleans who were Creole, is it really safe to say they all were very dark or all black? Only a few weeks ago at two white fraternities’ socials at Auburn University, some fraternity members wore the black face among other insensitive dressings, such as Klan attire and FUBU gear with a noose around one black-faced member’s neck.
This incident and Po’ Boys’ decor continue to prove that there are still people insensitive to the black race in our society.
Although the jazz band representations first appeared at a time that these misportrayals met little resistance, Po’ Boys has ignored what era we’re in now.
My suggestion to the restaurant owners is that they do research and consider the racial issues involved when they want to give customers an image of someone’s people.
It is no longer acceptable to display insulting “examples” of black people.
Although those figurines might be considered collector’s items or works to be appreciated, they should be kept away from the public eye.
So Po’ Boys, be realistic and keep them tucked away in your boxes.
Kamron L. Barton, 21, is a senior newspaper journalism student from Dallas. She can be reached at