It has come to my attention, again from NOLAfemmes
, as well as Tracy Thomson, herself, that Wendell Pierce, "Actor, Producer, Business & Community Development, Entrepeneur, Star of HBO's THE WIRE & TREME!" as he calls himself, has 'tweeted' some rather horrible things about New Orleans artist, Tracy Thomson and her business, Kabuki Hats
To see what the trouble is all about, go to the Kabuki site, and click on the link that says; "Click here for your Uncle Lionel Memorial Watch".
Tracy was friends with 'Uncle' Lionel Batiste. But then again, like the late Coco Robicheaux, Uncle Lionel was friends with just about everybody he met.
Especially the Ladies.
He was just that way with people, and everybody loved him for it.
Again, especially the Ladies.
When Lionel Baptiste died, there was an outpouring of love.
NO, make that LOVE.
It was overwhelming. It poured from everyone, everywhere, and pictures were posted all over the internet, faster than one could download them. Everybody who was anybody had their picture taken with Uncle Lionel. I saw him dancing in Sweden, holding court in Denmark, heading up a second line in Paris. It was as if the world had come together in certain circles, literally reaching out across oceans & continents, with the Love this man inspired.
There was similar outpouring after last Thanksgiving, in response to the death of another local legend, Coco Robicheaux. At that time, there were also pictures displayed at his second line, converted to clothing, given away at altars, and downloaded from various fans & loved ones, distraught & reaching out, struggling with their loss, both collective & very, very personal. For both these men were friends to many, many people in their community.
Some pictures of the Coco Robicheaux Second Line Posters & Picture Art are here:
So, back to our story... Tracy Thomson is a self employed, independent artist, living & working in New Orleans for decades. Her business, Kabuki Hats, is her job, her passion and her income. While she has worked relentlessly towards liberating & celebrating independent artists, like herself, she has shown little interest in capitalizing on these things, instead, working on her own, or with partners, to get them started, and then letting them go on with a life of their own.
To her credit are such things as Dirty Linen Night, and the Annual Costume Sale on Frenchman Street, where she & Cree McCree were famously raided under Serpas' War on the Arts.
In short, she is a foot soldier for Free Expression, when called or inspired, yet inevitably finds her way back to the work she loves, the various studio spaces she has called home, and the hats & cats that turn up as if by magic.
During this outpouring over the death of Uncle Lionel Batiste, she created a silly cardboard watch, a copy of the one that Lionel wore so religiously, and adorned the face with is image, as a tribute one might carry at the second line, much as pictures of Coco had been freely handed out at his own memorials. This practice happens across the world, by the way, as mourners carry pictures of passing loved ones along their funeral routes. I have personally seen this in New York's China Town.
Tracy went so far as to get permission from the photographer to use this picture without compensation. This is typical of her, to get others to offer freely of themselves, just as she does, and then put in the work to bring it together, on her own, afterwards. She posted this image online (see the link at the beginning), so anyone & everyone who wanted to express that love, would have a way to do it. She offered these to the Batiste family, and they accepted, and has since been asked by Lionel's Nephew, Markieth, to make more for the pallbearers at Lionel's funeral, as she stated on the NOLAfemme blog, in her typically polite response to Pierce's ugly attacks;
"I have been asked by Markieth, Lionel’s nephew, to make memorial watches
for the pallbearers at Lionel’s funeral. I have made beautiful tributes
at many New Orleans funerals, from banners to flags to fans, and have
never asked to be compensated. As you might notice, I do not even have
my website printed on the watch. People wore them in the second line,
proudly, on their left hand, as Lionel did. I hope your followers DO
click on the link that you posted above, there is a full explanation of
my intentions, and they can print one out for themselves, as a tribute,
not a trinket."
"A Trinket", you ask? Why call it "a trinket"? Because, as Wendell Pierce, "Actor, Producer, Business & Community Development, Entrepeneur, Star of HBO's THE WIRE & TREME!" sees it;
Tracy Thomson is "Pimping Out" Uncle Lionel by doing this.
You can scroll through and see his various tweets about this, here
His first tweet, however, sets the tone for the rest:
"Is Uncle Lionel's image being used to profiteer without compensation to his estate or family? "
A few hours later, without ever having contacted Tracy, although her information is clearly on her site, Mr. Pierce exclaims:
"A special place in Hell for the people"pimping"UncleLionel's image at
the time of his death.Advise the family to trademark his image."
About five minutes later, perhaps further misunderstanding the situation, he posts:
"Just because you own the photo of UncleLionel in a public place during a
second line doesn't give your the moral right to cash in."
"You want to pay tribute buy his records. Treme Brass Band, don't give away his image as a trinket.
Anyway, you get the gist of it. And what stands out to me in this thread of tweets since the first one of the 14th is this; most of his other tweets are about business ventures he has seen throughout his travels, and how to clone them in New Orleans.
Perhaps it is Mr Wendell Pierce who has 'appropriation of ideas' on his mind, coupled with a healthy dose of 'cashing in'. It isn't hard to imagine one's own mindset coloring what they perceive in others. In fact, that's about the most profound thing we humans have come to understand and deal with. Except of course, Mister Wendell Pierce, "Actor, Producer, Business & Community Development, Entrepeneur, Star of HBO's THE WIRE & TREME!"
Mister Pierce makes his money as an actor on a program that exploits the deaths and struggles of an entire city, pretending to be a horn player, until such time as he can fly around Europe, looking for cool business Ideas to bring back to the Idea Village, where he is now on the Board of Directors.
I would think that a man so in touch with the cutting edge, so powerful, with so many goddam titles after his name that I filled up my clipboard twice trying to copy and paste them, a man with 32 THOUSAND FUCKING READERS at his finger tips, would know what he was talking about before trying to crush a small independent business in the very town where he claims he wants to help develop small independent businesses.
Or maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe he isn't drunk with the power he associates with his own image, careening around the world, ripping off somebody else's clever plan, to bring it to the 'Idea Village', and tweeting whatever stupid fucking rumor he thinks he knows something about to THIRTY TWO THOUSAND FUCKING PEOPLE.
I don't think he's that kind of a guy, do you?
So, why don't you ask him?
Ask him why he jumped in between two friends, saying goodbye as one passed from this world, an artist and the family of the departed, sharing images & memories that may comfort them all, and most importantly, why he is so fucking critical of those who were here, dancing in the rain, celebrating the life of an inspiration that likes of which we may not see again, instead of in Paris, studying how to make money by renting bicycles to tourists.
Because that sounds a hell of lot more like pimping than loving your friends enough to work for free.
His Facebook page is here.