Festival of Words goes to church

by Wynce Nolley

The Festival of Words Thursday hosts an oral history discussion on the cultural and social roles that churches in Grand Coteau played in the local community.

The Festival of Words is hosting an oral history discussion of the social role the Christ the King Church in Grand Coteau served in the local community. The presentation will be followed by a literary reading from local poet Claire Martin and an open mic. The presentation begins Thursday at 7 p.m. at Casa Azul Gifts in Grand Coteau.

The discussion will be presented by Hazel Richard and Ann Mayfield, two longtime Grand Coteau residents who will serve as unofficial historians reflecting on the influence that the Christ the King Church, now St. Charles Chapel, had on the area's Creole community from the 1940s to 1970s.

"The fairs were in support of the local black church called Christ the King Church and served as a fundraiser for the Creole community and also a kind of community center for people getting together with their families," says Patrice Melnick, director of the Festival of Words literary organization. "The black community actually built the church; it was a very important part of the community as well as people's lives."

The discussion will also be filmed and archived by its co-sponsors, the UL Center for Louisiana Studies and the Imperial St. Landry Genealogical & Historical Society.

Following the discussion will be Claire Martin reading selections from her latest collection of poetry called Eating the Heart First. And concluding the evening will be an open mic, which includes a group poem that travels around the room receiving a new line from every hand it passes before being read aloud.

Melnick describes the event as a "friendly and formal situation," which is free and open to all ages with refreshments including pineapple cider and King Cake. The event will be held Thursday, Jan. 3, from 7-9 p.m. at Casa Azul Gifts, 232 ML King Drive in Grand Coteau. For more information about the Festival of Words and its upcoming events, call Casa Azul at (337) 662-1032 or emailĀ [email protected].