Popular frustration amongst Louisianans over the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle in New Orleans has bled over into carnival throws. Just this evening, local affiliate WWLTV reported how an offering of specialty beads with a “Forever Lee Circle” medallion have yielded both cheers and jeers from New Orleanians:
Back in September, Charles Marsala was one of the first to bring attention to a Mardi Gras bead with a design that says Lee Circle Forever.
It wasn’t until this weekend that the existence of the beads blew up on social media suggesting that it may be a hot item. One Facebook page says it is now sold out.
“It took some time, but these beads are very much real,” Marsala said.
Marsala is a part of Save Nola Heritage, a group that wants to educate and demand more transparency from the city about what it does with public art, such as monuments.
“We spent the money from the bead sales, we put banners on the monument itself. Robert E. Lee’s birthday was about two weeks ago,” he said.
Marsala said the beads are not meant to be racist in any way. He wants them to serve as a reminder that Lee Circle still needs attention.
“It should have been done before we have the mayors change office, as to what we are going to do with that area and where the money is going to come from to finish it,” he said.
So far, he estimates about 10,000 beads have been produced and that means some of the beads could hit the streets.
The Etsy site from which the beads were sold does indeed state that the beads are sold out, despite being priced at a premium. With so many beads produced, this means we should be seeing a lot of them as Mardi Gras approaches. I’ll certainly be looking to catch one, particularly given that the medallion appears well-designed:
Just today, however, the Southern Poverty Law Center gave its two cents to the beads, lamenting the fact that they exist “because of course they do.” The SPLC made particular note of the fact the Lee spent little if any time in New Orleans, and opined that “Lee himself has become a Southern symbol for the Lost Cause.”
Of course, ignored by the SPLC is the fact that Lee was predominantly regarded as a unifying figure following his death and throughout the 20th Century. Virtually every U.S. president praised Lee in unequivocal terms. Likewise, even the SPLC conceded that the beads appeared popular thus far, including among many native New Orleanians.
The Forever Lee Circle beads aren’t the only throws memorializing Lee’s statue to look for this year. At least one non-parading krewe’s 2018 doubloon features Lee’s statue on the front.
Owen Courrèges is an attorney living in New Orleans. He has previously written for Uptown Messenger, the Reason Foundation, and the Lone Star Times.