New Orleans is one of America’s oldest cities, with some of its black residents lineages dating back to the early 1800s. With such a authentic culture comes an authentic history of the people.
Cierra Chenier started NOIR’N NOLA as a way to educate others about black New Orleans, how to protect black New Orleans culture and it’s history that dates back before the Emancipation Proclamation. Through her platform, she has given free game to hundreds about prominent New Orleans figures like Marie Laveau, Thomy Lafon, Jean Saint Malo, Charles Deslondes and many more. Cierra has become somewhat like our guardian of New Orleans black history. Talking to Cierra about her love and activism for New Orleans inspired me to want to learn more. Read about her, her brand and her heart for activism.
BR: What is NOIR ‘N NOLA?
CC: NOIR ‘N NOLA is a brand highlighting the history, politics, lagniappe and soul of Black New Orleans. It tells our history to correct our present, while laying the foundation for a better future. Through writing, service, events, and creative projects, NOIR ‘N NOLA is a platform honoring the people and culture of Black New Orleans.
BR: When did your love for storytelling and passion for social activism begin to correlate with one another?
CC: I’ve always felt that if we understood just who we are and what we come from, we would see greater value in our lives and communities. We would be supporting each other, pooling our resources together instead of killing each other. The murder rate in New Orleans is a major issue that I’ve never known how to solve, but when that issue hit too close to home, I felt responsible for using what I knew, loved, and was good at to at least say or do something.
That’s when activism combined with storytelling. The most important part of my activism is connecting the stories of the past to its impact on Black New Orleans today. In my storytelling, it’s important for me to write to Black New Orleans in the way that I (we) talk. I don’t focus too much on the structure of the paragraphs, I don’t want people to feel like they’re reading an essay when they’re reading my articles. I’d rather you feel what I said than to be politically correct in how I said it.
BR: As the new generation of New Orleanians emerge from what they were once considered as “Katrina Babies” or “survivors”, to young adults, do you think their stories of resilience talk in their artforms?
CC: I really feel a creative renaissance happening in New Orleans and it’s being led by those that know what’s at stake. We’re the ones that still remember what New Orleans was, but had it stripped away in our adolescence. So as New Orleans culture becomes a commodity, our resilience is us documenting and preserving our communities and stories. Our resilience is in every bit of our artforms, but also in our existence here.
BR: Recently, you’ve been working as a creative director and freelance writer with your company, cierra chenier®️. with that, how do you help clients portray the culture and history of new orleans through your creative direction?
CC: In doing freelance writing and working on creative projects, historical accuracy is huge for me. I like to do extensive amounts of research before even starting the work. My role is always ensuring that the culture and history are portrayed accurately, but also respectfully.
BR: Where do you see yourself with your platform and social activism in 5 years?
CC: In 5 years I see myself in New Orleans, expanding my platform to youth programs, cultural events, community service, and exhibitions. I want to continue to research and tell our lost history. I see myself as a property and business owner, redistributing resources and opportunities to Black communities.
BR: If you could speak to the world right now, as New Orleans, what would she have to say?
CC: “My people and my culture can’t be separated. So when you visit me, adore me, and commercialize me — hire, invest in, honor, and respect those that built me; and who will fight to the death to protect me.”