Saturday, February 10, 2018

BRINGING AMÉDÉ HOME

Yesterday I received an invitation to an event my friend Darrell Bourque, former poet laureate of Louisiana, has been working on for at least two years — the unveiling of a statue and ceremony honoring the Creole musician, Amédé Ardoin, at the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center in Opelousas, Louisiana, March 11. This event marks the finale to a movement sponsored by Darrell Bourque and Acadiana area supporters commemorating Ardoin’s contribution to Cajun and Creole music.

Amédé Ardoin, at age 43, was beaten by a group of men, following a dance in St. Landry Parish at which he sang in his high-pitched voice, for using a white woman’s handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his brow. He suffered severe injuries, perhaps to his brain, and was committed to the State hospital in Pineville, Louisiana where he later died.

Bourque, who is among recipients of the Louisiana Folklife Award, was intrigued by the musician’s story and composed unrhymed sonnets written in the voices of people who knew Ardoin; e.g., the famous Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee. Bourque’s collection of poems are contained within his book, if you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook, published by Yellow Flag Press in 2014. He donated a portion of the proceeds from this book to help launch the campaign to “Bring Amédé Home,” and has been tireless in his efforts to raise enough money to commission a sculptor to create a statue of this musician. He describes his work on the Ardoin project as one created for the vitalization of the Creole/Cajun culture.

One of Bourque’s sonnets that touched me with its poignancy, included in if you abandon me, describes Ardoin’s stay at the mental institution in Pineville, Louisiana:

Admissions-Medical Records Clerk: Case No. 13387:

He came to us on 9.26.42 and he couldn’t sign
his name. Didn’t talk anymore the family said. 
That’s why they brought him here. No eating
no sleeping, walking around at night, mumbling

to himself, and only 43. On the Medical Index Card
the most frequent entry is none, or something close
to none. Previous Attacks: None. Hereditary History:

None. Correspondent: None given. Discharged:
(blank). Died: 11.3.42. Disposition of body: (here),
here, an unmarked grave in the Pineville hospital yard.

His people quit coming to see him. He went through
the gates from time to time but someone always found
him and brought him back. His mumbling stopped.
He hummed quietly from time to time. He died alone. — Darrell Bourque —


Ardoin will be “brought home” at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 11, 2018, to the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center, 978 Kennerson Road, Opelousas, Louisiana.


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