If you were perusing Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr or any number of other social media during either weekend of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival this month, you may have seen some cool Coachella fashions.
You may have also seen this meme—adapted from the ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats—in response and the inevitable online mockery and/or outrage that came with it. It represents a significant pushback to the unsettling number of Coachella festivalgoers wearing Native American fashions this year.
Obviously, there are some Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to festivals. Obviously, don’t do what a handful of celebrity festivalgoers including Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, actress Vanessa Hudgens and model Amber Rose did.
But where, oh where, this festival season can you find an event that's an overall Do? One where diversity of all types is respected?
Guess what? Just such a festival has been around since before Coachella even started. It’s the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, founded in 1970. This year’s Jazz Fest kicked off its first of two weekends Friday. There, you’ll find folks wearing Native American headdresses at Jazz Fest’s Native American Village, where actual natives from area tribes like the Houma demonstrate their culture (music, dance, crafts, and so on) on their terms.
But there are others wearing headdresses. And this is where the cultural gumbo that is Jazz Fest and New Orleans as a whole get interesting. Some folks wearing headdresses at the festival are Mardi Gras Indians, African Americans with a longstanding tradition of “masking”—dressing in ornate Native American-like garb they make by hand—as a way of paying tribute to the cultural exchange of native tribes and free blacks or runaway African slaves in the area during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.
Beyond Native American cultures, Jazz Fest holds a yearly Cultural Exchange Pavillion paying tribute to a culture from abroad that’s influenced New Orleans. This year, it’s all about Brazil. The festival has partnered with the Brazilian government, its Ministry of External Relations and the country’s Bahia State Secretary of Culture, among other Brazilian entities to bring the country’s music, dance, crafts, puppetry and more to the festival.
Let’s not forget the festival lineup itself, which is diverse in its headliners (Carlos Santana, Public Enemy, Christina Aguilera), rising acts (New Orleans’ own bounce rapper Big Freedia, Solange) and local favorites (Kermit Ruffins, John Boutte) spanning genres of pop, rock, rap, blues, jazz, gospel and world music from countless different countries.
Jazz Fest’s age diversity is worth noting. While most festivals of comparable size are almost entirely twenty somethings, Jazz Fest hosts entire families—all ages, eight to 80—both on- and offstage. As with most festivals, the gender of its attendees are generally reflective of the population: half and half.
So if you’re still upset about Coachella, don’t fret. Or at least take stock. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been paying proper tribute to diverse music and culture. And it likely will be for a while.