Mardi Gras: Bringing Soapboxes Back

Take me down to New Orleans, where the people merge and there’s more behind the scenes. Beyond the partying on Bourbon Street (wait, there’s more than Bourbon Street…), you’ll find people who use the celebration as a way to engage an audience en mass.

You’ll know who they are when you pass them on the street. They’re the person who will be giving the impromptu speech with the intentions of stilling your moving feet. They’re probably standing on something, so that they can be seen by all, and speaking loud enough for you to hear them above the gazillion other voices shouting their calls.

The term coin for this way of addressing the public is known as giving a soapbox speech. Often the topics being spoken about are related to issues regarding politics, religion, or an appeal. This unofficial form of public speaking dates back to 19th century when people would use old, discarded crates (empty soap boxes) to elevate themselves when addressing a crowd.

Big events like Mari Gras are an opportunity for public speakers such as preachers because the massive audience is already gathered to celebrate, granting speakers with a guaranteed audience and the chance to exercise their 1st Amendment Rights.

The video below, created by Joseph Lillie, depicts a few street preachers from Mardi Gras, 2017. Since the video is long, I suggest jumping around to see a bit of everything:

Some people stop, expressing animosity, while others pass by ignoring the preachers. At one point in the video, around 21:20, a man approaches the preachers to express that they’re being disrespectful to other performers. In this case, the man is referring to musicians like himself. Eventually, they come to a resolution and part ways.

When visiting New Orleans this past weekend I was able to witness these soapbox speeches. There were speakers and performers on every corner and balcony vying for attention. I’d never been in a city that was so rich in art, culture, and literature. I stopped and listened to most before winding my way through the French Quarter. The city was alive from dawn-to-dawn and it was a never-ending flurry of novelties. One can learn a lot from one visit to New Orleans.

I’d love to hear about your Mardi Gras experiences! Comment or Tweet @cayla_redlon.

Warmest Regards & Mahalo

Image Credit: Cayla Nolder

Image Credit: Cayla Nolder



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