PHOTOS: Community gathers to Remember Sylvester Francis, founder of the Backstreet Cultural Museum

Voodoo Queen Kalindah Laveaux, left, and Monogram Hunters 2nd Chief Jeremy Stevenson, center, celebrate the life of Sylvester “Hawk” Francis at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Treme Neighborhood of New Orleans, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, after Francis passed from a long illness. He was 73 years old.

by Matthew Hinton
September 2, 2020

Voodoo Queen Kalindah Laveaux, left, and Monogram Hunters 2nd Chief Jeremy Stevenson, center, celebrate the life of Sylvester “Hawk” Francis at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Treme Neighborhood of New Orleans, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, after Francis passed from a long illness. He was 73 years old.

His son Sylvester Francis, Jr., wearing white mask, danced to the music of the Treme Brass Band and a band led by trombonist Corey Henry. During a break trumpeter Kermit Ruffins played a solo of “I’ll Fly Away.” After its founding in 1999 the museum became a gathering point for Mardi Gras and Carnival revelers, Black Masking Indians, Baby Dolls. The Northside Skull and Bone Gang started Mardi Gras every year from the museum to wake up Mardi Gras revelers at dawn’s first light. Francis was a member of Gentlemen of Leisure Social Aid & Pleasure Club and many Indians including Big Chief Victor Harris, top left, of the Spirit of FiYiYi and Mandingo Warriors donated their beautiful suits to the museum and FiYiYi would often gather at the museum for Fat Tuesday and St. Joseph’s Night on March 19th. FiYiYi little spy boy T.J. Polite, age 3, played drums.

Matthew Hinton is a New Orleans area freelance photographer whose work has been recognized by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Best of Photojournalism Awards in 2014 and 2016, and by numerous awards from the Press Club of New Orleans, including the Hal Ledet President's Print Photography Award, the highest honor the Press Club can bestow upon a photographer. Matthew Hinton has previously been a staff photographer at both of the daily newspapers in New Orleans. His work has appeared nationally and internationally through freelance work with the Associated Press and AFP, Agence France-Presse.

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