Really the only proper pop pilgrimage for Treme would be to move there. Creators David Simon and Eric Overmeyer seem intent on showcasing every corner of the Crescent City, from its most famous restaurants to the tiniest venue where anyone could play a trumpet before an appreciative crowd. For this installment we decided to visit the neighborhood that lent its name to the show: Treme. As Dave Walker points out above, the name Treme only seems like a misnomer, given that only a portion of the series takes place in that neighborhood. Because so much New Orleans music has its roots in Tremé, and because so much of the city’s identity is tied to the music, it’s as apt a title as anyone could dream up.
Walker joined us for a walking tour of the neighborhood starting at St. Augustine’s church, a place with a long, interesting history. It was founded in 1841 by free people of color, making it the oldest primarily black Catholic church in America. Its founders insured it would be welcoming to slaves by purchasing pews for them, a move that upset white parishioners. One of its most famous congregants, Homer Plessy, would go on to play a major role in the history of civil rights as part of the Plessy Vs. Ferguson Supreme Court decision. (He’s buried in the nearby St. Louis Cemetery #1, subject of another Pop Pilgrims installment.) Others include jazz giant Sidney Bechet and Tootie Montana, a famous Mardi Gras Indian Chief.
More recently, it’s served as a symbol of neighborhood resilience. In the aftermath of Katrina, it played an important role in rebuilding the neighborhood. Nonetheless the Archdiocese Of New Orleans ordered St. Augustine’s closed in 2006, announcing it would be merged with another parish. The announcement sparked a nine-day sit-in and, eventually, a reversal of that decision. A show about recovery and community couldn’t ask for a better backdrop.