Loyola professor stands up against Mardi Gras krewe leader

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Loyola professor Lindsay Sproul stands beside her float in the Krewe of Nyx this Mardi Gras season. Sproul helped disband many members from the krewe after a leader posted an All Lives Matter post on Facebook. Courtesy of Lindsay Sproul

Emma Ruby

An All Lives Matter Facebook post took down the Krewe of Nyx before COVID-19 even got the chance to sneeze in its direction.

At the beginning of the national resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests in June, Nyx Captain Julie Lea posted a photo on both her personal Facebook page and the official krewe page, declaring that all lives mattered, and that did not sit right with Loyola English professor and former Krewe of Nyx member Lindsay Sproul.

Mardi Gras 2021 would have been Sproul’s third year riding in the krewe, but the Facebook post ensured it would be her last, and over a thousand other riders agreed. Upset with Lea’s Facebook post and subsequent lack of apology, Sproul decided to resign from the krewe and provide a space for anyone who wished to follow suit to resign as well.

“We made a secret Facebook group that’s called ‘Nyxed2020,’” Sproul said. “Our goal was to write a letter of resignation for anyone who wanted to resign in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Lea’s post, made in the wake of George Floyd’s death, was met with instant backlash. Sproul said that she knew immediately she needed to resign from the krewe.

But while her decision was instant and unflinching, Sproul said she previously had good experiences with the krewe. She said riding allowed her to make friends of all different backgrounds and races and provided her a community experience that culminated in one night, the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday.

“The reason I joined was the diversity. I didn’t see that kind of diversity in any other women’s krewes in New Orleans or other super-krewes at all,” Sproul said. “The first year I did that, it was amazing, and it wasn’t until later that I started to realize some of the problematic elements.”

The first moment Sproul began to feel uncomfortable with the krewe leadership was following the death of Geraldine Carmouche, a pedestrian who was hit and killed by a Nyx float in Mardi Gras 2020. Sproul said Lea’s response both to the family of Carmouche and to the float riders who witnessed the incident was inadequate.

Then, Lea began collecting dues for the 2021 riders at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, a move Sproul found unwarranted.

But for Sproul, the All Lives Matter post was the definitive straw that broke the camel’s back.

Sproul began writing a letter of resignation with fellow rider Kiana Wright, expressing their disagreement with Lea’s stance and issues with the krewe. Sproul said they hoped to show a group of people who supported the Black Lives Matter movement.

When they first submitted the letter to Krewe leadership, it had around 200 names attached. A week later, over 1,100 of the 3,300 riders had resigned.

“People kept dropping in droves,” Sproul said. “They all agreed they can’t be a part of an organization that does not support the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s period, across the board, what we all agree on.”

As people began dropping, Lea did issue a video apology for her post, Sproul said. It was made available only to members of the Krewe, and she said Lea still did not recognize the Black Lives Matter movement in the video.

Instead, Lea, a former New Orleans law enforcement official, defended not knowing what All Lives Matter, a phrase often used to diminish the validity of the Black Lives Matter movement, meant.

“In my opinion, I don’t believe that for a second,” Sproul said. “I think if you’re a former cop in a predominantly black city like New Orleans during a time of unrest, there’s no way you’re ignorant.”

While hundreds of Krewe of Nyx members left the krewe, so did many walking krewes and high school bands that marched with the parade. For Sproul, her immediate concern was raising money to pay the high school bands what they would have been paid for their 2021 march so they would not be fiscally punished for supporting Black Lives Matter.

Sproul, along with other women who left Nyx, came together to start Krewe of Themis, a social justice krewe that will march with Krewe of Freret in future Mardi Gras carnivals. Sproul has since left the Krewe of Themis.

In September, Krewe of Themis announced it will donate nearly $16,000 to high school bands that would have marched with Nyx.

For Sproul, standing as an ally with the Black Lives Matter movement and leaving the Krewe is not something she regrets.

“It’s the right side of history in my opinion,” Sproul said. It’s a movement that should be happening in all areas of our lives and this is just one area of my life. I’m happy to see so many people in support of it. It’s not okay to feign ignorance and remain passive about this.”