Voodoo, I don’t: The ongoing saga of teaching in New Orleans

A kid brought a voodoo doll to class the other day.

Sixteen year old high-school sophomore; the doll made by his grandmother. Not one of your cheap, hand-sized, tourist-ready trinkets either; this thing was a full-dress-up-doll size, hand-sewn, with an intricate, traditional looking Haitian dress, shawl and headdress, and it was mounted on one of those collectible doll stands for easy, decorative display.

Curse-on-You Barbie – don’t look for it at Toys-R-Us.

I had been at this school multiple times before, and had dealt with this kid before, this was my third connsecutive day at this school on this assignment. Nice kid, smart, not a huge trouble maker. I engaged him in a conversation about the doll, and asked why he brought it to school. He told me that his grandmother gave it to him, and that if he had a problem with anyone, he could use it to put a curse on them. “All I have to do is touch the part of the body of the doll and it makes the person start hurting”. I nodded. “Interesting. Won’t work on me, though. I don’t believe in voodoo”. He looked at me quizzically, like ‘why-would-I-be-putting-a-curse-on-you’?

I said that I thought you had to physically do something to the voodoo doll, like a sticking it with a pin or something, to really make that work. He nodded; “Yeah, that’s true. But there are just curses too”.
“Yep. I’ve heard about that. Your family big into voodoo”?
He shook his head vigorously, “Oh no. My mama don’t want this stuff around. Just my grandma”.
“I see. And you”? The kid shrugged; he looked conflicted. “Your grandma did a lot of work on this. It looks pretty cool”. He nodded again.

A while later, I noticed the doll, on its stand, atop a bookcase by the teachers desk; it was facing outward at the courtyard three floors below. I Jokingly asked if he was trying to put a curse on the kids hanging around in the courtyard below. Again, he vigorously shook his head ‘no’. “I just don’t like it looking at me” he said firmly. I nodded. “O.K.”.

At the end of class, I saw the kid out of the corner of my eye. He quickly grabbed the doll, thrust it deep into his backpack, appearing to cover it with other things. He quickly headed toward the doorway, said ‘bye’ when I told him to have a great day, and that was that.

I have no moral for this episode, no punch line this time. It was just one of those moments I thought worth sharing as part of our ongoing escapade of teaching in the Crescent City.



2 thoughts on “Voodoo, I don’t: The ongoing saga of teaching in New Orleans

  1. kayroseland January 14, 2010 / 5:04 pm

    Marie Laveau, c’est moi…. or toi ….
    Format above looks great….
    Kinda makes you remember that show and tell varies from culture to culture…..


  2. kathy p January 15, 2010 / 11:06 am

    I kind of miss you and your jokes. After all, April fools day is right around the corner. Keep ’em coming. I enjoy reading these, and I hate to read. Heard from Hugh Jass lately?


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