The Historic New Orleans Collection has received and accepted the donation of two strings of “Forever Lee Circle” Mardi Gras beads that resulted in a lifetime ban from the Krewe of Freret for one rider earlier this year.
Mimi Owens, owner of the Facebook page Forever Lee Circle was banned from riding with the Krewe of Freret after throwing her politically-themed Mardi Gras beads while riding as a guest of a Krewe of Freret’s Legion of Mars group. The beads displayed the name of the group and an image of the Robert E. Lee statue that was removed from Lee Circle in 2017. According to Krewe of Freret captain Bobby Hjortsberg, the beads are in direct opposition to the Krewe’s standards and beliefs.
“This was an individual who decided to use our Mardi Gras parade to exercise her own political agenda, and that won’t be tolerated,” Hjortsberg said in a statement to NOLA.com earlier this year. “Especially when that agenda is not in line with the inclusive nature that our organization embodies.”
The New Orleans municipal code also bans krewes from throwing anything that “displays, conveys, or communicates any commercial, political, or religious message.”
The museum accepted the beads on April 17, sending a letter of thanks to Owens for her contribution. “The Board of Directors of The Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) has gratefully accepted your donation of two beads with medallions,” stated a letter signed by HNOC Assistant Registrar Rachel Ford. “It will complement The Collection’s existing holdings, and will be a welcome addition to the material that can be made available to researchers.”
According to Owens, she feels vindicated by the acceptance. “I’ve been continually vilified by the media on many social media platforms simply for standing up for what I believe in. So this takes some of the sting out of being banned and branded a White Supremacist.”
In a Facebook post, Owens said that the point of the bead “was to hopefully destigmatize Lee in order for the community to feel comfortable coming forward, not afraid of being branded racist and insisting that they put his statue back on his pedestal.”
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.