Krewe of Agape overcomes obstacles to preserve Carnival Ball tradition

Published 4:35 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

LAPLACE — Faced with unprecedented obstacles in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, the Krewe of Agape fought to keep their beloved Mardi Gras traditions alive. Holding the 18th Biennial Carnival Bal Masque wouldn’t have been possible without the effort and endurance of participating families.

Founded on the principles of charitable love toward neighbors and the all-encompassing love of God, Krewe of Agape has formed lifelong friendships through more than four decades of Mardi Gras celebrations. Organizer Brannetter James of LaPlace said Krewe of Agape has never cancelled a ball, and this year was no exception.

“It was extremely difficult, but we did it. Parents got together to do football pools and raffles. They really worked hard to see this through, and I have to give all the credit to them. They wanted it, and they did it,” James said. “I think the main reason people were excited to keep it going was because of the legacy involved in it. Now we’ve gotten to the point where we’re actually seeing some of our former debutantes’ daughters coming back. We have some debs’ granddaughters now participating. It made me more aware of how important we are to the community.”

James recalled that her son served as king the same year Hurricane Katrina devastated Southeast Louisiana.

“I thought that was something to deal with. No, it was nowhere near as difficult as this,” James said.
This year’s challenges started before Hurricane Ida. Back in the summer of 2021, Krewe of Agape was informed that the Landmark Hotel in Metairie was closing and converting into a senior citizen’s home. The Landmark had hosted Agape’s Carnival balls since the 1980s, and the organization was suddenly tasked with finding a new ballroom equally as grand.

Some spaces that were available nearby were too small, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to limit the availability of venues.

Krewe of Agape finally landed on L’Auberge Casino and Hotel in Baton Rouge as the venue for the 8th Biennial ball, themed “Agape Salutes Historical Black Sororities and Fraternities.”

The future once again looked uncertain when Hurricane Ida struck on August 29, devastating the River Parishes and leaving many of the members displaced from their homes.

“We called a meeting, and I just knew the consensus would be to delay it until next year,” James said, but the Agape families surprised her when they decided to rise to the challenge.

“They didn’t want to do that,” James continued. “They thought about how the kids have been doing virtual school and missing out on so much. They wanted to try to have some normalcy. We decided we would go on with the ball and try to scale it down to make it feasible for everybody since everyone was going through these same things. We all had to get together and rework numbers.”

Raffle fundraisers for a night at the L’Auberge Casino, a $200 gas card and a Walmart gift card helped offset expenses.

Meanwhile, many of the parties leading up to the ball had to be reworked or rescheduled due to hurricane damage at the venues. Locally, the Knights of Columbus came through and offered space to accommodate the group.

Hurricane impacts also forced Agape to travel to St. James Parish for rehearsals, rather than utilizing the St. John Parish Library system.

Just when it felt like nothing else could go wrong, the girls’ dresses were delayed overseas. The dresses finally arrived, still needing alterations, only one week before the Maids’ Party.

Despite all of the challenges, Krewe of Agape celebrated a successful Carnival ball on the evening of January 13.

Jamil Hakim Sharif and Nydia Maude Marie Cooper served as King Agape XVIII and Queen Agape XVIII, respectively, while Raydell Mason served as Captain Agape.

Maids Lorine Darnell Babin, Raegan Sarai Forest, Yasmin Jami Moore, DoMonique Aaryn Warren and Kaelen Alicia Washington made their royal debut. Also joining in on the fun were ladies in waiting Kenzi Nicole Brass, Randi Yvette Joseph, Madison Brielle Moll and DestiNae Aarilyn Warren; princesses Zynae Armani Jones, Sa’Naijah Simere Nelson, Kaitlyn Ester Marie Barton-Odro and Kayden E’Von McGee; princes D’hani Vary, Jayce Aaron Plummer, Marquis Johnson and Kayden Thodile; pages A’arya Ann Joseph, Darvi Malia Johnson and Amariyah Cherelle Stokes; and heralds Cole and Connor McDowell.

“The commitment we make warrants long-term friendships. We’ve had debutantes meeting through the organizations go to college together and end up in each other’s weddings. We had an extremely good, well-educated group of girls this year. Our little princesses are all honorable students and were all smiles,” James said.

She added, “I think everybody was excited because we were in a new place. We realized we needed a change, but we probably wouldn’t have changed if it weren’t for Ida.”

Several members of the Krewe of Agape family wrote thank you letters following the ball. Dr. Kelli Joseph, a former Krewe of Agape queen, thanked organizers for the opportunity to enjoy the Carnival season and learn about proper society.

“If everyone could observe for themselves what you all do behind the scenes to make all these events happen, they would truly see the meaning of AGAPE in action!” Joseph said. “The anxieties and fears of this disgusting pandemic were put aside for a moment as we enjoyed a little sense of normalcy. Thank you for marching on! I think it’s safe to say we all needed it. With that said, nothing and no one is perfect. We all have room to grow. But, the night of the Ball was the PERFECT gift many of us needed in our lives.”

The Krewe of Agape Royal Court will close out Carnival season by riding in the Krewe of Dagé’s LaPlace parade on February 27.