On July 16, 2013 we posted “Celebrating Creole Communities,” an event I attended celebrating multi-ethnic Creole families at a Bastille Day commemoration in Marksville, Avoyelles parish. The celebration continued in New Roads, Point Coupee parish. At the Julien Poydras Museum and Arts Centre, hosted by the Pointe Coupee Historical Society, Les Creoles de Pointe Coupee and Arts Council of Pointe Coupee, I had the delight to listen to a group singing in the Creole language. Since that time I’ve been in contact with Mrs. Mary Toussaint Croom a principal singer with the group. I’ve heard a lot of people talk ABOUT the Creole language but had never heard it spoken or sung. With my curiosity aroused I decided to pursue this further to provide more information for our readers as well as myself.
At 83 years old, Mrs. Croom is delighting audiences with her obvious love of singing in the language she heard in her family while growing up in Pointe Coupee parish. As she told me, her parents spoke Creole but not around her. Mary believes her parents wanted a better life for their children so it was necessary for them to learn “proper English.” However, Mary would sneak, listen and learn “picking up on what the grown folks said.” She never used to speak Creole to anyone because it was kind of embarrassing. She said she identified as a Creole growing up and thought all Creoles were black until, as an adult, she met groups of people who didn’t look like her.
Mary grew up poor, raised on a farm, sharecropping. All of the older people spoke Creole all the time. When she moved to New Orleans in 1952 she stopped speaking the language since there was no one to talk with. She believes the language is gone because people never respected it and there aren’t enough people left to keep it alive. In her words, “The whole train is gone. Nothin’ but the caboose is left.”
Mary decided to begin singing after The Storm (aka Hurricane Katrina) when she made it back to New Roads and joined a small group that was writing stories about Creole life. She likes spirituals which she learned in English and translated into Creole from the language “embedded in [her] head.” Her creative process is interesting. She holds conversations with herself, “between me and me,” in Creole when she can’t sleep in which she visualizes the religious experience and then the translation happens.
Mary Genevia Toussaint Croom, known as Bootsie when she was young, at age 85 completed a CD titled “Bootsie Sings Creole” in English and Creole. Liner notes provided in English and Creole let the listener follow along in English while she’s singing in Creole. Here is a snippit of the well-known spiritual “Steal Away Home” in Creole
Mrs. Mary Toussaint Croom has a CD of her songs available for purchase which you can obtain by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org.