Trio of Nyx spinoff krewes roll with established krewes, focus on social justice

Print More

Robert Morris, Uptown Messenger file photo

Krewe of Nyx captain Julie Lea greets the crowds on Magazine Street in 2018.

The Mystic Krewe of Nyx parade grew quickly after its first parade in 2012, but its collapse was even quicker. The women’s krewe continues to parade on the Wednesday before Mardi Gras, though its 2022 parade was significantly smaller.

Many Nyx members exited the krewe in summer 2020 over a controversial social media posts by krewe Captain Julie Lea as the Black Lives Matter movement was surging nationwide. At that time, some members cited other complaints about Lea’s leadership, and a class-action lawsuit was filed.

If you looked closely at the Saturday (Feb. 11) parades, you would find three new women’s krewes — Themis, Phoenix and Harmonia — that formed in 2020 after the mass resignations following the Nyx debacle. 

The Krewe of Themis now rolls with the Krewe of Freret. The Mystical Order of The Phoenix parades with the Knights of Sparta. And the Krewe of Harmonia is part of the Krewe of Pygmalion parade.

Because the city is not issuing any new parade permits, these krewes, now in their second year on floats (parades did not roll in 2021), joined existing krewes to be able to parade.

Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger file photo

The Krewe of Themis now rides with the Krewe of Freret.

Krewe of Themis

The Krewe of Themis was founded by former Nyx members who didn’t know each before 2020. The two founders, Kimya Holmes and Kiana Wright, joined together after a long process of seeking justice from the Nyx krewe that they had just left. 

Immediate actions were paying the school bands that also pulled out of Nyx in protest. Holmes said, “Anyone in New Orleans realizes that parade bookings are an important source of income for local schools whose bands participate. We ended up raising $16,000 and were able to give each of the schools $2,600.”

She then realized that the monies collected to tip the tractor drivers was never disbursed to them, so Holmes, an attorney, again went into action and sent a letter to the Nyx organization demanding a refund. The krewe did issue a refund in June 2020, nearly five months after the tractor drivers should have been paid.

“As we were taking action against our former krewe, we realized there was enough camaraderie to start a new organization,” Holmes said. Their new krewe, Themis, is named for the Greek goddess of justice who symbolizes their stated commitment  “to social justice, diversity and inclusion.”

And true to the Krewe of Themis name, they have more than one community outreach project. They have donated to six local schools and adopted a family for Christmas. They also have an on-going “Fees for Philanthropy,” whereby when members incur late fees, the monies are donated to charity. The members submit their choices, and the board picks three from the list to receive donations. 

The Themis signature throws are one-of-a-kind hand decorated small umbrellas. The krewe chose umbrellas as an ode to the Baby Dolls, and because of umbrellas’ significance in second-lines. Plus the surface of an umbrella – albeit small – is a great canvas on which to work. A selection of this year’s best creations, “Parasols on Parade,” merited an exhibit at the Stella Jones Gallery. 

Robert Morris, Uptown Messenger file photo

The Knights of Sparta parade now includes the Mystic Order of the Phoenix.

Mystical Order of the Phoenix

The Uptown Messenger caught up with Heather Nichols, the Chairman of the Mystical Order of the Phoenix and its Co-Chairman Gigi Saak recently to talk about their new krewe on the Carnival scene. As Nichols said, “The details of Nyx are well-known, so we don’t have to go into that, but Gigi [Saak] and I were in leadership positions, and we wanted to preserve what we had on our floats.”

So these former lieutenants got a harmonious group together. When it came to choosing a name, Saak said, “This was a re-birth for us, so the metaphor of the Phoenix [rising from the ashes] was an obvious one.” And thus the Mystical Order of the Phoenix was born. 

As they formed the new krewe, the founders decided to have a different organizational structure from the way most krewes operate. The krewe is governed by a 10-member collective, and does not have the traditional position of captain.

Decisions and policy are made as a group, based on mutual respect. In fact, they pride themselves on being all about their members — both riding and non-riding — with the catch phrase “Hail You!”

In keeping with their management style, the Phoenix signature throw was selected by committee. Saak explained: “We wanted to have something that was easy both to throw, and to take on the float. Also, it needed to be affordable, and could be upcycled or recycled.”

So they picked hand-decorated plastic chargers or trays of various shapes. These lend themselves to all skill levels and they can be decorated in a variety of ways. Parade goers will see them glittered, decoupaged, painted or montaged, to name some decorating options.  

Phoenix shares activities with the Spartan Society (formerly known as the Knights of Sparta), such as deciding which bands and groups join the parade, yet they each maintain their own separate royalty.

And they have a community service project in common. The Phoenix project, called “Flames of the Future,” provides scholarships to three young women. This is paired with Sparta’s program, “Torchbearers of Tomorrow,” that funds scholarships for three young men. The six lucky recipients also get to ride on a float at the end of the parade. 

Phoenix also has a philanthropy project with Hotel Hope, a faith-based organization that moves families from homelessness to self-sufficiency. The partnership includes donations, volunteer work and a moms’ day out for constituents. The executive director, Sister Mary Lou Specha, will be honored this year with a ride in Phoenix. 

Robert Morris, Uptown Messenger file photo

The Krewe of Harmonia has joined with Krewe of Pygmalion to parade on the first Saturday of Uptown parades.

Krewe of Harmonia

The Krewe of Harmonia is named for the Greek goddess of harmony and concord. It too was established in 2020 to connect a group of diverse women. They aim to bring women of all backgrounds together in a harmonious environment to celebrate Carnival, and build lifelong bonds and friendships. The krewe is dedicated to diversity and transparency. 

This new krewe encourages its riders to not throw plastic beads, but rather pivot to more useful and sustainable throws. For kids, there are items such as soccer balls and games. Harmonia’s signature throws are handmade necklaces by Copperhead Studios Joycelyn Boudreaux.

Its website states it mission: “The Krewe of Harmonia is dedicated to modern, forward thinking Carnival values that are rooted in social responsibility while exemplifying professionalism and class by a truly diverse group of women who also know how to have a great time. Like our namesake, our krewe seeks to embody harmony between our members and the community while exemplifying grace and class. Our goal is to lift up the community through our debutante program, which will serve as a bridge between both the privileged and underserved members of our community. We plan to sustain this bridge of harmony through dedication and concord.” 

One of Krewe of Harmonia’s recent community service projects was a vaccination canvassing in the Lafitte neighborhood to inform residents about a Covid vaccination station coming to their area. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *