They All Asked for Voodoo

Jack Conrad and Marie Laveau were invoked at the recent ball, the 117th one, of the Original Illinois Club, which took place at the Alario Center and recalled the association of Conrad and Laveau with voodoo, the religion of the slaves from the western part of Africa. Cast as Conrad at the ball was Dr. Robert R. Newsome Sr., while the part of Marie Laveau, a spiritual force in New Orleans and a consummate businesswoman, was Miss Jade Dedeaux, a former OIC queen.

The opening of the ball, themed “Jack Conrad’s Voodoo on the Bayou,” and debutante cotillion was initiated by the appearance of the 2018 captain, “Coco Robicheaux,” as portrayed by Mr. Tracey L. Thibodaux. Accompanying the captain were his heralds, Misses Rayven and Rayion Payton and Ms. Kimberly Shields. Then, master of ceremonies E.J. Roberts gave a brief history of the club. It was founded in 1895 by Mr. Wiley Knight, who came to New Orleans and “organized a school of dance for both sexes for people of color.” The dance class staged its first “Carnival ball” that year. With the exception of national and local emergencies, the club has staged a Carnival ball every year since then. The balls and debutante cotillions have been a hallmark of the social season. After the history, club President Lynn J. Dedeaux introduced the club members and their ladies.

Traditionally, at this time, King Illinois 2018, Mr. William Joseph Washington, would have been introduced with his pages and member escorts. However, he died in October. At the ball his royal position was commemorated by a prayer song performed by Mrs. Denise Tartt-Reid, a debutante maid in the court of 1984. Pages to King Illinois 2018 were Misses Imari Corriane Felix and Zoe Reese Smallwood.

In alphabetical order, royal court debutantes to the queen appeared: Misses Alyssa Marie Lastrapes, Andi Alyssa Robinson, Victoria Marie Devore Thomas and Jaya Rene Young. The royal maids to the queen were Misses Kaitlyn Elizabeth August and Brice Milanne Berger. Mr. Christopher L. Hammond served as the debutante chairman.

The highlight of any Carnival ball is the arrival of her majesty before her subjects. Following the introduction of the above debutantes and with trumpet fanfare, the radiant queen of the 2018 ball entered the ballroom. She was Miss Anya Isabella Rose Knudsen Washington, daughter and stepdaughter of Mr. and Mrs. William J. Washington II, and daughter of Ms. Krystal R. Knudsen. Queen Anya is the granddaughter of Mrs. Rogerwene Duncan Washington and the late king. Other grandparents are Mrs. Donya L. Knudsen and Mr. Temple Causey, and Mrs. Ildiko Bernhardt. Her majesty’s pages were Misses Sky Angel Paxton and Jamie Christina Barnes.

Led by Queen Illinois and her escort, Jack Conrad, in the royal promenade, the debutantes and their escorting members danced the traditional club waltz, “The Chicago Glide” to the music of “Dance, Dance, Queen Illinois,” a dance performed at the club’s first ball. It was followed by entertainment by the “Bambula 2000” dancers.

More significant moments of the gala evening were presentations and gifts to club members Mr. Charles F. Webb Sr. and, posthumously, to Mr. William J. Washington (accepted by his family) for three decades of service to the club. Additional recognition went to the Young Men Illinois Club president and captain, Ms. Margie Scooby, Mr. Alvin Tillman, Ms. Wiletta Ferdinand, and Mr. Robert Loupe. Also, to Mmes. Bettye P. Johnston, Marion W. Maheia, Tracy Dedeaux and Rogerwene D. Washington, as well as to Kathleen Hutcherson.

Club President Dedeaux and 2018 ball captain Tracey L. Thibodaux were acknowledged for their dedication during a special presentation. In addition to the president, OIC officers assisting with arrangements were Messrs. Walter L. Dixon, Hammond, Andrew P. Harris, Thomas J. Hutcherson Sr., H. Kenneth Johnston, Mark V. Joseph Sr., Anthony F. Maheia, Newsome, Roberts, and Webb. A special waltz by OIC members and their ladies, guest callouts, and general dancing with a second line by the Stooges Brass Band concluded the gala ball. But the evening and all of its enchantment will remain a vivid memory for her majesty Anya and her court for decades to come.

A Tribute to Travel

“Wanderlust” titled the debutante party in honor of Miss Anya Isabella Rose Knudsen Washington shortly before her reign at the Original Illinois Club ball. The Jefferson Orleans North was the venue. A native of New Orleans, Anya attended high school in Rockville, Maryland. Her party’s marquee derives from her love of travel, which has included jaunts to 20 states and 10 countries, including New Zealand.

The invitation to her fete showed as hostess Mrs. Rogerwene Duncan Washington, Mrs. William James Washington. The name of Anya’s late grandfather, Mr. Washington, was included on the invitation as well, because he would have been a co-host. Their family, friends and OIC VIPs were invited for 7 p.m. with the presentation scheduled a half hour later. The dress code was a tuxedo for the men and a long gown for the women.

As guests entered, they were immediately delighted with the decorations, such as the blue, white and silver balloon arch. The “Wanderlust” theme was duly represented by maps and globes on the tables. Atop the tables were vases holding blue and white flowers, tea lights and more world globes.

Adding personal “decoration” was the honored Anya, who, to receive, chose a Cinderella-style dress of royal blue with a bodice embellished with beads and glittering stones. It was by LYDA Formals–2Cute. Alfred Angelo designed her presentation gown, which was made of white taffeta with beading and stone embellishments.

When the formalities started, there was a music prelude by Silk and Satin, followed by an invocation by Mr. Christopher L. Hammond, the club’s chaplain (and debutante chairman). Mistress of ceremonies Doris L. Porter and OIC President Lynn J. Dedeaux figured next on the program, right before the debutante’s father, William J. Washington II, recognized the family. Dr. Robert R. Newsome Sr. presented the beaming honoree, who, before her remarks, was toasted by her father. Anya then gave gifts to the OIC debutantes, Misses Kaitlyn Elizabeth August, Brice Milanne Berger, Alyssa Marie Lastrapes, Andi Alyssa Robinson, Victoria Marie Devore Thomas and Jaya Rene Young.

Dancing concluded the program with Anya’s Waltz, which she enjoyed with her father; the Grand Waltz, the OIC members and the 2018 debutantes; and the Members’ Waltz, the OIC members with their wives or lady guests. Social dancing capped the formalities.

Special thanks were extended to debutante consultants Marion Maheia and Bettye Johnston; hostesses Jaune Lewis, Kyla Royal and Karma Williams; photographer Jade Dedeaux; and music makers Robert Perry, Silk and Satin, and DJ Ernest.

Among the many applauding Anya were her mother, Krystal Knudsen; stepmother Claudia Bernhardt (Mrs. William James Washington II); and deb sisters Ildiko O. Washington and Ava Judge. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Paul Duncan Sr., Dr. William and Dr. Roslyn Holmes, Marieva Knudsen, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Walter Washington, Mr. and Mrs. Allan Pierlas, Susan Cooper, and Tracey Wiley.

Ultimately for a young lady who loves the open road and all of its adventures, Anya found a special thrill at her party right here in New Orleans.