Designing for the Ninth Ward

Corey Woods (middle), Nine Times parade, 2012
Corey Woods (middle), Nine Times parade; 2012; by and courtesy of Pableaux Johnson

Troy Materre: I was a founding member of Nine Times, and their designer for many years. Everything was a learning process. The first year we came out, we cut the sticks out, and Kevin Dunn from the Original Four covered them. I looked at them and thought, “I could do that!”

The next year, I met the late, great Nathaniel Willis of the Single Men through one of our club members, Raymond Williams. Our second year with Nine Times, he done our sash—they call them screamers. He brought me to his house and showed me design work. I really got to give a big old shout out to him. He said, “Before I continue doing this, you gonna learn this.” At first I was like, “I don’t want to learn!” He started me doing fans. It’s a tradition that men will carry big ones; the women will have small ones.

Eventually, he showed me the screamers. I really put my foot and effort into it. Coming home from work every night— going to bed one, two o’clock in the morning—until I got this like I wanted it. And it came out to be such a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t let my club members see it, ‘til I got completed. I enjoyed seeing their reaction. It wasn’t about me being satisfied; it was more the enjoyment of my club saying, “We got something here.”

When you do your own work, a lot of people think somebody else done it. On the street, they’ll ask, “Who done that?” I was telling my members, “Don’t tell them I done it, cause I didn’t want nobody to know!” I’m just going to continue doing it for my club.

We all like to parade where we come from, and I like to design for them. When people found out we was going to parade in the Ninth Ward after Katrina, they came to us and said, “Man, that’s all tore up there.” But we going to bring it back to life: “If we go down there and show these people that we still can do what we do, they going to come down and help rebuild it. So we going down here.” And we went down there.

Finding A Sunday

Troy Materre, Nine Times parade, 2012
Troy Materre, Nine Times parade; 2012; by and courtesy of Pableaux Johnson

In 2013, on Nine Times’ 15-year anniversary, some of the older club members of Nine Times and I asked if we could we come as a second division. I was imagining how we could grow like the Young Men Olympia did—if we have twenty of us parading, let’s divide: ten up here, ten back there. Get two bands. Got thirty? Get three bands! We got enough members to raise enough money. But they told us no. We left Nine Times, and started to look for another date in the Ninth Ward.

Mark: But it’s not up to us.

Troy: I went through the process, and was told, “Friend, you gotta get in line.” Sundays aren’t available at all. I’m like “OK, I can wait.” And we’ve been waiting.

Mark: It depends on clubs dropping out.

Troy: And that ain’t happening no time soon. We started having meetings at the Fountain of Youth over there on St. Roch Avenue, but we couldn’t come up with a name.

Mark: Nine Times had a dance. We had a logo, but we didn’t have a name, and we wanted to go to the dance. We said, “OK let’s just put a question mark on some bricks to symbolize the Desire Project.”

Troy: I guess that just stole the show. They just was shocked—

Mark: To see us together.

Troy: A while later, at Nine Times’ King and Queen Party at the Carver Theater on Orleans Avenue, I ran into the president of the Dumaine Gang, Byron Hogans. I’ve known Byron for years. He played basketball at O. Perry Walker Senior High against our school, George Washington Carver. There was a rivalry between him and our star player, Perry McDonald. You had to be there before the gym opened to get in that game!

We also knew each other through parades. Nine Times had been associating with Dumaine ever since we started our clubs. We came to their parade in the Sixth Ward; they came to ours. For years, they hosted a stop for Nine Times at the Avenue Bar on Franklin Avenue. It was one of our best stops. When we got to Dumaine, we knew we was straight. We was set up right with food and drinks.

At the Carver Theater, Byron said, “Bruh, how would y’all like to parade with us?”

And it was like, “Let’s do it!” If you want to parade and somebody offers you a spot on their date, you go ahead and take it. You don’t refuse it: “Naw, bruh, we from the Ninth Ward.” We went to their meeting. “Y’all tell us what we got to pay, and we coming.”

Troy: When the second line first saw us parading with Dumaine, it was like—

Mark: “That’s Nine Times! They out of their ward!

? Mark Social and Pleasure Club, Dumaine Gang parade, 2012
? Mark Social and Pleasure Club, Dumaine Gang parade; 2017; by and courtesy of Vincent Simmons


Troy: Everyone wanted to know what happened. They wanted to know did we have beef with Nine Times. I tell everybody, “It’s nothing personal.”

Mark: No.

Troy: We just choose to step out and do our thing.


Troy: As a club, we always vote on the colors, and then my mind will start to go to clicking and thinking: “How can I put this together? How can I coordinate this?” I start coming up with all the different types of ideas, like [finger snap]. But when I first saw our suit for 2016, I’m like “No, that’s the wrong suit!”

The saleswoman called me back and said, “Troy, try that suit with this shirt.” I brought it to the other fellas: “What y’all think?” When they sent us the shoes, I said, “The shoes gonna match the shirt. Now let’s get the hat to match them shoes. We’ll just blend these two colors in.” This hat, this shirt, and these shoes were never supposed to match with none of that, but it did.

When we get under the I-10 overpass on North Claiborne, it feels like you in a whole different atmosphere under that bridge. It’s a beautiful sound.

Mark: It gets a lot louder under the bridge, yeah. It echoes.

Keith 'Twin' Howard (center) with ? Mark Social and Pleasure Club, Dumaine Gang parade
Keith "Twin" Howard (center) with ? Mark Social and Pleasure Club, Dumaine Gang parade; 2016; by and courtesy of Vincent Simmons


Troy: You got the whole crowd in your line. Everybody jumping with you. It’s the rush you get all over your back. But I miss parading over the Almonaster bridge into the Ninth Ward.

Mark: Oh yeah, especially looking down at the crowd…

Troy: I would love to go back where we come from, but until we can cross that bridge, we’re parading in the Sixth Ward. There’s a lot of things in the Ninth Ward that we started. And a lot of clubs came and followed behind us. I could testify because I was part of that. And I ain’t gonna never say, “I don’t wanna ever want to go back to it.”

Mark: We’re open to it.

(L to R) Michael Redditt, Troy Materre and Corey Woods of ? Mark Social and Pleasure Club, Dumaine Gang Parade
(L to R) Michael Redditt, Troy Materre and Corey Woods of ? Mark Social and Pleasure Club, Dumaine Gang Parade; 2016; by and courtesy of Vincent Simmons


Interview conducted by Rachel Breunlin of the Neighborhood Story Project.