I am a progeny of Tamborine and Fan and believe our club’s legacy began with it in the Seventh Ward. As a young girl, I grew up on St. Anthony Street between North Robertson and North Villere. It was like a family. When you walked certain streets, your parents knew one another. If I was somewhere that I didn’t have no business, then a neighbor had the authority to say to me, “Cheryl Ann, do you belong around here? What if I call your mother Eva? Get back around that corner.”

I went to school at Marie C. Couvent. We had Tamborine and Fan’s summer camp there, which was under the auspices of Mr. Jerome Smith, and all these great men—Fred Johnson, Renard Sanders, Melvin Reed. When we were kids, Melvin worked for a bakery. Within the day camp, whenever we celebrated birthdays, they made sure that every kid got a birthday cake.

As we went there for camp, we were being taught the danger of the drugs— how not to go towards them, what those drugs can do to you, how they can affect you. We were taught “Dope is death, let the children live,” to make us stronger individuals. A lot of us adhered to it. They taught us about our history, our culture, our Congo Square, the second line dancing. We celebrated it by participating in Super Sunday.

To prepare, Mr. Smith had us meet on Hunter’s Field with my mom and a lot of other ladies. They took us to Favor and Payless Shoe stores, and those vendors worked with us to size us up in shoes. The day before, we were getting our hair rolled, we were laying out all our clothes, looking forward to that day. They got us ready to go to Bayou St. John for the parade with all of the Indians dressed up as well.

We had different divisions to parade, but all the kids shared the same happiness, the same joy. At five years old, I can’t say that I knew the dynamics of what we were doing. It was more like a prayer ritual. We called out to our ancestors who had gone on before us. If you had trials and tribulations that you were going through, you danced, and this dance was for liberations and freedoms. We knew that it was spiritual, and it was a dance that came from within. It was like this fire; this rejoice.

Later, we moved to the Sixth Ward. I went Craig Elementary School and began to go to the Treme Community Center. At the age of 14, after attending the summer camp, I myself became employed as a NORD worker and began to teach under Mr. Smith— teaching what was taught to me. Once I became an adult, my three daughters attended Tamborine and Fan like I did. Honestly, I don’t feel I ever graduated from it. I feel I am Tamborine and Fan because, still today, I talk on it, I teach on it. There is something on the inside of me that I knows I am going to bring it back.

To start, I’m going to figure out how can I organize a reunion where I can call back Tamborine and Fan alumnus to come back to Hunter’s Field for a mass picnic to talk about how we can get the kids involved. The teaching should live on forever.


In 2005, Hurricane Katrina wiped us out a lot. Katrina spread us everywhere. My family moved to Florida, but my daughters wanted to finish high school at McDonogh 35, so I decided to bring them back. And when we came back, I decided to organize the Versatile Ladies of Style. I reached out to some ladies to find out if they were interested. They were interested, but it was hard to find a Sunday because everybody who parades already has a day. Those days were booked. I went to the members of Sudan—my uncle Kenneth Dykes, Bernard Robertson, David Crowden—because they were part of that legacy with Tamborine and Fan. They were like, “You know, we never really did ladies in our parade. This is something we didn’t do before.”

We said, “We’re not strangers, we’re your sisters. We understand your mission—the purpose, the cause— and we want to be a part of this.” They had a meeting and the door opened for us. They allowed us to do it. 

Sudan members honor Kenneth Dykes during his funeral
Sudan members honor Kenneth Dykes during his funeral; 2015; by and courtesy of MJ Mastrogiovanni


Cheryl Ann Roberts (middle), Nikisha Grinstead (left) and Shelia Ross (right)dance at Kenneth Dykes' funeral
Cheryl Ann Roberts (middle), Nikisha Grinstead (left) and Shelia Ross (right)dance at Kenneth Dykes' funeral; 2015; by and courtesy of MJ Mastrogiovanni


 There was a bar on St. Bernard and Claiborne co-owned by Tyrone Yancey, who masked with the Yellow Pocahontas and was part of Tamborine and Fan. I asked him if I could host a meeting there. We met and, I promise you, everything that Mr. Jerome Smith and those other guys instilled in me, I would not give you a word of lie! I said, “Look, we got a day. If you ladies want to parade, we can make this happen.” We had a burning desire to do it.

I got on the internet. I found clothing. I found shoes that were very, very reasonable. Mr. Yancey made us some bags. And from that second Sunday in November in 2007, we never looked back. We’ve been moving strong with Sudan ever since. They do their thing, we do our thing, and we come together for the big cause. We were able to ignite that fire on the same streets we paraded on together when we were young and see the faces of people light up because we brought it back to the community.

If you look at some of the pictures of our organization, you’ll see that we’re consistent with some of the ladies. I have lifetime members and I have honorary members. I also have people who have actually said, “Ms. Roberts, I never did this before, but I always wanted to second line. Can I second line with your group? Even if I did it one time, it’s on my bucket list.” I allow them that opportunity. A lot of clubs don’t do that, but I understand how important it is to some people to experience the feel on parade day.

I tell the ladies all the time, if I forget something, charge it to my brain, not my heart. I have a budget that’s not very expensive, and I never want a woman to feel like after this day is over, you can’t pay your light or water bill. I make it affordable to give the women an opportunity to do it. We pull together a team of designers to help us. Melvin Reed creates our hand pieces, Ernest George does our hats. Marvin “Marvi” Millon, from the Sixth Ward, is a wonderful clothing designer. One year, he had each lady to come in and asked them how they wanted their capes designed, and he did it to their taste and style. He sews for Zulu Club, and a lot of social and pleasure clubs. This is his gift and his talent. And this is his way of giving back: by supporting our clubs and sewing for us.

Before we hit the street, I make the ladies make a circle. We will pray that God blesses our day. And I also tell my ladies, what we’re getting ready to do right now is anything that you may have struggled with throughout the years, what I want you to do is place it under your feet because we’re about to dance it away. That’s our motto. It’s time for you to just kick the devil’s head off, just dance till you can’t dance no more.


Versatile Ladies of Style at the Treme Center before coming out
Versatile Ladies of Style at the Treme Center before coming out; 2016; by and courtesy of Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee


My daughter, Nekisha Grinstead, is our grand marshal. Corey Woods and Keith Howard, who used to be in Nine Times, but are now members of the ? Mark Social and Pleasure Club, always holds the rope and our banner for us, and two brothers, Les and Phillip Dominique, who come up in Tamborine and Fan, assist them. We also have routines that we do along the way. We brag cause we practiced as kids. Everybody says, “Y’all still practice like Mr. Jerome Smith?” Yes, we do. We play the music, we do the finger count, we do the crisscross. We want to look uniform. We want to do things decent and normal.

Once you set boundaries in a parade, people are going to respect them. You don’t have to push people out of the way. The way l like doing it has more compassion, more love. You can have your eye on a person in the crowd, and realize they want to do this, so you’re led by the spirit. During a parade, we’ll make a big circle, and pull some of the ladies in and dance with them to give them the little fever—the excitement in it. 

Versatile Ladies of Style members dance with members of the crowd
Versatile Ladies of Style members dance with members of the crowd; 2016; by and courtesy of MJ Mastrogiovanni


For our ten-year celebration, we honored Mr. Smith, and we dedicated our outfits to him. As kids, when we parade with him, we wore overalls. Mr. Smith actually came out of the door dancing for us. I asked people from all over the city to wear overalls with denim and they did it, too. 

Versatile Ladies of Style celebrate their 10th anniversary
Versatile Ladies of Style celebrate their 10th anniversary; 2017; by and courtesy of Vincent Simmons


To give back, I am on the road of turning Versatile Ladies of Style into a ministry that serves its community. In July of 2020, a nine-year-old boy, Devante “D-Man” Bryant, was killed around the corner from us on the 2100 block of Pauger in the Seventh Ward. A coalition of social workers and mental health specialists have gotten together, and I have a lot of educators who are in my organization, and I’m trying to set up a way where I can begin to teach the younger generation on the culture and start Super Sunday again.

Interview conducted by Rachel Breunlin of the Neighborhood Story Project.