In Memoriam: Mercedes "Queen Mercy" Stevenson

Published on: August 11th, 2016

906x680 Miss Mercy in the middle of the "Queens Rule" gallery show opening, December 2014 [Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee]

Miss Mercy in the middle of the
Miss Mercy in the middle of the "Queens Rule" gallery show opening, December 2014 [Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee]
Mercedes "Miss Mercy" Stevenson passed away on August 10, 2016 at the age of 90. She was one of the first Big Queens of the Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians, founded by legendary vocalist George "Jolly" Landry. The early Wild Tchoupitoulas Queens wore headdresses, carried fans, and liberally added velvet, marabous, and beadwork to their dresses.
Sewing suits and costumes for Mardi Gras is a tradition that sustains strong bonds. "Miss Mercy" sewed her own suits and suits for other queens, family, and friends. After the death of Big Chief Jolly, Mercedes became a driving force in keeping the group alive. Reflecting on her experiences, "Miss Mercy" noted that Mardi Gras Indians have gained broader community recognition. In her final year, she vocalized delight that the police are not as "hard on the Indians" as in the past. In 2015, she sat down at WWOZ's studio for an interview with Karen Celestan to talk about her traditions. Hear that interview here.
At the time of her passing, Queen Mercy was considered to be the oldest living Baby Doll and member of the Wild Tchoupitoulas. She first masked as a Baby Doll with the Sophisticated Ladies and Ladies of Wales but didn't join the Indians until 1974 when her friend Big Chief Jolly founded The Wild Tchoupitoulas. She hung up her Indian suit in 1987 but continued to mask as a Baby Doll. She turned much of her annual efforts to ensuring that each of her children and grandchildren had the chance to mask Indian.
"That beautiful queen there, she lived her life as a queen," Mrs. Stevenson's daughter, Mary Kay Stevenson told at the time of her passing, "and she died her life as a queen."
Queen Mercy's funeral was held Saturday, August 20, at Austerlitz Street Baptist Church (819 Austerlitz St.) and followed by a traditional jazz funeral procession. The funeral procedings were attended by a number of Mardi Gras Indian tribes. WWOZ volunteer photographer and Mardi Gras Indian documentarian Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee was on hand to capture many of the special moments that went into this day honoring Queen Mercy's life, as well as two different Mardi Gras Indian events that occurred in her final years of life. See his photo essay on Miss Mercy below.

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