The Ohio State University at Newark


Ohio State Newark Emmy-Nominated Documentary to Air on Local TV

NEWARK, Ohio, February 22, 2017 – An Emmy-nominated documentary and its companion film created by professors and students as part of a service-learning project at The Ohio State University at Newark will air on WOUB television later tomorrow night. WOUB is a PBS affiliate based in Athens, Ohio and serves 55 counties in four states – Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. The documentaries, It’s Your Glory: The Big Queens of Carnival and Spirit Leads My Needle: The Big Chiefs of Carnival, will air on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

“We are honored that WOUB has decided to air these documentaries. It further serves the mission of this service-learning project, which is to bring recognition to the unique culture known as the Mardi Gras Indians and their fight to preserve that culture,” said Ohio State Newark Associate Dean Virginia Cope, Ph.D. The Mardi Gras Indians are African-Americans who form into neighborhood groups to parade during Carnival season in elaborate suits with beads and feathers, artworks created anew by hand each year. The tradition dates back to the 19th century and originated as a response to the limited role blacks were allowed in Mardi Gras parades.

Students Tesse Feick, Steven Foley, Tiffany O’Connor, Michael Piemonte and Vikas Pulluru began working on Spirit Leads My Needle in 2012, under the direction of professors in English (Cope and Sunny Caldwell) and Comparative Studies (Katherine Borland) and at the request of the Mardi Gras Indian Council, which sought better understanding of the parading tradition. They interviewed the “big chiefs” of the Mardi Gras Indians and, under the direction of Newark-based filmmaker Mike Yearling, produced a documentary that captured their stories of the legendary leaders.

In 2015, Cope and Tiyi Morris, associate professor of African & African American Studies, took five additional students to New Orleans to interview Mardi Gras Indians. In preparing to interview chiefs, the students recognized that the contributions of the queens — the only female participants in the male-dominated tradition — had gone largely unrecognized, and proposed creating the additional documentary to capture their voices. It’s Your Glory is the result of those efforts to make the queens’ voices heard in telling the story of the Mardi Gras Indian culture.

It’s Your Glory: The Big Queens of Carnival was nominated in the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Suncoast Regional Emmy competition in the cultural documentary category last year.

Students who worked on that film were Ashley Theodore, Torah Silvera, Angela Whipple, Lenise Sunnenberg and Rian Hamadnalla.

Service-learning courses provide opportunities for students to deepen their knowledge through projects that serve a community partner’s needs. Studies show that service learning improves students’ academic performance, leadership skills and commitment to civic engagement.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the documentaries It’s Your Glory: The Big Queens of Carnival and Spirit Leads My Needle: The Big Chiefs of Carnival.

YouTube: Mardi Gras Indians Service Learning

The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.