Directed by Vashni Korin
Mardi Gras is a deep rooted tradition in the southern Black community with a very rich history. The film You Can’t Stop Spirit is the directorial debut of Vashni Korin, who explores the overlooked history and significance of Baby Doll maskers in the tradition of Black Mardi Gras that stems from Storyville, the former vice district in New Orleans in the early 19th century. The film depicts the construction of the Baby Doll costumes and explains the significance of this often overshadowed tradition.
The Baby Dolls are the second group to come out in the parade and bring the celebration to life. “We are the birth of Mardi Gras, the birth of Carnival. We dress as babies,” explains Cinnamon Black, who has represented the Baby Dolls for years. “It represents Oshun, the goddess of love.”
Oshun is the Orisha goddess representing fertility, healing, and fresh water in the Yoruba religion. As the Orisha legend goes, Oshun was sent down to earth to create the world with a group of male gods. While the gods admired Oshun’s beauty, they didn’t think they needed her in order to complete their task. Oshun, knowing the gods on earth wouldn’t get far without her, became frustrated with the fact that her value wasn’t being recognized. So, she left earth to lounge on the moon and admire herself in the mirror. Without her, the earth dried up and there was no life. The goddess didn’t try to convince the male gods that she was valuable or demand their validation of her worth.
Oshun’s story teaches that the only love we need is self-love and that we don’t need to prove our worth to anyone. This notion is reflected in the Baby Dolls in the Mardi Gras parade. They are a symbol of female energy and are a vehicle for redefining the notions of gender, sexual identity and freedom. In modern society, women are often shamed for expressing their femininity and sexuality. In harnessing Oshun energy, people are free to express and love themselves and find comfort in knowing that no one defines their worth but themselves.
Director Vashni Korin is a Caribbean-American Director from New York. She is best known for her dream-like music video direction and documentary work on various aspects of womanhood, tradition and spirit of the diaspora. She has worked alongside Lizzo as a cinematographer for her upcoming documentary and is a producer on Black History in Two Minutes with Henry Louis Gates Jr.here