Jeff goes off on Legislative proposal to Name "I Am Louisiana" as the official State Cajun Poem.


Here's a portion of a story from the May 24th, 2006 Morning Advocate of Baton Rouge:

CODOFIL: 'Cajun' poem insulting

Capitol news bureau
Published: May 24, 2006

Board members of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, the protectors of French language and culture, said Tuesday they are insulted by the proposed “official state Cajun poem” the Legislature is considering.

“This represents everything that we stand against,” Warren A. Perrin, the council’s president, said Tuesday about the poem that passed through the House last week with only three votes against it.

He said he will ask Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Cajun, to publicly oppose the bill. The Senate has assigned House Bill 1291 to its Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The poem, called “I Am Louisiana,” was written by Paul Ott, a Jackson, Miss., radio personality whose similar “I Am Mississippi” was turned down as that’s state’s official poem by its legislature in February.

Ott wrote the Louisiana poem for the late Justin Wilson of Amite, known for telling comedic stories in an exaggerated Cajun accent. He and Wilson use to perform “I Am Louisiana” together.

Ott said both poems were written similarly so that other words could be inserted, depending on the locality.

The clichéd references to Louisiana foods, pastimes, history and trademarks marginalize the Cajun culture, said Perrin, a Lafayette lawyer. The poem undermines efforts to show the world that Louisiana is serious about preserving its heritage, he said.

“It insults my culture, my ethnicity, turns it ‘Disneylandish,’” Perrin said.

The 50 board members of CODOFIL have been complaining to him and their legislators, he said.

CODOFIL is a state agency founded in 1968 to promote the French language and heritage in Louisiana.

It supports 30 French immersion programs, where everything is taught in French, in public schools and promotes traditional French classes around the state. The agency also helps recruit French teachers from Europe to teach here.

“It’s kind of insulting that we’d even be considering a poem written by someone who is not Cajun when we have so many great Cajun poets who are published,” Perrin said.

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