2022 Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series Announcement


NEW ORLEANS (December 21, 2021) —The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation will present a Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture on January 6, 2022, “The Life and Legacy of Big Chief Tootie Montana” at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center at 1225 N. Rampart Street.

Free and open to the public, this lecture is part of an afternoon-long celebration honoring the late Big Chief Tootie Montana, beginning in Louis Armstrong park at the Tootie Montana statue sculpted by artist Sheleen Jones-Adenle.

Full Schedule

  • 4:30pm – Meet at Tootie Montana statue in Armstrong Park
  • 4:45pm – Wreath laying ceremony at the statue followed by a blessing of the drums to open Carnival Season in the community (anyone is welcome to bring their own drum) 
    • Prayer song: Indian Red lead by Darryl Montana
  • 5:30pm – community procession from Armstrong Park to the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, 1225 N. Rampart Street
  • 6:00pm – doors open
  • 6:30pm – “The Life and Legacy of Big Chief Tootie Montana” panel begins

Doors will open at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center at 6:00pm, the lecture is from 6:30pm-8:00pm. Tom Dent Lectures are free and open to the public. Seating is limited, so please register in advance here:

Please note that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test performed within 72 hours is currently required for entry. Masks are required for indoor guests at all times. The lecture will be live streamed at

The Panelists

  • Big Chief Darryl Montana, Yellow Pocahontas Tribe
  • Big Chief Ray Blazio, founder of the Wild Apache Tribe, former Flagboy with the Yellow Pocahontas.
  • Fred Johnson, co-founder Black Men of Labor SA&PC, former Spyboy with the Yellow Pocahontas.
  • Moderator, Dianne Honoré

The panel will discuss their experience and time with Big Chief Allison Tootie Montana as well as the history and traditions that were passed down to them through their involvement with the Black Masking community over the years.

Each panelist comes with over 50 years of experience within the black masking community in one form or another, from masking Indian to active second line club membership to mentorship programs and educational outreach.

Tom Dent, for whom the lecture series is named, was an author, historian and both a board member and an executive director of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Thomas C. Dent Papers, Amistad Research Center at Tulane.

About the Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series

Tom Dent (1931-1998) was a jazz scholar, playwright, oral historian, journalist and cultural activist. He was also an early board member of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation, and served as executive director from 1987 to 1990.

During his tenure he launched the Congo Square Lecture Series as a means to engage artists and thinkers in an intellectual dialogue on issues of culture and commerce. Since its beginnings, the series has delved into the history of New Orleans music and the ways its artists have responded to the world around them. The Tom Dent lectures are named in his honor.

Since 1987, the Tom Dent lectures have presented an impressive range of musicians, artists and authors. Some of these include: Abbey Lincoln, Randy Weston, A.B. Spellman, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Elizabeth Catlett, Vertamae Smart-Grovenor, Olu Dara with Niyi Osundare and Marku Ribas.

There have been special presentations on the cultural connections between New Orleans and Brazil, on the role of creoles in the development of early jazz, the evolution of the jazz funeral tradition and much more. More recently, the series has presented readings by New Orleans authors, including Tom Sancton and Joshua Clark, and musicians such as Dr. Michael White. Jazz scholar Ashley Kahn and “Urban Blues” author Charles Keil also have been recent presenters. In 2012, the Foundation was extremely honored to host poet, scholar, and activist, Amiri Baraka.

In the past, the Tom Dent Congo Square Lectures also included the Tom Dent Congo Square Symposium. The event has featured top scholars of African culture and how it relates to the New World, such as Robert Farris Thompson of Yale University and the author Ned Sublette. The symposium coincides with one of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s cultural events, the Congo Square Rhythms Festival, which is held the second Sunday of November at the site of Congo Square, in New Orleans’ Armstrong Park.

About the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation

The Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series is a program of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. The foundation uses the proceeds from Jazz Fest, and other raised funds, for year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment. For more on what we do, please visit us online at

Media Contact

Baylee Badawy

Marketing Coordinator, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation


For general inquiries to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, please contact us at or 504-558-6100.