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Meet Jonathan

Jonathan is part of a team of Louisiana Creoles working to streamline and publish free, online resources for learning their ancestral language.

Kouri-Vini, also known as Louisiana Creole, is a language native to Louisiana, spoken primarily in the state, but also along the Gulf Coast between Texas and Mississippi. It is a critically endangered Creole language currently spoken by fewer than 10,000 people. The language emerged in the 18th century, from the confluence of languages arriving in the region from West Africa (Senegambia, Dahomey, and the Congo) by way of those enslaved and brought to Louisiana by the French regime, as well as France and Canada (Québec and Acadie). Kouri-Vini developed through this merging linguistic landscape, mainly lexified by French, but also Wolof, Mande, Ewe, and other West African languages, as well as Indigenous languages, such as Choctaw, of the lower Mississippi River and Atchafalaya Basin regions. However, because of its connections to plantations and slavery, many people stopped speaking the language for fear of being shamed. Kouri-Vini became further stigmatized when the 1921 Louisiana State constitution labeled English as the sole language of instruction in schools. Today, Kouri-Vini is making a grass-roots resurgence due to the push for language revitalization by Louisiana Creoles who are descendants of its first native speakers.

This project, led by a group of Louisiana Creoles, entails better supporting the Kouri-Vini-speaking community by providing more resources for language learning through the development of a website and audio-visual database.

Jonathan's Background

Jonathan J. Mayers, radbwa faroush, çé in Kréyòl Lalwizyàn, lartis, é ékrivin ki sòr Istrouma dan Lalwizyàn. Li tròziyim poèt loréya a Baton-Rouj é li ékri en kouri-vini, langaj kréyol en danjé a Lalwizyàn. Sô famiy ki té parlé ça konm yê primyè langaj sortí Lapwint-Koupé é dòt parwas Larivyè obòr Meshasébé-la. Fondatè a Latannyèrizm, in kalité lar vijwèl familyè mélanjé avèk langaj é plas fizik, Mayers çé réprézenté par ladgaldri Arthur Roger a Nouvèl-Òléan. L’ap ko-édité in liv a poézi en kouri-vini ak Doktè Oliver Mayeux astè pélé Févi ki va sorti byinto. Jonathan J. Mayers, radbwa faroush, is a Louisiana Creole, artist, and writer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He’s the third Baton Rouge Poet Laureate and writes in Kouri-Vini, the endangered Creole language of Louisiana. His family that spoke it as their first language came from Pointe Coupée and other River parishes along the Mississippi River. He’s the founder of Latannyèrizm, a type of colloquial visual art woven with language and physical place, and is represented by Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans, Louisiana. He’s currently co-editing a book of poetry in Kouri-Vini with Dr. Oliver Mayeux called Févi which will release soon. https://www.jonathanmayers.com  www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-j-mayers 

Jonathan's Collaborators

Christophe Landry éné a Nouvèl-Ibéri, dizyinm jénérasyon moun Kréyol Lalwizyàn, li in laktivis langaj Lalwizyàn é in listoriyin. Li obchin in doktora dan listwa mérikin dan Ròyonm-Ini-la en 2016 ayou li trasé komen lidentité kominotè shanj ékan yéchin langaj shanj. En 2015, li mèt moun kréyol ensemb afin kréyé yéchin lòtograf pou langaj kouri-vini ki sortí minm lanné. Li mont langaj-ça dipi 20 nan. Astè li manadjè in lékip shærshè a Ancestry. Christophe Landry is a native of New Iberia, Louisiana, a 10th generation Louisiana Creole, linguistic activist, and historian. He obtained his doctorate in American History in the UK in 2016 focusing on how language deterioration erodes historic community identities. In 2015, he spearheaded a community-based movement to create an orthography for Kouri-Vini, and has taught the language for 20 years. He now is a research team manager at Ancestry.
Cliford “Clif” St. Laurent çé in anchyin kandida d’American Idol, artis profèsyonèl, nòmm di biznis, mèt, é militan de kilchir é langaj Kréyòl Lalwizyann-La. Li té komençé ap montré li-minm pou parlé Kouri-Vini é Françé tou-l-dé kan li té gañé ish 17an pou ké li té kapab réklamé le drwat nésans-la de sô famiy a langaj-yé di Lalwizyann.  Dipi lála, Cliford té vini in promotær é mèt de lê dé lang-yé. Li té kréyé in kour pou KV ki li té izé pou donné léçon-yé privé pi dan bònn. Pi tar, li té izé ça pou montré koté LSU dan Baton Rouj dan yé program Leisure Course. Clif té fé traduksyon-yé pou plizyé lòrginasyon-yé byin konné. Parmi yé çé in gran konmpani de medikamen épi le Gouvèrnimen de lê Zéta Zini itou. Sô travay dir é dévosyon pou gaddé léritaj kiltirèl rish a Lalwizyan té rekoní par CODOFIL é menm-yé de komunité-yé li té travayé avé. Cliford “Clif” St. Laurent is a former American Idol contestant, professional entertainer, entrepreneur, educator, and Louisiana Creole cultural and linguistic activist. In an effort to reclaim his family’s birthright to Louisiana’s Latin-based heritage language and restore them in his family, Clif began to teach himself both Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole (KV) at the age of 17.   Since that time, Cliford has become an advocate and educator of both languages. He developed a curriculum for KV which he used to facilitate private and group lessons and would later use to teach at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge through their Leisure Course program. Clif has done KV translations for several notable institutions. Among them are a major pharmaceutical supplier and the U.S. Federal Government. His hard work and dedication to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich cultural heritage have been recognized by CODOFIL and members of the communities which he has passionately served.
Adrien Guillory-Chatman (Adriyènn) çé in métrès é li té in administratœr pou in lékòl katolik. Li té né a Lafayèt é té élvé a Shikago. Kan li té in piti, Adriyènn té toujou gin moun alentour apé parlé kouri-vini é françé. En 2013, Adriyènn komensé sô shmin pou réklamé kouri-vini. Ojoddi, li gin in pasyon pou édé dòt moun réklamé langaj a yê lèritaj, éspésyalmen famiy-yé ki rès dan djaspora Lalwizyan. Adriyènn èd avèk latab kouri-vini a Shikago é avèk diféren laplas latwal. Adriyènn té fé in jou o kat pou famiy k’ap aprenn kouri-vini, li té organizé léçon-yé pou kouri-vini enho Memrise, é kontribyé a déziyinm édisyon Ti Liv Kréyòl: A Learner’s Guide to Louisiana Creole é a liv Ô Malheureuse: French Writings by Louisiana Women. Astœr, Adriyènn apé fé in plas latwal pou piti-yé k’olé aprenn kréyòl. Adrien Guillory-Chatman is an educator and former Catholic school administrator who was born in Lafayette, Louisiana. Although she was raised in Chicago, Kouri-Vini and French were spoken in her home and by others in the community. In 2013, Adrien began her journey in reclaiming Kouri-Vini. Today, she has a passion to help others reclaim their heritage language, especially families who live in the Louisiana Creole diaspora. Adrien organized lessons for Kouri-Vini on Memrise, coordinates Kouri-Vini practice tables in Chicago, and contributed to the second edition of Ti Liv Kréyòl: A Learner’s Guide to Louisiana Creole and to the book Ô Malheureuse: French Writings by Louisiana Women. In addition, she created a set of Kouri-Vini family card games, and she is currently planning a website for kids and their families who want to learn Creole.

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