Just 15 years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina that left almost two thousand people dead, New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the worst affected areas in the United States due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
As major cities such as New York and Los Angeles have dominated headlines on most news outlets, New Orleans has silently become one of the worst affected places in America. As of April 20th, New Orleans has reached over 1,300 deaths, 24,523 total cases, and 1,794 in hospital beds. Research conducted by the University of Lousiana at Lafayette concluded that coronavirus cases have spread at a faster rate in the first two weeks than any other state in America.
Among the many deaths, Leona “ Chinee” Grandison was one of the many to lose her life to the coronavirus. Owner of the legendary Candle Light Lounge, Grandison was well-known in the Treme area. Her lounge provided people from all walks of life a safe space to come and enjoy the New Orleans’ culture of live jazz music.
Starting this business 35 years ago with her brother, Landry Grandison, Grandison has created a successful business that has attracted different celebrities such as Solange Knowles (Singer, Song – Writer), Angela Basset (Black Panther, The Rosa Parks Story), Alfre Woodard (The Lion King, Love & Basketball), Trombone Shorty (American Musician) and many more. Today, the yellow lounge covered in music notes and instruments has a visual set in front to honor the late owner. Family and friends feel that Grandison made the lounge feel like home.
“She was my hero. My aunt loved her family,” Grandison’s niece, Sherrilynn Davis, said. “My finest memory is coming home from school during lent, and she would be at the kitchen table waiting for me with my favorite foods. She would make shrimps, french fries, and oysters. As I would eat my food, we would laugh, talk, and just enjoy each others company… My aunt had a caring spirit who provided for her family, friends, and strangers.”
The lounge was the center for live music: jazz, the blues, and second lines. When the New Orleans Saints would have playoff games each season, Grandison would have her famous red beans and rice, chicken wings, and many more dishes that would attract people from all over the city. Tourists who visited the city added The Candle Light Lounge as a must-stop spot to experience the atmosphere that brought everyone joy.
Leona “Chinee” Grandison departed this earth as a well-respected woman who will be dearly missed. Her funeral will take place this Friday on April 24. People will be able to do a driveby visitation at the funeral home to pay their final respects.