One of the best things about New Orleans is all of the people and colorful personalities that bring the city to life. Arthur James Robinson, more commonly known as Mr. Okra, was a New Orleans celebrity who had been delivering fresh fruits and vegetables from the back of his pickup for nearly fifty years. Robinson was a New Orleans native and had been selling produce with his father ever since he was a young boy. He took on the alias of “Mr. Okra” after his father passed away in 2001. Locals in all neighborhoods lit up when they heard the familiar jingles that Mr. Okra would sing while driving his iconic pickup truck. His truck was covered with colorful art from New Orleans folk artist Dr. Bob, flaunting the renowned slogan, “Be Nice or Leave.” Street vendors used to flood the streets of NOLA, and Mr. Okra stayed true to the tradition right up until the end.
Mr. Okra passed away Thursday, February 15th, and the streets of New Orleans will never be the same. However, his energy has left a permanent mark on The Big Easy’s spirit and culture. His iconic persona lives on through a children’s book, a short film, and, coming soon, a new exhibit in the Louisiana Children’s Museum. His business will live on through his daughter, Sergio, who will take over, just as Mr. Okra did after the passing of his own father.
The city mourns the loss of this beloved fruit vendor, whose funeral attracted hundreds of local friends, family members, and fans. We will remember this wonderful man, along with all the lives he touched while singing, “I have oranges and banana. I have eating pears and apples. I have peaches, I have plums. I have cantaloupes. I have watermelon.” Although this local legend is no longer with us, his spirit encompasses the zest and vibrancy that makes New Orleans the one of a kind city that we know and love.
Check out the short film here!
COVER PHOTO: NOLA chic blog