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Vernel Martin Bagneris (born 31 July 1949), playwright, actor, director, singer, and dancer, who was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. the third child of Gloria Diaz Bagneris and Lawrence Bagneris Sr. Bagneris’s mother was a housewife and deeply religious woman who “quietly outclassed most people,” and his father was a playful, creative man, a World War II veteran, and lifelong postal clerk. Bagneris grew up in the tightly knit, predominantly Creole Seventh Ward to a family of free people of color that had been in New Orleans since 1750. From the age of six he had a knack for winning popular dance contests, and during christenings and jazz funerals he learned more traditional music and dance. By the mid-1960s the once-beautiful, tree-lined neighborhood in which he was raised fell victim to the U.S. government’s program of urban renewal, known colloquially as “Negro removal.” A freeway overpass was constructed over a thriving neighborhood, inviting crime and eventually shuttering businesses and community. Trees were uprooted, homes were razed, the promenade was destroyed, and a neighborhood diaspora was in effect.