Monday, July 5, 2010

"Let the Good Times Roll"

Want to learn how to Second Line? Click the link below and you are on your way:

The modern day New Orleans Second Line is full of gusto and zest. While Jazz Funerals still have a Second Line, the Second Line has become a separate entity apart from the Jazz Funeral. The evolution of the Second Line has now developed full circle. What has taken place is called cultural fusion. Cultural fusion is where one culture meets another culture; the two cultures fuse together to form a new culture (Sutro 20). This is exactly what has transpired within the African American culture and modern day New Orleans. This is why the Second Line is totally unique to New Orleans (Sutro 20).

However, we never want to forget that the Second Line originated amongst African Americans. Although the Second Line is a free-spirited, dance of wild abandon; it dates back to the tribes of Africa (Sutro 20). It was preserved by a community of people familiar with pain and suffering. It is part of the African American heritage (Sutro 20). “The Second Line was, and is, a socializing device for the black youth of New Orleans. Being a “Second Liner” is exciting. You’re where the action is right behind the band as they swing down the street. You can strut, dance, and whirl your umbrella to the tempo of “Bourbon Street Parade,” or “High Society.” Just name any black jazz “great” who came out of the Crescent City, and he’s paid his dues to the Second Line” (Buerkle, Barker 16). The Second Line has become a symbol of New Orleans. It is associated with fun and excitement. Out of the African Americans affliction, a gift was bestowed upon New Orleans. That gift is the Second Line.

Recently, when New Orleans suffered due to a devastating hurricane, a mock Jazz Funeral along with a Second Line was organized to signify “Katrina” was dead and New Orleanians should return home. Many brides in New Orleans enjoy their memorable day by arranging a Second Line parade through the streets. More recently, when the New Orleans Saints Football Team won the National Football Championship following a forty year losing streak; the entire New Orleans metropolitan area celebrated. It was a common sight to see as people ran out of their homes at the conclusion of the football game and Second Lined through their neighborhoods. Yes, I miss New Orleans. She is a unique city full of a long, rich history. She is the Second Line. She can be felt as you sway down the street moving to the rhythmic jazz. The soulful music bellows out of the brass instruments. I am reflecting on another time. I am reminded of calling out to my friends along the way to hop into the parade. I am one with the city and the music. I am a New Orleanian. To Second Line is in my spirit, in my bones, and in the very core of my being. I will dance, sway, and jive to the music, and I will “Let the Good Times Roll.”

Mock Jazz Funeral for the "AINT'S" Saints Football Team:

Work Cited:

Buerkle, Jack, and Danny Barker. Bourbon Street Black. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. Print.

Sutro, Dirk. Jazz for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Worldwide, 1998. Print.

Photo Obtained from:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Evolution of the Second Line

It is at the cemetery as the funeral comes to a close and the deceased is laid to rest, that the spirit of the Second Line begins. It is a reminder to the living that even in death there is rejoicing. The strong spiritual beliefs of the African Americans remind them that the deceased has left the pain of this life and gone on to a better place (The Late 1800’s). As the band strikes up an upbeat tempo with a tune, or possibly hymn, the Second Line begins to form. The music invites the crowd of onlookers to participate (Firm). The Main Line breaks out into a lively jive waving their handkerchiefs. The handkerchiefs originally carried due to grief and sobbing over their loved one may now be waved in the air. The umbrella initially carried for protection from the sun now becomes a festive symbol (Firm). Exuberance is sensed within the parade of Second Liners, it permeates emotionally into the byways to influence those passing by. This is the moment where the truth of Proverbs 14:13 rings true: “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain / And the end of joy may be grief (Holy Bible). The passionate joy grows into a frenzied ecstasy of happiness within the crowd of Second Liners. It will be this brief time of elation for the mourners that will help carry them through the difficult days of grief to come.

Nowadays the Second Line is no longer limited to Jazz Funerals, or just African Americans. The Second Line has independently evolved becoming a notable piece of modern New Orleans. “If you have ever been at a truly Southern wedding or on the streets of New Orleans, then the chances are likely that you had the opportunity to see or be part of a second line parade complete with a brass band, handkerchiefs and of course, umbrellas” (Firm). Second Lines are used to celebrate almost any event in New Orleans. People in New Orleans love a party and love a good excuse to have a party. If you have never experienced a Second Line, I suggest you head on down to New Orleans and find out what the fun is all about. I guarantee you will have the time of your life. Until next time ''Laissez les bon temps rouler'' – ''Let the Good Times Roll!''

Watch a New Orleans Jazz Funeral by clicking the link below!

Photo Obtained from:

Work Cited:

1800s, The Late. "Did You Know." Hurricane Brassband. 01 Apr. 2010. Web. 03 July 2010.

Firm, A. Grading. "Bridal Parasols and Mardi Gras Second Line Umbrellas."EBay Reviews & Guides. 04 Apr 2010. Web. 03 July 2010.

Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. [Nashville, Tenn.]: Nelson Bibles, 2006. Print.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Slice of
American History

To explore the Second Line, one must search out the historical background of the Jazz Funeral. The Second Line in all of its celebrated glory originated here (Coclanis). To the average person the term Jazz Funeral is an oxymoron; a contradiction of terms in the broadest sense. How can anyone experience the exuberance of jazz music and at the same time witness the burial of a loved one? I realize the term is foreign and possibly difficult to grasp, but, nevertheless it is part of our history. Our American heritage, fashioned in New Orleans, Louisiana, by African Americans immigrated to our county against their will. These African American slaves attempted to preserve their own customs while held captive by cruel, self-serving masters and a society tolerant of injustice. In the face of great tragedy and calamity in their own personal lives they attempted to maintain their dignity by burying their loved ones as their own culture and spiritual beliefs would lead them (Clark). It is these adaptations of African tribal practices regarding burial that were spared, and would eventually evolve into the jazz funeral. Fortunately, these practices were preserved because slave owners not understanding the cultural traditions surrounding death, did not invade into this private area of the slaves lives(Clark).

Click on the link below to see a video of an authentic Jazz Funeral in New Orleans:

Jason Berry emphasizes excellently the lack of historical documentation when he states "No one has pinpointed the date of the first jazz funeral and scholars are unlikely to ever find one." However, there is sufficient information to pin down its predecessor. The Perseverance, Benevolent, and Mutual Aid Association formed in 1783 ("Slavery and the Making of America"). Later, following the Civil War, the New Orleans Freedmen's Aid Association would be one of the first amongst thousands of these types of clubs formed (Clark). They were based on the tribal concept derived from Africa, of the coming together for the ultimate success of the tribe. African Americans freshly emerging from slavery were inept in a multitude of areas. Having been repressed from education, job skills, and society in general, they found many hardships assimilating into modern civilized customs within a community (Clark). Many African Americans recovering from the havoc slavery had inflicted upon their lives, found a lifestyle of poverty and hardship. This was the agonizing battle the majority of African Americans faced in their attempt to reclaim their stolen lives (Clark). Answering the call to the painful plight of the African Americans, Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs were formed. These clubs "offered important material benefits to the members, as well as arenas for social interaction" ("Fraternal Orders and Mutual Aid Associations"). African Americans wanted to be assured that their loved ones would at least have a dignified burial. They wanted a burial preserving their own African way of life, not that of the white man and his stoic burial. These clubs provided this assurance; and are the first form of insurance documented in America (Clark). The document "Fraternal Orders and Mutual Aid Associations" states: "In addition to the national fraternal orders, the period following the Civil War saw the establishment of thousands of new local benefit societies, especially among the newly freed former slaves in the South. These societies offered their members benefits similar to those provided by their antebellum predecessors, particularly assistance in times of illness and death. In the absence of large-scale government social-welfare programs, and with the exclusion of blacks from many of those that did exist, benevolent associations bore a major part of the responsibility for the economic well-being of the African-American Community." These societies are the backbone of the African American quest for independence upon their exodus from bondage.

At the end of the Civil War, African Americans would find solace while using their own resourcefulness in playing tossed aside brass instruments. Marching bands were formed with the use of these instruments. Following an African American funeral, a brass band led by a Grand Marshall would accompany the funeral party to the grave site (Clark). Slow, spiritual, sorrowful tunes and hymns were played as the funeral procession left the church walking on foot(Hanks). This was known as the "dirge." It was to signify the trials and hardships of life. The people participating were known as the "Main Line" (Clark). They were the family members, close friends, and acquaintances of the deceased. After the departed was laid to rest at the burial site, the funeral procession would leave striking up an upbeat, soulful tune. As the parade wound its way through the streets, playing buoyant, celebratory music, the Second Line would form (Clark). This my friend, is the origination of the Second Line; it is a slice of true American history in its beginnings.

Photos Obtained From:

Berry, Jason. "Good Grief: new Orleans Jazz Funerals." Louisiana Cultural Vistas Winter 2001-
02: 52-65. SIRS Renaissance, Web. 30 Jun 2010

Clark, Willie. "Mardi Gras Digest..."The News & Business Journal of the Carnival Industry!". N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jun. 2010

Coclanis, Angelo. "Jazz Funeral: A Living Tradition: Southern Cultures; Summer 2005; 11,2; Research Library. Page 86. Print.

"Fraternal Orders and Mutual Aid Associations." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. 5 vols. Macmillan, 1996. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.

Hanks, Eric. "A Song for His Father: William Pajaud and the Jazz Funeral Tradition." International Review of African American Art. Vol. 17 No. 2 2000: 2-14. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 30 Jun 2010.

"Slavery and the Making of America" 2010. Web 30 Jun. 2010.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fascinating Facts About New Orleans

The "fleur de lis," this motif historically is associated with New Orleans and its heritage.

1682-"Robert Cavelier de la Salle planted the cross on Louisiana soil and erected a plaque with the french fleur-de-lis. He claimed the lower Mississippi valley in the name of God, the French, and the King."

"The fleur de lis meaning is a symbolic drawing of a lily or an iris. You will see it all over in European coats of arms and is really representative of the French. You will often find the fleur de lis symbol in areas that were settled by the French. Those areas were Quebec, St. Louis, Louisville, and Louisiana. The symbol is thought to mean ideals of purity, light, and is floral in its depiction."

2005-The fleur-de-lis becomes a unifying symbol throughout the gulf region. This symbolic piece of history unites New Orleans as survivors of the storm
come together to reclaim their lives post Hurricane Katrina.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Institution of Revelry

There is a tradition unique to New Orleans called the Second Line. Its roots run rich and it is a custom steeped in history. I believe you will find the history of this practice undeniably gripping. As a native New Orleanian, I am excited to share the distinct background of this institution of revelry. It is a festive ritual in which the majority of New Orleanians have participated in at some time in their life.

Since I am a sixth generation New Orleans native, it never occurred to me that the rest of the world did not participate in this practice. Upon moving to Texas, I found myself a non-traditional student enrolled in college for the first time. In Speech class as I gave my presentation, I thought it would be fun, as well as entertaining to have a few class members Second Line in to the class. My classmates were appalled when I shared with them what I wanted them to do. I was equally dumbfounded, since everyone in New Orleans Second Lines at the drop of a hat. It was one of many culture shocks I would have as a result of leaving the Big Easy.

As I continue to post to my blog concerning the New Orleans Second Line, I hope you will enjoy it, and glean from it. Additionally, I hope you will be compelled to visit New Orleans where you may have the opportunity to experience a Second Line. If you do, you will have availed yourself of the opportunity to participate in a practice dating far back in the annals of America's heritage. As we say in New Orleans " Laissez les bon temps rouler" - that's Cajun French for "Let the Good Times Roll!"