One of the most unique and quintessential New Orleans traditions can be found played out every Sunday in the Second Line Parade. Rooted in the history of social clubs, brass bands, and funeral jazz, these parades happen almost every week at a different location in the city. Primarily an African American cultural event, a Social Club invites a brass band to lead the parade while the Second Line of revelers - comprised of neighbors, friends, and onlookers - gathers behind them. Essentially a rolling party the group marches to the music by the brass band; they drink, eat, and socialize along the route on Sunday afternoons. In addition to the parade, neighbors come out, libation in hand, to watch the festivities go by. It is one of the most fantastic events this photographer has witnessed.
Originally, the Second Line formed organically behind a band playing music for a funeral or other celebration. As the band, or the “main line” passed by, people joined in and followed the music forming the “second line.” Social Clubs formed after the civil war when the newly emancipated slaves found that insurance companies refused to insure them. In response, neighborhood social clubs formed where dues paying members benefited from the group resources in the form of insurance against sickness, fire and theft and other unexpected events. Additionally the social clubs would hire bands for funerals that would play somber dirges on the way to the cemetery and then play more festive songs on the way back, celebrating the life of the person that was just buried.
These clubs morphed into what is now called “Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs” and their function is no longer as it was when they started in the late 1800’s—although they do still serve to the inner-city population as a sort of emergency relief resource. In addition to the Sunday second line parades, they deliver groceries to the needy, help local sports clubs, and still extend some help those who are facing unexpected expenses. As shown in this essay, each Sunday they hire a band to march along a pre-determined route to lead the Second Line celebration.
This is an ongoing project.
A tuba player member of Hot Eight Brass Band gets ready to start the Second Line parade with the New Generation Social and Pleasure Club.
Five years old Alvin Coco has played the trombone since he was two and this Sunday he played with the main band leading the parade.
The Second Line route is usually a predetermined route although spontaneous deviations may happen at any time. The route takes the Second Line through various neighborhoods.
Each Social Club has its own specific banner. Here is the upper half of the New Generation Social and Pleasure Club banner.
The brass band is the heart of the Second Line Parade.
A tambourine player member of a brass band plays along under the afternoon sun during a Second Line Parade.
A young member of the New Generation Social and Pleasure Club dances along the parade route.
The President of the Perfect Gentleman's Social and Pleasure Club, Travis Lyons (left), looks on while his son, the rapper T. Lyons shows off his moves during the Second Line Parade. Travis Lyons has been participating and sponsoring Second Line parades for decades and essentially finances the cost of the sponsorship of his parades out of his own pocket. The cost of putting on a parade which includes all permits, police permits, costumes and all other incidental costs can go as high as $12,000 per parade.
The King of The Diamond Dynasty Social Aid and Pleasure Club greets the spectators and participants from their float along the Second Line route.
As the parade passes through various neighborhoods along the route, more and more people join in the Second Line.
Anthony Lewis, Vice President of the Perfect Gentelmen Social and Pleasure Club, takes a break at one of the stops along the Second Line Parade route.
A member of the Perfect Gentlemen Social & Pleasure Club, Rapper T. Lyons, rests at a stop along the Second Line route.
A member of the Diamond Dynasty Social Aid and Pleasure Club takes a break at one of the stops along the Second Lone Parade route.
Each Social Club has its own specific banner that is held by a member who walks in front of the parade indicating the Club that has sponsored the Second Line parade.
Perfect Gentlemen Social and Pleasure Club's Vice President, Anthony Lewis, leads the way along the parade route holding fans identifying his club.
A member of the Diamond Dynasty Social Aid and Pleasure Club leads the brass band as part of the Second Line Parade.
Folks living along the parade route come out and watch the festivities as they pass in front of their home and sometime the even join the parade.
Duchess Blair Smith has some trouble with her feather headdress on her way to the float on which she is to ride during the Second Line Parade.
Windle rides thirteen year old horse named Lady along the parade. There are several horse clubs that join and ride along side the parade.
Holding a fan showing the Black Lives Matter logo, a young member of the Devastation Social Aid and Pleasure Club dances along during the Second Line Parade.
A musician plays his trumpet while other members of his brass band take a break.
A member of the Devastation Social Aid and Pleasure Club dances along the Second Line route. At times, the procession stops for a dancer, or several dancers, to show off their moves.
Two young participants and spectators watch the Second Line parade standing on top of a trunk of a car.
The Duke of the Young Generations Social Aid and Pleasure Club takes a snack break at one of the stops along the route of the Parade.
The Queen of the Devastaion Social Aid and Pleasure Club takes a selfie with another member of the club atop their parade float just before the parade gets on its way.
One of the orignal purposes of the Second Line parades was to play somber funeral dirges on the way to the cemetery. Once the funeral had ended, the band would play more festive songs celebrating the life of the deceased person.
At a stop during a Second Line Parade in front of the Lafayette Cemetery a man dances on a tomb as the brass band plays along.