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The Joys of Art

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Drama

If you teach children to be more introspective, more abstract thinkers and not just solely concrete thinkers it goes a long way in establishing a proud cultural heritage, a pride in themselves, a sense of value and a sense of what is right and wrong and what is meaningful to them....My son will go off on children at his school who even try and mock or slight their Cajun heritage....

Drama---Erykah Badu

Organizers, revelers ache to bring the second line back without the violence
Friday, March 24, 2006
By Chris Rose
If any good can come from violence at a second line parade -- and that is tricky language, to be sure -- it is awareness of the value of second-line culture and from awareness maybe we can get closer to a cure for our cancer.

The problem is not the parades. Not even close. The problem is young men completely disengaged from their own history and community who use these massive gatherings as proving grounds to settle old scores.
They are a threat to the delicate fabric that is our city right now. Even if you weren't at the second line and have never been to a second line and don't really understand what it's all about, you must have felt the report of gunfire in your sternum Sunday afternoon.
A friend of mine's wife watched it on TV from their comfortable home in Mandeville that night and cried heavy tears. You don't have to live in New Orleans to understand that to go back to the old ways is to deliver a death sentence to this city in a way that even a hurricane cannot.
We cannot go back to the routine nightly gunfire in our streets, which is where we seem to be headed.

Why are the thugs back here? What have they come home to?
Michael Rocks, a community activist in Algiers, puts it this way: "The word is going out how broken law enforcement is in this town compared to, say, Texas. It's not easy being a criminal in Texas."

So what do we do about it? To combat our legacy of political waste and incompetence, we have the power to vote to change things. To combat our legacy of litter, we have self-starter groups such as the Katrina Krewe who go out and clean up the mess themselves.
There's a guy out on Louisiana 11 near Lake Catherine who has taken to stopping traffic on his own and shaking down drivers about their intentions. Looting has so devastated his village that he is no longer content to wait until the deed is done to act.

But what of the killers? The predators?
Some have suggested canceling the second line parades, but that is so far from the answer that it borders on perversion.
Did we talk about canceling Mardi Gras when revelers were gunned down at Muses and Bacchus parades in years past? Did we talk about canceling Jazzfest in 2004, after a music lover was shot as he was walking to his car?
The cool rhythm and brass shuffle of the second line parade is inextricable from our culture. Essential. Vital.
Says Norman Dixon Jr., the administrator of the second line foundation named after his father: "I'm not willing to surrender our culture to the bad element. Second lines are not just about a Sunday afternoon activity. It is a feeling in the soul. It is our spirit."
As Jazzfest producer Quint Davis, a co-founder of the Norman Dixon Second Line Foundation, puts it: "In New York, they have a jazz industry. In New Orleans, we have a jazz culture. And it's the only one in the world. It's what makes us different from any place else."
There will be another second line parade this Sunday. The tradition -- older than anyone remembers -- will not stop. The Revolution Social Aid & Pleasure Club will meet at Armstrong Park at 1 p.m. and will follow a meandering route toward Uptown.
Bands will play. People will dance in the street. I don't know the exact route; the fun in these things was always trying to find it.

On Saturday morning at 9 a.m., the New Orleans Second Line Task Force will hold a prayer vigil at the New Orleans Baptist Church, 1616 Carondelet St.
Organizers had not, as of press time, secured the necessary permits for a parade. But they hope to march the same route that last Sunday's second-line took; the one that ended with some punk -- who didn't march and who likely does not know why people march -- shooting another guy for reasons known only to the way of the gun.

"There will be no music in our parade," task force organizer Gilda Barze said. "It is a silent march to make a point."
A silent march doesn't sound nearly as fun as a rollicking second line. But it represents people coming together, people who care, people who are willing to do what they can to fix what is broken.
It is people in the streets. New Orleans people. New Orleans streets.
This is a mission we must accomplish.
. . . . . . .
Columnist Chris Rose can be reached at chris.rose@timespicayune.com; or at (504) 352-2535 or (504) 826-3309.


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