New Orleans—It would take more than a hurricane to end the city's spirited second-line parades and jazz funerals. Sure, there are fewer social aid and pleasure clubs putting on the famous brass-band street parades nine years later. But they play an even more essential role now in the African-American neighborhoods they represent.
The city's oldest second-line group, the Young Men Olympian Jr. Benevolent Association, has grown from about 80 to 100 core members since the floodwaters destroyed its clubhouse in the historically black neighborhood of Central City. It's the last benevolent association of its kind, still providing financial help and funeral expenses to dues-paying members. After Central City was submerged in the flood, association leaders tracked down their members within days and have since helped many of them return to New Orleans. Some never moved back, but continue their involvement with the brotherhood.
This September, Young Men Olympians celebrated its 130th anniversary with the city's largest second-line parade: six brass bands and six divisions winding past dilapidated Creole cottages. The Grand Marshall of the first division—a coveted position—came from Houston for the big day. He's done it every year since Katrina.
"This is my heart.... These are my brothers," said Joseph Spots, 58, who has been parading with the association since he was a boy. "When you have something in your spirit, it'll make you come back."
This article is part of our Next America: Communities project, which is supported by a grant from Emerson Collective.
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