The New Orleans second line is a brass-band parade named for the second group of onlookers following a first line of musicians and official marchers. The parades got their start when bands hired to accompany funeral processions would, on the way back from the cemetery, play joyful, upbeat songs to celebrate the life of the deceased. Second-line parades take place not only during holidays such as Mardi Gras, but also throughout the year, as documented in Nima Taradji’s photographs. —Katie Daniels
I first became aware of second-line parades when I was taking a photography work-shop in New Orleans. Their history goes back to the time after the Civil War, when insurance companies wouldn’t insure black customers, so African-American neighborhoods created their own social clubs, where members paid monthly dues to receive insurance for funerals and medical bills. The clubs would also engage musicians to accompany funeral processions to and from the cemetery. Although social clubs don’t serve these exact needs today, they still provide social services to the needy and put together second-line events.
The atmosphere is fantastic. It’s the young and the old, families and individuals, all coming out to hear music, dance, drink, and laugh. Every so often, for the sake of the band, there are breaks where food and more drinks are consumed before the party rolls on again. There are also times when everyone stops and one or two individuals show off their moves to the music. This photo captures one of those breaks. The man on the left is Travis Lyons, the president of the social club that put together this parade; the younger guy dancing with him is his son, rapper T. Lyons.
The energy of the crowd is endless. There’s no way anyone attending a second-line event can’t feel the beat and not start dancing.
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