In one of my fave KERMIT RUFFINS songs, “WHAT IS NEW ORLEANS?,” he recites his personal list of people, places, and activities that define his world. Most of HIS world is in the TREME, and as far as I’m concerned, y’all haven’t experienced the heart and soul of New Orleans, if you haven’t Second lined!! On the other hand, I feel that many of New Orleans White communities never Second lined, or even knew what they are until HBO’s series, “TREME” was broadcast, and maybe because of HURRICANE KATRINA, and all of the universal attention that occurred on New Orleans. Be that as it may, the fact remains that Second lines have been around FOREVER in this town, conducted for and by African-American BENEVOLENT SOCIETIES, and “SOCIAL AID & PLEASURE CLUBS”, both for funerals, and for Sunday neighborhood parades that allow local entrepreneurs to sell their various food and drinks. True aficionados like many of my friends, subscribe to Second line dates each week to determine where the routes will be. On a typical Sunday afternoon, a Second line will form around 1 PM at the starting location, Prior to this, the venders will mobilize with their barbecue trucks, beer, water, etc. After the parade begins, and the marchers head out on the pre-determined route, the venders move to the first of series of rest stops; this continues all day, as most Second lines don’t end ’til 4-5 PM!! Some of the rest stops will be local bars, which will allow participants in to use rest rooms, and buy drinks. Personally, I ALWAYS begin my Second line searching out my friend, and iconic Second line and festival personality, LINDA, THE YAKA MEIN LADY!! Sometimes, if I’m too tired from night before, I’ll arrive to slurp Linda’s YAKA MEIN and GUMBO, then leave after chatting with friends!
(YAKA MEIN, often pronounce,Yakamee) is a savory beef brisket noodle soup garnished with half a hard-boiled egg and chopped green onions.)
For the true enthusiast, especially if you’re young and energetic, Second lining is dancing along with the BRASS BAND MUSIC the length of the parade…that can often be 4-5 miles!! As we wind our way through these mostly Black neighborhoods, we can get an idea of their lifestyle, and if you’re willing, say, “HEY!” to the people that you meet…everyone is friendly!! The first time I experienced this, I made friends with both BENNY JONES, SR. (whom I met the night before at a private party his band, THE TREME BRASS BAND, was playing.); I also met his comical brother, BO MONKEY, who is now my brother too!!
A few years later, my Son, Tilden, came to New Orleans with me; I had trepidation that he wouldn’t appreciate or endure Second lining…WRONG!! He too got hooked after our first all day adventure that took us miles, and deep into the bowels of “back-a-town!” And of course, LINDA’S YAKA MEIN!!
By the way, on my first Second line, I was introduced to the most wonderful, and gentle, Writer-Performer-Recorder of “I’VE GOT A BIG FAT WOMAN” fame, HENRY YOUNGBLOOD!! I have since sought him out, along with his beautiful wife ALBERTEEN, as you’ll see pictured here, every time I’m at THE BACKSTREET CULTURAL MUSEUM as he lives nearby.
Too many words here trying to convey the sense of community, rhythm, and soul of NEW ORLEANS!!