Michael Jackson Commemorated with a Second Line in New Orleans

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Thanks to Nordette Adams of the New Orleans Examiner for the video link.

Last week, residents of the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, located in Mid-City New Orleans, decided to commemorate the late ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson with a Second Line. They figured that the funeral, when it came, would be full of mourning, tears and regret. So they put together a Second Line as New Orleans would always have for its s/heroes, artists, poets and ‘professors’ of music.

What’s a Second Line, you might ask? Let this NOLA native tell you. New Orleans funerals would be accompanied not only be the hearse and the deceased’s family and friends, but a brass band. The hearse, horse-drawn or not, would be serenaded to the grave with hymns and dirges by the band. Once the last shovelful of dirt and the last prayer was said over the deceased, the procession back from the grave would be accompanied by song and laughter. The participants, even the bereaved, would send the deceased’s soul home, dancing and prancing with the music, with gladness, with appreciation, and with celebration about his or her life. In their minds and prayers, it was with gladness over s/he achieved, and what good s/he had done on this earth, even if it was having good friends and a joy for life.

In a lot of ways, the dislocation people still feel about the Katrina dead has a lot to do with not having had these kinds of funerals and rituals that have evolved from slavery. It’s a way of cathartic release for the living. As Nordette Adams wrote in the New Orleans Examiner, many are finding comfort on Twitter, Facebook and other online communities discussing the meaning of Michael Jackson’s life, and have gathered at jumbotrons and TVs around the world to bear witness. For those who may be poorer, and have other traditional means of expression, the Second Line does the job.

The flood of Jackson news is almost over, and now the world may enjoy his music more. As novelist and cultural critic Toure suggested in an interview, it may be that people will feel freer to rejoice in Jackson’s gift and genius now that his passing has separated the music from the baggage of his life drama. Perhaps we will see more people acknowledging as Berry Gordy did at the Staples Center that they believe Jackson was the “greatest entertainer to ever live.”

We will hear more people playing Jackson’s music again, his true legacy, and weighing the stories we’ve all heard about him, wondering which are accurate, which are out-and-out lies. Finally, we will put our misgivings, guilt, anger, and sorrow to rest and dance to the beat of a life that touched millions around the world.

So, just before dusk on Sunday, June 28, three days after Jackson’s death, the Revolution Social Aid & Pleasure Club and its supporters, accompanied by the Rebirth Brass Band, the Free Agents, and other bands, set out on St. Bernard Avenue for a mile or so to celebrate the King, with people dancing to Jackson’s music.

The Second Line, of course, began to swell as more people heard the bands and joined in, some wearing just gotten up Michael Jackson teeshirts, or wearing signature Jackson clothing, like a fedora or white socks and pants showing a lot of ankle; toting umbrellas, or waving with spangled gloves on one hand.

Marcher Shack Brown did one better.

He wore one of Jackson’s staple outfits: a black fedora, jacket, pants and shoes, accented by a white T-shirt and socks, and the famous glove.

“I’ve been wearing this for three days” to celebrate Jackson’s life, Brown said.

At the end of the parade, he hopped on a pickup truck and started to dance in Jackson’s inimitable style.

“Mike had some kind of impact in everyone’s life,” he said. “Some of his life we didn’t like, but a lot of it we loved.”

Joe Black, founder of the Revolution Club and Second Line organizer, first pegged the Second Line being upwards to 1500 people, but he was glad to call it “a very successful day,” at its end, when people spread out over the neutral ground and began to encounter oncoming traffic. There were certainly a lot more than just 1500 people; I would guess that there were three times that number.

Police observing noted that there was no violence warranting arrests. Another surprise for them, much like that observed by people watching the funeral on television around the world. No one acted a fool, people (equal measures of whites, people of color, black people) were reverent and sat patiently. Even the few outbursts of “We love you, Michael!” were accompanied by scattered applause, and then respectful silence. You know, when people care, they act right. I’ll bet that if jumbotrons had been provided near the Staples Center, the crowds would not have gotten out of control in the name of Michael Jackson.

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~ by blksista on July 9, 2009.

One Response to “Michael Jackson Commemorated with a Second Line in New Orleans”

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