New Orleans celebrates Mother's Day

  • A young member of the Original Big Seven Snyder Steppers division makes his entrance after changing into his “formal” suit to finish the second line.
  • The 2014 King and Queen of the Original Big Seven get to ride in the back of a convertible during this year’s parade.
  • Darran Harper sells a variety of liquor from the back of a pickup truck during the second line, New Orleans, La.
  • Joe “Diamond” Landry sells chips, pecans, pralines, and sweet potato pies to second line supporters during the parade, May 10, 2015.
  • A member of the Original Big Seven rides atop a float during the second line.
  • Terry Gable rests on the back of a utility golf cart during the second line. 
  • Members of the Original Big Seven sit in the back of a convertible during the second line.
  • Members of the Original Big Seven’s children’s division dance during the second line.
  • Members of the King and Queen’s court ride atop a two-story float during the second line.
  • Ferdinand Snyder, 60, who leads the children’s division of the Original Big Seven Snyder Steppers, dances with a fellow member during the second line.
  • A man sells cold drinks from a cooler during the second line parade, May 10, 2015.
  • Leo Gorman (center), a member of the Original Big Seven, dances during their annual second line parade.
  • A man dances atop an electrical box as the second line makes its way up St. Bernard Avenue, New Orleans. 
  • Ed Buckner dances during the second line.
  • Torrie Abram pours herself a drink atop a float during the second line, May 10, 2015. 
  • A boy rides his bike along with the second line as it winds its way through the 7th Ward in New Orleans, La.
  • Jabari Brown (center) dances as the second line makes its way up St. Bernard Avenue, New Orleans, May 10, 2015.
  • A member of the Original Big Seven makes her entrance after changing into her “formal” suit to finish the second line.
  • Tyrone Snyder makes his grand entrance from Ed Buckner’s house to a cheering crowd.
  • A member of the Big Seven children’s division makes his grand entrance from the front door of Ed Buckner’s house.
  • (L) Ed Buckner, President of the Original Big Seven Social Aid & Pleasure Club. (R) Terry Gable, 47.
  • Club members say a prayer in Ed Buckner’s living room, wishing for a peaceful and successful second line, May 10, 2015. 
  • (L) Eric Smith, 18, who paraded for the first time as an official member this year. (R) Vernon Jones, 47, who paraded for the first time as an official member this year.
  • Party attendees dance during the Original Big Seven’s annual “Call Out Dance.”
  • Party attendees watch the action on the dance floor. 
  • La Shaunda Francis (center) leads King Allan Francis as they dance their way out the door of Celebration Hall. 
  • Attendees dance while Da Truth Brass Band plays inside Celebration Hall on the Friday before Mother’s Day in New Orleans, La. 
  • Ferdinand Snyder dances while Da Truth Brass Band plays inside Celebration Hall, New Orleans, La., May 8, 2015.
  • Da Truth Brass Band plays inside Celebration Hall during the annual “Call Out Dance.” 
  • Members of Da Truth Brass Band wait outside Celebration Hall before playing at the annual “Call Out Dance.” 
  • Party attendees dance during the Original Big Seven’s annual “Call Out Dance,” May 8, 2015. 
  • Monique Fouchea tends the bar. The dance is a chance for club members, their families and friends, to celebrate the upcoming second line parade. Ticket sales and a cash bar also help with last minute fundraising. 
  • Gwendolyn Ranker decorates Celebration Hall in preparation for The Original Big Seven’s annual “Call Out Dance” on the Friday before Mother’s Day, May 8, 2015, New Orleans, La. 
  • Justin Cloud, a young Mardi Gras Indian Chief, works on a fan in Ed Buckner’s home. He’s not an official member of the Original Big Seven, but helps the club prepare for its annual second line parade nearly every day. 
  • Finished “baskets” sit in a room in Ed Buckner’s house that is filled with second line and Mardi Gras Indian suits. Buckner has served as the President of the Original Big Seven Social Aid & Pleasure club since 2003. 
  • Ed Buckner laughs during a suit-making session in his living room. His house is overrun with materials and memorabilia from past second line parades and he cuts and assembles key parts of the suits himself. 
  • Nikia Raymond, wife of Ed Buckner, ties a bow in her living room in preparation for the annual Mothers Day second line. 
  • Eric Smith (center) ties bows during a suit-making session, which happens almost nightly as the Mothers Day weekend approaches, May 4, 2015, New Orleans, La. 
  • Ja-Quan McNair glues bows onto a fan during a suit-making session in Ed Buckner’s home in New Orleans, La., May 5, 2015. 
  • Gilda Snyder Williams uses a machine to fold bows from a spool of ribbon, which she then glues onto streamers and fans for the second line suits. She has been sewing second line suits for her family since 1988. 
  • Gilda Snyder Williams holds a finished suit for the Big Seven’s children’s division, May 6, 2015. Although she does not personally participate in the parade, she is an integral part of the Big Seven family. 
  • A small streamer for one of the members of the Big Seven’s children division sits on a table at Gilda Snyker William’s house in a suburb of New Orleans, May 6, 2015. 
  • A family portrait of the Snyder family lies on a table next to suit-making materials at Gilda Snyder William’s house. Members of her family were among the founding members of the Original Big Seven in the early 1980s. 
  • A photograph of Ferdinand Snyder hangs on the wall of his converted garage in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Snyder is a longtime member of the Original Big Seven, and manages the children’s division. 
  • Ferdinand Snyder poses with two nearly finished fans in his driveway. Snyder, manager of the children’s division in the annual second line parade, makes the fans for the youngest participants himself to keep costs down. 
  • Ferdinand Snyder holds his granddaughter, Siyah Forrest, as she examines a fan, May 6, 2015. 
  • David Johnson works on a fan on his living room floor on May 6, 2015, in New Orleans, La. Johnson is a longtime member of the Snyder Steppers division of the Original Big Seven. 
  • A Snyder Family Steppers streamer hangs ready for the Mothers Day second line parade, New Orleans, La., May 6, 2015. 

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Second line parades in New Orleans date back to the 19th century, and the African-American social aid and pleasure clubs that sprang up to fill the many gaps that Jim Crow had left in the lives of black folks at the time.

The clubs gave out loans to members and provided burial services and insurance payouts to families when white banks refused. They also hosted street fetes, parties and celebrations. The second line in particular is an outgrowth of the two things these clubs and the city for that matter do like no other: celebrate life and death with magnificent pomp and flair. 

The second line parade evolved from the traditional New Orleans jazz funeral, in which a brass band, known as the first line, begins playing a slow, solemn dirge that grows more upbeat and festive as mourners march away from the funeral.

The modern second line has been described as “the quintessential New Orleans art form – a jazz funeral without a body,” and now refers to a parade led by a brass band and a procession of revelers, most waving white handkerchiefs and doing traditional New Orleans dances – many of which derived from traditional West African dances brought to the city by enslaved Africans. Members of the organization leading the event typically fall in behind the band, with neighborhood folks bringing up the rear.

Second lines are held throughout the year. But lately, one the largest of the city’s second lines happens on Mother’s Day, through the streets of the lower 7th Ward and sponsored by the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club.

This Mother’s Day was no different, as hundreds filled the streets, jumping and bumping, some dripping in the customary uniforms of their particular club. Preparing for the parade takes months, including raising money to pay the band and supplies and the cost of marching permits. Year by year the cost for the requisite permits has spiked, adding to the financial strain of hosting the parades and creating tension between the clubs and the City.

On the Friday before Mother’s Day this year, the Big 7 club hosted a last-minute fundraising party with a $10 cash door. The joint was packed with old-timers and newbies to the club, their families, and regular folks looking to support the club and enjoy a good party.

The parading during second line season is ubiquitous in the city’s black neighborhoods. But much like the city itself, the second lines can be beautiful before turning bloody with a bang. Many young parents refuse to take their children anywhere near parade routes, which wind through various neighborhoods with stops at local bars. 

Many personal beefs in New Orleans have been settled at second lines or during Mardi Gras, when friends and foes alike are almost certain to toss caution to the wind and join the celebrations.

Two years ago, on Mother’s Day, two gunmen unloaded on second liners during the Big 7’s parade. No one was killed but 19 people were injured, many of them critically. The shooting made national news and shocked many in the city, long weary but all too familiar with gun violence. Investigators later said the two brothers indicted in the shooting, Akein and Shawn Scott, acted as muscle for a criminal street organization.

The incident was particularly troubling because of the nature of the Mother’s Day parade, which skews particularly family friendly, with young and old, mothers and grandmothers, matriarchs and all those who loved them out in full force.

Two years later, peace and a sense of normalcy seems to have returned to the Mother’s Day parade, and with it a critical piece of New Orleans tradition, a bonding agent in the lives of generations of black families.

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