Tuesday, May 02, 2006

4/26 - Seventh Ward Second Line Will Go On

by Eve Troeh

Edward Buckner of the Original Big Seven Social Aid and Pleasure Club says his group�s annual parade will continue this year, despite setbacks from Hurricane Katrina. While originally slated for April, the new date for the second line is Sunday, May 14, Mother�s Day.

It�s the club�s tenth anniversary, and they are determined to parade.

However, this year�s celebration has had to make several changes in the aftermath of the storm. The Original Big Seven usually kicks off and ends their event at the St. Bernard public housing project. Most of their second liners live in the project, too. The complex has remained shuttered since August, with no plans for reopening.

To reach fans, Buckner has sent thousands of fliers announcing the parade to former residents of St. Bernard and the rest of the seventh ward now living in Houston, Atlanta and other cities.

Buckner is also trying to negotiate with the city to reopen the main yard of the St. Bernard project for the kick-off party. He says the club plans to cut the grass and do other clean-up work to make it a friendly gathering spot. They want to give former St. Bernard residents a chance to see their old home shine, if only for a day. So far, the city hasn�t responded to his request.

Buckner says nine of his club�s ten members are back, and have been meeting steadily the take care of the final details for the parade, like coordinating the route to avoid demolished houses and piles of debris blocking streets.

Another obstacle has been funding. The Original Big Seven usually raises money for their parade from witihin the community - holding block parties and fish fries, or putting out donation cans in local businesses.

But without neighbors to invite, or stores to solicit, the club has had to get outside help. Arts and relief organizations like the New Orleans Arts Council and Project HEAL - Help Employ Artists Locally - have pitched in to help pay for costumes, brass bands, and the increased city parade fees.

Buckner himself says he�s been walking the neutral ground to get in shape for the parade. He says he wants to make sure he can dance every step of the route on May 14. He expects a crowd of thousands.

Transcript - Second Line Fee Increase

Date: April1 1, 2006

Eve Troeh

Linda Porter - President of the Lady Buckjumpers Social Aid and Pleasure Club
Tamara Jackson - President VIP Ladies and Kids Social Aid and Pleasure Club
Gerie Thompson - member of the VIP Ladies and Kids

Eve Troeh: Tamara, tell me about the task force as it existed before storm, and how it�s changed since then.

Tamara Jackson:
The task force was initially the Second Line Cultural Tradition Task Force. It was designed as an umbrella organization to help create an ordinance to govern all Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs that parade, and help us become organized to avoid consistent increases in the fee structure for the parades.

We wanted to organize as a group of clubs under one governing body to get assistance from the city and the police. We wanted to establish a rapport with political leaders. Post-Katrina, board members changed because people were displaced, and the name changed to New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force. We wanted to separate from the term "second line" because second lines have started to have a negative connotation. People when they heard "second line" thought violence, and didn�t see the true spirit of what we bring forth on a Sunday.

Eve Troeh:
You�re also trying to re-emphasize the social aid aspect?

Tamara Jackson:
Yes. All clubs individually give back to their community. Each club does community things throughout the year. The task force is looking to build on that foundation.

Eve Troeh:
What�s the fee structure you�re referring to?

Tamara Jackson:
The fee structure increase came from NOPD - from $1,200 to $3,760.

Eve Troeh:
What was the timeline on the increase of fees?

Tamara Jackson:
The timeline was ASAP - immediately [after the first shooting]. If you were parading in the time after the memorandum [from NOPD was in] effect. The reason they gave to club members was to deter the criminal element on the parade route. They said an increased presence would accomplish that. We disagree because at the last parade - at the Single Men�s parade - the incident was four blocks away. Yet police were visible. The young man committed the crime in view of police officers. And this was the police presence as that was increased from pre-Katrina. So this is a citywide problem. The problem affects the city completely, not just our culture.

Eve Troeh:
So who should carry the burden when violence occurs?

Tamara Jackson:
We cannot be responsible for what other people do. It�s a hardship when you impose an astronomical fee on a self-sufficient culture. "To protect and serve," is the job of the police department for everybody. They�re supposed to do the same job at $1,200 that they�re going to do at $3,760. Violence is a city wide problem, and each club should not be responsible for problems that city has as a whole.

Eve Troeh:
Linda, your club has been around a long time.

Linda Porter:
Yes, 22 years.

Eve Troeh:
How has second line culture changed in that time?

Linda Porter:
I guess it�s changed a lot in that time, with the fees and all. Other things, too. Like we used to be called the �Car Queens" because we had so many cars in our parades. Then they said we had to have less. And the number of divisions that parade now had to be the same as when you start.

Eve Troeh:
Will the new fees change your tradition?

Linda Porter:
For us, not really. We�re just trying to help other clubs. Because our club is kind of a big club. So we stand behind other clubs and help them increase their tradition.

Eve Troeh:
What do clubs do to deter violence?

Linda Porter:
When we register with police, we automatically have to ask for help. Because automatically our parade falls around the Bayou Classic [football game]. Every year police watch our crowd closely and make us get extra protection.

Eve Troeh:
And what about other things like the route sheets?

Linda Porter:
We put on our route sheets to leave trouble at home. Because there�s children out there. Leave your dogs, snakes; cause people bring all kind of things!

Eve Troeh:
Do you think your club sends a message out that�s peaceful and positive?

Linda Porter:
I think so. When we had the big parade in January, people came back for the culture. You know, the mayor couldn�t bring people back, but a second line brought them back to this city. This is something New Orleans loves. They love this here. I don�t know why the crime happened. I guess �cause they knew they�d see people out there, and could do it.

But in 20-something years, there�s been just one, maybe two incidents at our parade.

Eve Troeh:
Tamara, you were telling me that there will be no second lines in April and May.

Tamara Jackson:
Yes, they�re not parading. The next parade is June 14, with Devastation Social Aid and Pleasure Club.

Eve Troeh:
Is that a new club?

Tamara Jackson:
No, indeed. They�ve been around a long time.

Eve Troeh:
Well, it�s an appropriate name for these times.

Tamara Jackson:
Yes, yes it is.

Eve Troeh:
Are the clubs not parades these two months because of the fees?

Tamara Jackson:
Yeah, the clubs were preparing to parade prior to new fee increase. The financial responsibility is a great difference. Most clubs have displaced members. They�re trying to get people money to come back. It�s an extra hardship for clothing, costumes, and to pay the band. It�s hard to fund the culture and keep it going.

Eve Troeh:
Gerie, I want to ask about the VIP Ladies and Kids club. Where is it located?

Gerie Thompson:
We parade Uptown. We bring our kids out. A lot of our members are still displaced, but we keep in touch to make sure they can come back to get adequate housing and help get schools so the kids can come back. We paraded on March 5.

Eve Troeh:
How was parade on March 5? With more police, was it different?

Gerie Thompson:
It was no different for us, because it was a beautiful day.

Linda Porter:
Don�t get us wrong, we love the increase in the police. Tamara, me, everybody, we do feel safer. It�s just the price we have to pay to get that protection that we have trouble with.

Gerie Thompson:
It�s post-Katrina and we�re all already having hardship to get back on our feet. Our people can�t come home because we can� afford to have them both pay to parade and come home.

Eve Troeh:
Well I want to thank you ladies for being here. And we�re doing to continue this conversation in weeks to come.

4/6 - Second Line Fee Increase Puts Strain On Tradition

by Eve Troeh

In January 2006, the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund and the New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force hosted the All Star Second Line Parade. More than 30 clubs took part. Wearing shirts that said "ReNew Orleans," they led thousands of returned and displaced New Orleanians through the sixth, seventh and eighth wards, dancing and stepping for hours to the sounds of three brass bands.

The event ended in violence, however, when three bystanders were shot as the parade wound up near Zulu headquarters on Broad Street and Orleans Avenue. Days after the shooting, the New Orleans Police Department increased their fee for providing protection at second line parades by almost 400 per cent, from $1,200 to $4,445. The idea behind this, said New Orleans Police Department Public Affairs Officer Juan Quinton, was to increase public safety.

"We�re not trying to damage a culture, but the events were getting too large to where we could police them effectively. And these are not events where the city picks up the tab for what happens there."

The Norman Dixon Sr., Annual Second Line Parade Fund, part of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, has traditionally paid the police fees for the city�s social aid and pleasure clubs. Norman Dixon Jr., administrator of the fund and President of the Young Men Olympian Social Aid and Pleasure club, says there is not enough money in his father�s memorial fund to cover the new costs.

"At that price," Dixon said, "only two or three clubs would be able to afford to parade, instead of a second line almost every Sunday."

Members of the New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force met with police representatives, including Superintendent Warren Riley, to work out a sliding scale of second line parade fees based on the size of each event. In February, task force leader Tamara Jackson said negotiations with the city, "looked promising."

Then, another shooting happened on March 20. This time it was at a Central City funeral for a member of the Single Men�s Social Aid and Pleasure Club. The fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man occurred despite the increased police protection. Jackson says the incident happened four blocks away from the parade, but still in sight of patrolling officers.

After the incident, the police once again set a standard fee for all second lines, this time at $3,760, which is where the price stands today.

Jackson and other club leaders say Social Aid and Pleasure clubs should not bear the complete burden of violence that occurs around their events. They point to recent shootings at Mardi Gras, including a 2004 shooting at the Krewe of Muses parade, and say the police have not tried to deter those events with fee increases.

Police say this is because second lines are treated as private events in the eyes of the city, meaning police can set fees at their discretion. Mardi Gras parades - and other parades such at St. Patrick�s and St. Joseph�s Day parades - are governed and protected under a city parade ordinance.

The Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force says it is seeking a similar city ordinance for second line parades. Such an ordinance, they say, would protect them from the police increasing fees each time an incident occurs.

Street Talk sat down with three women from the New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force to talk about how the new fees are affecting second line culture in the city. See the transcript in the next blog.

4/6 - Musicians Resource Center Provides Food, Fun and Support Downtown

by Alison Fensterstock

Starting two weeks ago, a serendipitous meeting between the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and St. Anna's Episcopal Church has given birth to a weekly event that will be useful - and fun - for musicians and nonmusicians alike. The church became one of the first nonprofit organizations to take advantage of the NOMC's Summer Solace funding to hire local musicians to play in New Orleans during the gig-dry summer months. On Wednesdays, after an evening service, the church will host dinners and performances , as well as provide access to legal, medical and mental health counseling for musicians.

"We've been in the neighborhood for over a hundred years, and like any faith-based organization, we've gone in and out of involvement with our neighborhood," says Father Bill Terry. "For a long time, we've felt like we should do more outreach among musicians, and Katrina allowed us to get the funding to set up and consolidate some resources."

This past Wednesday, attendees were treated to gumbo and other New Orleans dished prepared by a St. Anna's parishioner, as well as a performance by the Storyville Stompers and Lillian Boutte.

"There are two critical links to our culture - music and food," says Terry. "In some respects, we've done a very poor job of nurturing those aspects of our culture. If we lose our core of musicians, this city won't be New Orleans anymore."

Terry envisions St. Anna's on Wednesdays as a point of contact for musicians, where they can relax, network, jam and eat, as well as access valuable resources in their own neighborhood. "New Orleans is very neighborhood-based, so we're focusing on providing these resources downtown," he says. "For a lot of people, going from Bywater to Carrollton can be like buying a plane ticket to Iowa. So this will be a kind of satellite of the musicians' clinic, serving Treme, Bywater, the 6th, 7th and 9th wards and the French Quarter."

On Wednesdays, musicians will be able to set up appointments for medical screenings, legal advice, stress management counseling and other services. The church will provide space for them to meet with caseworkers throughout the week.

St. Anna's Church is located at 1313 Esplanade Ave. Services begin Wednesdays at 6 p.m., with dinner and performances beginning at 7 p.m. $5 suggested donation for nonmusicians.

4/6 - New Orleans Musicians Clinic Gig Initiative keeps musicians working� and well

by Alison Fensterstock

The long, hot New Orleans summer usually sends any musician with the means on the road. Summer festivals are usually eager to add an authentic slice of the Crescent City to their roster, and the drop in tourism during the humid midsummer months means gigs in the city are few and poor-paying.

"We're very concerned about what summer is going to mean for local musicians," says Beth Fisher, a spokesman for the NOMC. "Summer was hard enough to begin with, and we don't know what the post-Katrina world will do to their ability to make a living in town."

The Katrina-induced exile found many musicians facing an uncertain housing situation in New Orleans. Coupled with the higher quality of life offered by many other cities, the NOMC worried that the dearth of gig opportunities in New Orleans in the summer might be yet another reason for local musicians to say goodbye for good. To combat that possibility, they developed the Summer Solace program, an initiative that will fund performances by local musicians at nonprofit organizations - including churches, parks, schools and nursing homes - throughout the summer. The Summer Solace offers funding at an average of $100 per man per gig, a rate that's more than competitive with most French Quarter clubs. The NOMC also asks that each nonprofit use their grant to obtain matching funds from other organizations to expand the number of performances they can support.

The NOMC is still in the process of compiling a database of organizations and musicians who are involved in the project. Fisher suggests that interested musicians and organizations partner with each other before approaching the NOMC to apply for funding. "We encourage musicians to be proactive in finding gigs," she says. "The band can go to a church and say, 'I want to play here,' and then the church will do the request."

For more information, call 504-415-3514 or email msl@savenolamusic.org

3/20 - Louisiana Music at South by Southwest

by Alison Fensterstock

MARCH 20, Austin, TX - New Orleans used the substantial platform of the South By Southwest music industry conference for the first showing of its new initiatives in promoting Louisiana music and generating tourism, post-Katrina. Scott Aiges, who resigned as head of the Mayor's office for music business development on October 5, organized Louisiana's presence at the event as the first official act of his new nonprofit organization, the Louisiana Music Export Office. Members of the Louisiana delegation at the conference included Basin Street records, Offbeat magazine and the Ponderosa Stomp, as well as multiple Louisiana agents, recording studios, equipment manufacturers and artists. Half of the $65,000 budget for the weekend was provided by the Louisiana State Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism; the rest was ponied up by Hibernia Bank, Putumayo World Music and Southern Comfort. The Louisiana Music Export Office has been retained by the state as a consultant on music business development, and was instrumental in the lobbying effort to pass the new sound recording tax credit incentives.

Events over the course of the weekend included an "industry networking" crawfish boil; a showcase of Ponderosa Stomp acts - including Li'l Band O'Gold, Barbara Lynn and classie Ballou and the Family Band - at the Continental club; a large trade booth at the Austin Convention Center and an outdoor showcase at the prestigious outdoor festival venue Town Lake Shores. The Town Lake Event featured the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk and Allen Toussaint, among others. All proceeds from the $5 suggested donation went to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. The Hot 8 Brass Band also drew crowds marching and parading in the streets of Austin.

At a panel on the state of Louisiana music post-Katrina, Cyril Neville, Scott Aiges, Jan Ramsey (publisher of Offbeat magazine), Keith Spera (music writer for the Times-Picayune) and Allen Toussaint debated issues including revitalizing tourism and creating a supportive city atmosphere to lure musicians home permanently. Participants in the weekend's events had mixed responses to the SXSW initiative. The initiative was modeled on national cultural export agencies' common marketing efforts to draw attention to their indigenous music, with the aim of encouraging both tourism and lucrative international festival bookings for their local acts. Cyril Neville, who has relocated permanently to Austin, had little faith in the state's plans, worrying that the interests of musicians themselves were being bypassed.

Mark Samuels, head of Basin Street Records, voiced concerns that the need to rebuild the neighborhoods that organically generated many New Orleans bands would be ignored in favor of a focus on tourism.

Ira Padnos, director of the Ponderosa Stomp, was pleased with the attention his acts drew at South by Southwest; however, he said, he had already planned and funded a showcase at the 2006 event and linked with the Louisiana delegation as an afterthought.

Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band enjoyed the exposure and the opportunity to play with old friends, though he felt the export office's efforts would have little effect on his band's career. The band elected to record their new album, due out in early 2007, in Austin and Los Angeles, and not to take advantage of the new tax credits. For more on Louisiana at South by Southwest, click here.


3/23 - New Governor's Office Likely to Replace Louisiana Music Commission

by Eve Troeh

The resignation of Louisiana Music Commission members Ellis Marsalis and Bernie Cyrus last week raised questions about the future of the state�s role in Louisiana music.

Mark Smith is the director of Entertainment for the Louisiana Department of Economic Development. He says the state is likely to create a new office to handle music in the near future.

Smith points to a bill currently making its way through the state legislature that would creat the Louisiana Governor�s Office of Entertainment Industry Development. The new office would combine film, television, digital media and music under one agency. Smith says the office will be operated in conjunction with private contractors who are industry professionals, instead of using volunteer commissioners - many of whom were musicians themselves.

Former Music Commissioner Bernie Cyrus says he thinks film and music are apples and oranges, and shouldn�t be approached the same way. He is also concerned that the new office will not focus on music education, health care or housing for musicians.

To read the state bill that would create the Governor�s Office of Entertainment Industry Development, read here.

Feature story about increase in second line fees on National Public Radio, by Street Talk reporter Eve Troeh.