A Second Look at Second Lines

Last week, publisher Jan Ramsey’s column made me uneasy as it talked about the shooting that followed a second line near her house. She wrote, “while attending the second line on Dryades on Sunday afternoon, they heard the gunshots that inadvertently killed a two-year-old baby sitting in a car across from the church on First and Dryades.” That’s not exactly how Katie Urbaszewski reported the story for The Times -Picayune. She wrote, “Police were nearby, patrolling the Young Men Olympian Junior Benevolent Association second-line parade, which had already passed down Dryades to Second Street when the shooting occurred.” Although I don’t have the print version in front of me, I remember that the headline for the jump made explicit that there was no direct relationship between the shooting and the second line.

The Times-Picayune was being very deliberate in making that point, perhaps because of the criticism the media in general has received for its coverage of the shooting that followed a second line earlier in the month (most provocatively stated here). Neither shooting took place during the second line, and the second line community is understandably concerned that even the inference that there’s a cause-and-effect relationship could lead to another increase in policing costs or other restrictions from a police department that has often seemed antagonistic toward second lines.

Still, to argue that there’s no relationship whatsoever is also problematic. The social aid and pleasure clubs and second liners are fundamentally joyful, positive entities, but sadly, any event that brings together people from different neighborhoods ups the chances that people with beefs will find each other and try to settle them, regardless of the context. That has also happened at Mardi Gras parades as well—Muses in 2004 and Crescent City in 2009. Second lines aren’t the problem, and it’s the causes of violence—not second lines—that need to be addressed. We in the media should do our part to keep that clear.

Here’s a video on the subject  from one of our contributors, Jon Carrere, with Tyrone Davis, formerly of the Rebirth Brass Band: