Roughly 3900 to 2000 St. Bernard Ave.
7th Ward, New Orleans, LA
The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club was founded in 1996 in the Saint Bernard Housing Projects located in the 7th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana to help the community. Some of the more recent post- Katrina efforts include drawing people back to city and rebuilding homes and businesses.
“Pleasure Club” is the tag line that has been given to the Big 7, but the idea of pleasure clubs originated with church benevolent societies. The purpose of these societies was to help church members buy clothes and food, pay rent and assist in other areas in which they may need help. Later, the methodologies of benevolence expanded beyond the confines of the church to include other kinds of community based work. The intermingling of the sacred and secular caused a divide between the church and the benevolent society and facilitated a move away from church-based operation to community-based operation.
The Big 7 is one of many clubs known for parading, not only for the building of the club, but to benefit and finance the rebuilding of the city. There are gathering points behind each club with specified yearly dates designed to celebrate and showcase each community.
The Original Big 7 has partnered with The Porch 7th Ward Cultural Organization to sponsor its annual Mother’s Day weekend filled with exciting events and music. Friday nights are dedicated to Gospel music, Saturday nights feature R&B, Jazz and Latino music and Sunday concludes the celebration weekend with the Annual Mother’s Day Parade. The parade features two to three bands each year including The New Birth Brass Band, The Stooges Brass Band, and The TBC (To Be Continued) Brass Band.
A Main Line is the “main section or the members of the actual club, that has the permit to parade. The parades consist of a larger element of fans and the curious following that section of members .
Those fans, admirers and curious are the “second line” or part two of this planned street parade. These parades have come to be called and known by this fact.
Normally called, “Second Lines”, the sponsoring element is called the “Main Line” and is usually a Social (Aide) & Pleasure Club of the neighborhood in which they are parading. By state and city ordinances and law, very seldom does these parades take up routes on heavily traffic laden thoroughfares in the city. Most are held in the back areas, visiting the stops that help the clubs to continue the tradition.
The Social Aide & Pleasure Club tradition is a mixture of African traditions that came together to form one of the most unique forms of celebration in the united States. The tradition’s history, however, dates back to the tribes in western Africa.
This was my first Second Line, so I don’t really have any experiences that are similar to compare it to. That said, I had a good time. The energy was infectious, just about everyone was dancing. The crowd was made up of all ages, was predominantly African American, but also included White folks of all walks of life. I suspect that the demographics of the attendees closely matched that of the neighborhood (If you do not consider those like us, either documenting the event or just visiting New Orleans). Not only was the First Line (the actual performers) dressed in costume but quite a few of the followers were as well. The parade started (emerged from a house) with a Social Club and brass band, was followed by three or four floats and concluded with another Social Club and band. Most people didn’t just stand and watch it pass by, but walked along the route. Makeshift vendors sold food, water, soda, beer and mixed drinks. Many people were drinking…and dancing in the middle of the street.