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 the 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 parading 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 the 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't 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 going to continue this conversation in weeks to come.