For nearly a year, the streets of New Orleans have been empty. Second lines—social aid and pleasure club parades—are another part of normal life in the city put on hold by the pandemic, marking the longest continuous interruption in a tradition stretching back generations. With origins in Black mutual aid societies founded to support African Americans and Afro-Creoles at a time when they were denied many social services, the clubs and their parades have become one of the city’s defining cultural practices. Full of color and artistry, rhythm and footwork, and friends and neighbors, the parades provide a weekly physical and symbolic gathering place for Black history and expression. Dancing in the Streets brings together historical photography tracing the history of the tradition, regalia from club members and the artisans who make it, interviews with longtime members, and contemporary images depicting the beauty and power of second line parades.
What does it feel like to come out the door at the start of a parade? What is a benevolent association as opposed to a social club? In this audio guide to Dancing in the Streets, members of the social aid and pleasure club community discuss the images and objects on display. These audio clips were taken from interviews conducted by the Neighborhood Story Project for The Historic New Orleans Collection.