But in New Orleans, culture also comes bubbling up from the streets and one of the most unique local expressions of this sort of culture is the second line parade. There are dozens of different second line parades put on throughout the year, usually on Sunday afternoons, and held in the French Quarter and neighborhoods all across the city. They range in size, level of organization and traditions, but in all cases they will include a brass band, jubilant dancing in the street and members decked out in a wardrobe of brightly colored suits, sashes, hats and bonnets, parasols and banners, melding the pomp of a courtly function and the spontaneous energy of a block party, albeit one that moves a block at a time. The parades are not tied to any particular event, holiday or commemoration; rather, they are generally held for their own sake and to let the good times roll.
Things to know
Deep Roots: The History of the New Orleans Second Line
A brass band blares. A hand-decorated parasol twirls. A ragtag group behind the band waves handkerchiefs to the beat of the drum, while a grand marshal in a snazzy suit and jaunty hat leads the way — out-dancing, out buck-jumping them all as he waves his feathered fan. Lucky you. Everyone is welcome to join in and many do.
What is a second line?
Culture Trip stands with Black Lives Matter. A second-line parade is, at its core, a celebration of life — in the form of a roving musical block party. The second line refers to everyone else: fellow revelers or mourners and those who have just decided to join in as it moves along.
The "main line" or "first line" is the main section of the parade, or the members of the SAPC with the parading permit as well as the brass band. The Second Line consists of people who follow the band to enjoy the music, dance, and engage in "community. It is one of the most African-retentive cultures in the United States. The Second Line has its origins in traditional West African circle or ring dances. The Second Line tradition was brought to New Orleans by enslaved Africans,  where it became a ritual for Africans in America, especially in various processions, including funerals. Some scholars believe that the West African ring featured children drumming with adults dancing that in turn, forced the ring to straighten into a line. These dances were officially banned for a time because they were deemed threatening to the white inhabitants of the city, and their resurgence in the Second Line culture suggests a similar celebration of individual freedom. SAPCs assisted members through illness and supported families with burial costs for deceased members. This is a carry-over from African traditions that believed in celebrating the member's spirit leaving the body to return to the ancestors and God.