Writing in In These Times, Fatima Shaik describes a threat to the famous "second line" parades of New Orleans. A longstanding tradition rooted in the city's mutual aid societies and closely linked to the early history of jazz, the marches have recently faced steep hikes in city fees:
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, one club, the Original Pigeontown Steppers, whose name designates the neighborhood and the dance, was charged $1,200 pre-Katrina for police escorts. This year, police requested $7,500 before dropping the fee to $2,400.
Representing the task force, the ACLU challenged the price rises for permit fees in U.S. District Court. The police and the task force came to an agreement on April 25 that the standard cost for fees in the future would be $1,985 for five hours of security.
And the court ruled that the cost could not be raised for the 21 clubs that are members of the task force. But other clubs that weren't parties in the suit will need to negotiate with the police on their own. A better step, [Tamara Jackson of the New Orleans Social, Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force] says, would be enacting legislation to protect and govern all neighborhood clubs similar to rules governing Mardi Gras organizations.
According to Shaik, the parades' roots go back centuries. "The gestures in the second line dances date back to Africa," she writes. "In New Orleans, the dances were documented in 1819 by Benjamin Latrobe in Congo Square where slaves came on Sundays. Their gatherings were shut down at various times, notably when the city authorities wanted more control."
For more history, go here.