Edward Buckner of the Original Big Seven Social Aid and Pleasure Club says his group's annual parade will continue this year, despite setbacks from Hurricane Katrina. While originally slated for April, the new date for the second line is Sunday, May 14 — Mother's Day.
It's the club's tenth anniversary, and they are determined to parade.
However, this year's celebration has had to make several changes in the aftermath of the storm. The Original Big Seven usually kicks off and ends their event at the St. Bernard public housing project. Most of their second liners lived in the project, too. The complex has remained shuttered since August, with no plans for reopening.
To reach fans, Buckner has sent thousands of fliers announcing the parade to former residents of St. Bernard and the rest of the Seventh Ward now living in Houston, Atlanta and other cities.
Buckner is also trying to negotiate with the city to reopen the main yard of the St. Bernard project for the kick-off party. He says the club plans to cut the grass and do other clean-up work to make it a friendly gathering spot. They want to give former St. Bernard residents a chance to see their old home shine, if only for a day. So far, the city hasn't responded to his request.
Buckner says nine of his club's ten members are back, and have been meeting steadily to take care of the final details for the parade, like coordinating the route to avoid demolished houses and piles of debris blocking streets.
Another obstacle has been funding. The Original Big Seven usually raises money for their parade from within the community — holding block parties and fish fries, or putting out donation cans at local businesses.
But without neighbors to invite, or stores to solicit, the club has had to get outside help. Arts and relief organizations like the New Orleans Arts Council and Project HEAL — Help Employ Artists Locally — have pitched in to help pay for costumes, brass bands, and the increased city parade fees.
Buckner himself says he's been walking the neutral ground to get in shape for the parade. He says he wants to make sure he can dance every step of the route on May 14. He expects a crowd of thousands.