There are few things that bring me unfettered joy like a second line. I’m a native New Orleanian, raised in Tremé, so it’s hard for me to resist the blaring horns, jazzy-funky drums and a sea of Black folks letting their minds be free with the coldest footwork you’ll ever see. With second lines, you can just see the mental health boost that everyone gets, especially in a city where there are constant stressors. Second lines create a sense of community, they celebrate the human spirit and they serve as a true expression of culture, helping New Orleans remain a truly unique and special place.
There’s another really cool thing that I love about second lines. They pull an interesting spirit of giving out of folks. When the rhythm hits you and your feet force you into the street, you want to invite everyone that you know to join in. So, it’s not uncommon to see a second liner take a wallflower’s hand and coax them to join the fun.
So, what if second lines were philanthropy? Man…we could fill a lot of community needs in New Orleans.
We just celebrated Black Philanthropy Month. Every August, we recognize philanthropic traditions throughout the African diaspora, but philanthropy is about more than giving for the sake of giving. My philanthropy mentor and wife, Dr. Halima Leak Francis, researched philanthropy as part of her doctoral dissertation on fundraising capacity building at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Realizing that I, like so many Black folks, need context, she told me a great story to explain philanthropy’s significance to communities.
Halima was at an event where a speaker talked about people in his community being denied admission to an elite university decades ago because of what was then known as “Jew quotas.” He went on to explain that for him and many others in his community, such an injustice became a major motivator for his own philanthropy. Eventually, that community gained leverage with the university and the quota was dropped. Their giving had become so prolific, that names from their community even began to appear on the university’s buildings eventually.
My immediate response was that I wasn’t exactly sure how well that would work for Black folks. Some pretty–shall we say, determined–people work…