September 21, 2005

Jazz Funeral Honors Katrina Victims

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A funeral marched through the Arts Quad yesterday. But there was no casket, only the procession. Smiling and chatting with friends, around forty people walked together to honor the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Not by mourning, but by celebrating life.

“We’ve been making a scene,” said Nicole Ceci ’08, a resident advisor at the Multicultural Living and Learning Unit (McLLU), who originally thought of the idea for the Jazz Parade. She said that the staff of McCLLU wished to do something for the Hurricane victims. Together, Ceci; Navin Seebaran ’06, McCLLU assistant resident hall director; and Justin Davis ’07, another RA at McCLLU, worked for the past two weeks to organize the band, set up a New Orleans style dinner at Risley Dining Hall and get the word out about the Jazz Parade.

A jazz parade, typically called “The Second Line,” traditionally occurs during the walk back from the cemetery. People carry decorated umbrellas, wear fancy clothes and dance to jazz music as a brass band leads them in a celebration of the life of the deceased.

To begin the procession at Ho Plaza, Davis gave a speech describing the purpose of a jazz parade to the audience. He stated that this was not an event to celebrate the death of New Orleans because the city would return. This was an event to celebrate its life and culture. “If you have umbrellas, stick them up in the air to show that you care today!” Davis said.

The first jazz parade at Cornell, first revved up to dancing on the Arts Quad, was a remarkable sight. Participants walked slowly from Ho Plaza to Risley Hall, chatting, snapping their fingers and smiling. A Cornell University Police Department car led the procession, followed by a giant yellow banner that stated: “Jazz Parade. Commemorating the lives lost. Celebrating the lives lived.”

Behind them walked a brass band, whose energy and exuberance created a joyful and upbeat atmosphere. The rest of the procession followed and attracted a lot of attention as people gathered outside of libraries and on the Arts Quad to watch.

Frederick Staidum grad, a Lousiana native, said “It hit a special place so I was definitely was drawn to come out and celebrate.”

“I think it’s a good thing for Cornell, a lot of students don’t have money to support the victims so it’s a great way to honor the lives that were lost,” sad Lindsey Bober ’09, McLLU social committee chair.

Local band jazz band Johnny Russo and the East Hill Classic played classical jazz for the procession. A tuba formed the bass line while a trumpet and trombone played the up-tempo melodies. Two guitars and a banjo strummed along creating music that set the tone for the whole event. The band left the procession at Risley Hall to get ready for the Jazz Benefit Concert at Statler Auditorium yesterday evening.

“This is clearly not about money. It’s about doing something to show you care,” said James Doehring ’08, a participant at the funeral.

Davis was extremely pleased with the turnout of the event. “This is what I envisioned it to be,” he said.

At the conclusion of the procession, Davis stated that the event was meant to get people’s spirits up and help relieve some of the stress caused by the disaster. Davis also stated that this was an outlet for people at Cornell to have a good time with meaning behind it, something he thinks does not happen enough.

Archived article by Casey Holmes
Sun Staff Writer