In April 2006, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton traveled to New Orleans to lead a rally demanding that New Orleanians displaced by Hurricane Katrina be able to vote in the mayoral election scheduled for the end of that month. The two also led about 2,000 protestors on a march across the Crescent City Connection bridge to Gretna, symbolically completing the journey begun by groups of mostly African-American evacuees, fleeing the chaos in New Orleans days after the storm, who were turned back by armed law enforcement.
Sess 4-5, a recording artist and community activist, was there with his brother, the rapper Young Sino. Participating filled him with a sense of pride and purpose.
“I got a feeling like, this must have been what it felt like, marching with Martin Luther King in the ’60s,” he said. But the born-and-bred New Orleanian felt something was missing.
“At the end of the march, it was only those dignitaries who got the opportunity to speak, even though some of them wasn’t here, or wasn’t from the city,” he said. “And there were a lot of people at that march who lived through that, who got denied going over the bridge, and they didn’t get to express themselves.”
Sess, who owns the Nuthin But Fire record shop on North Claiborne Avenue, had plenty of experience putting together events. He had organized everything from major concerts to a free summer-camp program with Q93.3FM DJ Wild Wayne. With the first anniversary of the floods coming up soon, he decided to organize his own march and rally, and create a space to hear the voices he thought were missing.
“It was from the community perspective, for the people and by the people, and only the people would get to speak, and say what they went through.”
Working with his brother, Wild Wayne and other local hip-hop artists like Mia X, Sess held the first Katrina memorial second-line march and rally on Aug. 29, 2006. Since then, each year, the route has been the same. After a morning ceremony at the site of the Industrial Canal levee breach in the lower Ninth Ward, a march transitions into a second line to Hunters’ Field, where North Claiborne Avenue intersects with St. Bernard Avenue, for an afternoon of performances and speakers. Over the years, representatives from the national Hip Hop Caucus and the Sierra Club have become involved.
This year’s event, Sess said, will be the biggest yet. Depending on which day of the week Aug. 29 falls, over the years, attendance has ebbed and flowed, which is part of the reason why, along with memorializing those who died in the flood and raising awareness of the racially driven and economic inequities that see many still struggling to recover 10 years later, he hopes to use the event to mount an effort to make the date a local holiday.
The 10th annual Katrina memorial march and second line begins at 10 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 29), with a prayer and healing ceremony at the intersection of North Galvez Street and Jourdan Avenue. The march and second-line begins at 10:30, with the Rebirth, Hot 8, Most Wanted and All for One Brass Bands, plus multiple social aid and pleasure clubs and motorcycle clubs including the 9 Times, the CTC Steppers, the Lady Buckjumpers, the Extraordinary Gentlemen, DSS, the Electrified Ladies, the Westbank Ladies Of Pleasure, the Rebel Sistas, the Dumaine Street Gang, the Clutch Poppin Motorcycle Club, the Smokin Aces Motorcycle Club and the Str8 Wyl’n Motorcycle Club.
The parade is scheduled to reach Hunters Field at 12:30 p.m. The afternoon’s program of speakers and performers, hosted by Wild Wayne and poet Sunni Patterson, runs until 4:30 and includes Sess 4-5 and Young Sino, Kermit Ruffins, Mia X, Dee-1, Tonya Boyd-Cannon, Hip Hop Caucus president Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., songwriter Roi Anthony, Bill McKibben, the founder of the environmental awareness group350.org and Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, plus DJ Poppa and DJ Vee.
The event also serves as the kickoff to the People’s Climate Music Bus tour, a multi-state tour organized by the Hip Hop Caucus and its partners whose intent is to raise awareness of climate change issues in underserved communities and communities of color.
Learn more at katrinaanniversary10.com.