Though death hurts just as much here as it does anywhere else, a funeral here can be a really good time. The funeral, repass and second line for Albert Joseph Jackson, the Moses of Magazine Street, were a really good time. The church was filled with Albert’s rather large and loving family and the some of the many people Albert affected in our community.
I’ve always enjoyed services at churches in African American communities. I love the women moved to their feet, arms outstretched, reaching out and open to God’s bounty. I love the other women who hold them up or fan them, who never doubt the sincerity of everything that’s happening. Most of all, I love the preachers who sing most of their sermon. Less words, more meaning. It was a beautiful service.
Bishop Love spoke about talking to strangers, about never knowing who someone is. He said Albert wasn’t much of a churchgoer and that they normally don’t host funerals for non-parishioners but joked that every preacher dreams of doing a celebrity funeral. I think it was clear from where he stood, looking out at all the faces of the non-parishioners, that Albert had a huge impact (that was Bishop Love’s word – “impact”) on our community. Albert may not have attended church, but he spread God’s love every day. I attended the Moses of Magazine Street Church every time I passed Albert on the street and received his blessings. I count myself among Moses’ many parishioners.
As we were leaving the church, I spotted a box of tissues (who goes to a funeral without tissues?) and grabbed one. I was drying my eyes when I turned back toward the door. A woman saw that I was struggling and smiled. I smiled back, fighting tears, and she opened her arms and said, “Come here, baby.” She held me like a mother, like she could make the whole world okay with hugs. I’m inclined to believe she actually could.
We crossed the street to The Duchess Bed and Breakfast, a new B&B recently opened by Albert’s sister, Juanita. It was a wonderful combination of homey and well-appointed. Take a look here: (I especially love the music on the photo gallery page)
We prepared the food for later then filed out onto the street to join the second line. There were members of the Original Prince of Whales Social Aid and Pleasure Club along with the Hot 8 Brass Band and a beautiful blue Mardi Gras Indian joining our eclectic mix of neighbors, shopkeepers and family members. We started up Sixth Street, the band playing “I’ll Fly Away,” if I remember correctly. The tempo picked up as we rounded the corner onto Magazine Street. The police literally had our backs, keeping this normally busy street closed to honor this man. I’m always happy to see how patient drivers are here when cut off or delayed by parades, funerals, weddings and the like.
At some point, I felt something touching my leg. I looked down to see that it was the Mardi Gras Indians feathers tickling me as we walked and bopped to the rhythm. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to be walking with horns at my back and Mardi Gras Indian feathers on my legs, but if you’ve been following this blog, you already know that my love for the Indians is unreasonable. We stopped in front of the memorial at Sabai jewelry store and danced in the street, me pumping my Saints-colors umbrella in time with the music. Here’s a short video someone made of the memorial:
Someone brought tiny paper cups of wine out for a toast. Everyone threw them back like shots then tossed the cups in the air. Then we made our way to the Design Within Reach store, where Albert often sat at the table and chairs set up in front. They had flowers on the table and a flyer about Albert. We danced some more, sang some more, then moved onto the next stop, the Walgreens. All the employees came out and danced on the brick wall where Albert used to sit.
There are many times when the beauty of this city, its people and culture, fills me to bursting and I happy-cry. Being a part of this second line, celebrating the life of someone so kind, watching my community dancing through the street, I… I am home.
We made one more stop on our way back to the B&B, a house with a sign out front honoring Albert. The tone changed yet again as the band broke into “Casanova” and some of the women ran up onto the porch to dance and bounce. Here’s a short video someone took (from an unfortunate vantage):
We returned to the B&B just as another funeral was ending, a far sadder one with a tiny coffin. Not everything here is a party. We filed out back for rice, pasta, salad, green beans, chicken and other wonderful food. I ran into people I knew from Walgreens, La Divina, Gott’s, even my Super Bowl crowd.
It was a great day celebrating a great man. Talk to strangers, you never know who you’ll meet.
I will miss you, Albert.