Calvin “lil Man” Jones Sr. is the third Grand Marshall of Young Men Olympics, Junior (YMO, Jr.) and also Vice President of the Valley of the Silent Men Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Born at Charity Hospital in 1951, he started going to second lines every Sunday by age 9. He loved dancing through the streets to the music of brass bands stating, “it was the thing to do on the weekends.” In the 70s he masked for a few years as Wild Man for Creole Wild West, but eventually joined second line clubs YMO and Valley of the Silent Men where he has been able to look out for members of the club and community.
“It's the culture, and we enjoy the culture but we gotta stay safe. Everybody gotta get the shots, so we can go out there and have fun. Can’t have no fun if everybodies not vaccinated. That's the basics.”
When New Orleans began to reopen in late Spring the second lines became possible again. However, the Valley of Silent Men made the decision to wait till 2022 for their return to the streets for their 35th parade. They usually kicked off the start of second line season with their late August parade, but with so much money to be spent on permits, a brass band, and carefully designed suits, they felt it was asking too much of their 12 club members in such a short time. The uncertainty of the pandemic and fluctuations in personal income created unneeded pressure on members, and the rise of Delta this summer has made it all the more risky for everybody involved. “We are going to skip 21, but we will be back in full force in 22. That's the size of it.”
Currently YMO is “in limbo” about whether to hold their Fall second line or wait till next year. “It’s so costly right now, and you know everybody is pinching.” The Benevolence Association was established in 1884 and has grown over its many years to 90 adults and 30 kids, totaling 6 divisions within its parade. While newer divisions in the club select different colors each year for parading, the core club’s colors are black and white. Over the years they have donned their standard garb to send off deceased members and important figures in the New Orleans community like Dr. John. During the pandemic YMO has made a habit of checking in on its members and taking care of those in need.
As a wave of Delta Covid variants spreads over Louisiana and the rest of the nation, getting vaccination shots has become all the more important to kickstarting New Orleans culture. Jones believes in the importance of getting everybody vaccinated to make second lining safe for all. “It's the culture, and we enjoy the culture but we gotta stay safe. Everybody gotta get the shots, so we can go out there and have fun. Can’t have no fun if everybody’s not vaccinated. That's the basics.”
“[Feed the Second Line] is one of the best things to happen in this pandemic. A lot of us was wondering where we were going to get food from. We couldn’t go nowhere, couldn’t go to the store, and we really appreciate them stepping out jeopardizing themself to bring food to the people in the culture.”
Feed the Second Line has been a big help to Jones and other members of the community over the last year. “It’s one of the best things to happen in this pandemic. A lot of us was wondering where we were going to get food from. We couldn’t go nowhere, couldn’t go to the store, and we really appreciate them stepping out jeopardizing themself to bring food to the people in the culture.”