SAF Annual Reception at NAFSA 2024 invokes the tradition of New Orleans second lines

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The Study Abroad Foundation (SAF) held its Annual Reception at the NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference on Tuesday, May 28. Over 200 guests attended this year’s event, held in the Galeriè de Galatoire, a grand heritage space befitting this year’s host city of New Orleans.

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Delegates from SAF’s extensive network of representatives and partners in China, Japan, and Korea attended, along with many representatives from host universities and over 60 attendees from the esteemed China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE).

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Every year, NAFSA – the National Association of Foreign Student Educators – holds its Annual Conference & Expo, bringing together thousands of professionals from around the world to share knowledge, network, and explore the latest trends and issues in international education.

SAF was honored to incorporate New Orleans’ rich cultural history as part of the reception. This year, guests were treated to a dazzling night of performances that paid tribute to the unique New Orleans tradition of second lines.

Second lines are organized brass band parade processions that wander the city’s wards, celebrating life, death, and festive occasions. Traditionally organized by Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs (SAPCs) – community-based organizations deeply rooted in New Orleans’ history – the second line is a sight to behold.

Revelers dressed in matching ensembles dance exuberantly, waving handkerchiefs and parasols as they high-step, jump, and move to the irresistible rhythm of New Orleans jazz played by the brass band they trail behind. Leading this vibrant spectacle is the grand marshal, an honored member of the local community who sets the procession's tone and spirit.

Speaking at the event, SAF Senior Associate Vice President Carol Carmody unveiled the reception's very own second line before introducing Carl Mack, a seasoned second line performer who shared thoughtful insights into the history and significance of second line traditions.

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“Those of you who have joined past SAF receptions are aware that our organization is committed to exposing our students, faculty, staff, and colleagues to diversity around the world, to deepen understanding and awareness of issues related to the ethnic, cultural, and sociological mosaic of the world. This evening, we are so pleased to introduce you to a unique New Orleans tradition: the second line.” - Carol Carmody, Senior Associate Vice President, SAF

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Mack, renowned for his musical act "The Xylophone Man," which debuted at the 1984 New Orleans World's Fair, is a legacy performer who transitioned from street performing to founding his own entertainment company. He eventually established the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture in the French Quarter, a popular local attraction that aims to preserve the costumery of Carnival and other cultural celebrations in New Orleans. 

Mack was joined on stage by several other second line performers, who shared their personal relationships with, and expressions through, second lines.

Honey Banister, the Big Chief of the Golden Sioux Mardi Gras Indian tribe, spoke about the rich tradition of Mardi Gras Indians and their connection to Native American culture. King Hollis shared his perspectives as a local figure in Tremé, a historic African-American neighborhood known as the birthplace of jazz.

Anita Oubre, also known by the stage name “Magnolia Rose,” shed light on the city’s fascinating Baby Doll community while Gerald Platenberg explained the important role of the grand marshal.

As the presentations concluded, a lively second line music performance erupted in the venue, as performers in spectacular, lavish costumes warmly invited guests to join in. Many attendees eagerly embraced the opportunity to take part in this one-of-a-kind cultural experience, ending the night dancing, waving handkerchiefs (a traditional second line custom), celebrating the theme of international student mobility.

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