by Red Cotton
Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs see themselves explicitly as groups that not only lift the spirits of their communities, but also provide concrete services. When the hurricane hit, the Young Men Olympians mobilized its phone list and was able to locate all its members on their cell phones within days.2 Asked to say a few words about what her club does, Sue Press, founder and President of the Ole and New Style Fellas SAPC, reeled off an unbroken, five-minute stream of accomplishments, from mentoring youth, to donating school uniforms to needy families, to holding a voter registration drive at her house, and on and on.3
The Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs perform crucial leadership functions of drawing members of disadvantaged and excluded communities into a mainstream, providing opportunities and reducing the attraction of harmful activities. And bridging this gap benefits the whole city, not only by reducing social problems, but by making the talents and contributions of a large part of society available to promote the citys progress and enrich everyones culture. Forward-looking leadership should recognize these benefits by easing police restrictions and fees for the Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs parades and showing them the same respect, as community leaders, shown to the official Mardi Gras Krewes that parade on St. Charles Avenue.