Last Saturday, the social aid and pleasure club community laid to rest one of its beloved members to rest. Kenneth James Dykes Sr., age 54 and founding member of ‘Sudan’ Social Aid & Pleasure Club, succumbed to cancer Sat., Sept. 12, 2015. His club honored Dykes with a traditional jazz funeral homegoing ceremony.
(videos and more below the jump!)
Dykes (pronounced ‘Dice’) was well known and revered throughout the New Orleans community. He was a chef at Landry’s in the French Quarter but it was his work as a referee for NORD and several middle and high schools that fulfilled him and cemented his reputation as a warm and caring public servant. Dykes served as a committee member for Sudan, taking responsibility for duties such as designing parade outfits and teaching kids to second line. Sudan member Chris Terro recalls Dykes as “exciting, outgoing, always clowning with you, always joyful. You never caught him depressed or anything. He didn’t talk about pain. He wasn’t gonna let that hold him back. He was a fighter, fought till the end.”
Terro posted announcements on his Facebook page instructing funeral attendees from the second line community to wear traditional black and white to honor Dykes “in an old-school, traditional jazz funeral way, not to treat it like a regular second line. That was the way they were brought up. We wanted to keep that legacy alive.”
Another Sudan member as well as a referee colleague and friend of Dykes, Bernard Robertson, laughs recalling Dykes having “the strongest personality. He was very caring, loved working with kids 5-16 years old, teaching them the fundamentals of baseball, football, and basketball.”
Robertson met Dykes at the young age of nine and the two stayed in lock step with each other spanning several decades. Joining the ‘Tambourine and Fan Club’ run by civil rights leader and community activist Jerome ‘Duck’ Smith, Dykes and Robertson eventually graduated to the ‘Bucket Men’, a SAPC founded by Smith that no longer parades. Robertson credits the activist with helping to develop himself and Dykes into responsible men. “Duck taught us about the struggle of a Black man. We would regularly shut down City Hall when the parks are not right or when we weren’t getting funded for our day camps. We sat in Mayor’s chair until we got meetings we needed to get our programs funded, open up day camp, clean our pools... I was about 12-13 and Dykes was about 8 or 9. If you came to our youth camp you did a sit in.”
But Dykes and Robertson would eventually break away from the Bucket Men club to form ‘Sudan’, an all men’s social aid and pleasure club established in 1983. Sudan was created, in part, out of rebellion. “When a kid grows up with his father and starts smelling himself, we had outgrown (Bucket Men). It was time to leave the house.” Nevertheless, they took Smith’s teachings into their next endeavor. “Our logo has the map of Africa, in the heart of it has three symbols - a basket, fan and umbrella. That came from our father Jerome Smith taught us. That first year we paraded, we wore tuxes, carrying red roses coming out of St. Augustin’s church.”
In addition to helping establish Sudan, Dykes helped develop the kid’s division, ensuring that every child was fully prepared on parade day. “He made sure their shoes, pants, suspenders, hats, baskets and fans were made. And later on when we had kids, we brought our kids out together in strollers.”
Robertson helped to lead the procession during Saturday’s jazz funeral for his friend Dykes, wearing a referee shirt just as the two wore during their many years of overseeing sports events. “The send off was done in the old school tradition that we do. Its saying ‘Sorry to see you go.’ The singing of ‘If my mother don’t go, lord I’m gonna journey right on’ after our parade, we used to sing that song to our crowd in front of The Co-Op on Kerlerec and St. Bernard," recalls Robertson. “That used to be a day care nursery and food co-op our members ran for the neighborhood and also served as a clubhouse for us. We would shut our parades down with the song.”
Robertson asserts, “Dykes was a real loving person. Before he hurt you, he’d leave you alone. He was a warrior but would give you his arm if you needed it.”
Services for Kenneth Dykes were held Saturday at the Treme Center followed by a jazz funeral. He was interred at Providence Park Cemetery. He is survived by three sons and daughter.