Jazz Funeral for the American Presidency



As today is the day after Mardi Gras, I thought it was an appropriate time to post these drawings made at the New Orleans Jazz Funeral for the Presidency. The event, put together by the group Rise & Resist in Greenwich Village, NY and other critics of the current administration, was a mock funeral for the American Presidency as an institution. A most unusual event! I arrived (thanks to the invitation of my friend Susan, a member of R&R) to find a Victorian style funeral group, complete with casket with the dates of the presidential life and death, under the arch of Washington Square Park.

There was a man talking through a megaphone letting the growing crowd know that today, in honor of President’s day, there would be a funeral service and New Orleans style Jazz funeral procession, to mourn the death of the presidency. Surrounding him were people holding black and white prints of past presidents, upside down, on poles. A woman dressed as a Victorian widow was flanked by an Abe Lincoln impersonator,  a black and blue colored Statue of Liberty, holding the torch upside down, and the Lady of Justice, with her scales weighted down by a cartoon style money bag that had a big $ printed on it. Very theatrical!


According to this terrific New Yorker article on the event by Sarah Larson, Rise and Resist is a continuation of Act Up, the gay rights group that was so vocal in the 80s and 90s. They are a theatrically minded group, and the next gentleman who got up – J.W. Walker, the MC of the proceedings, told the crowd that the only way to protest and keep at it for the long haul, is to have fun with it. And so they did! Mr. Walker is an actor, and also represents the group, Gays Against Guns. He led the crowd through the funeral ‘service.’ There were hymnals passed around, and group singing of various hymns and showtunes, adjusted for the occasion. Some of the more memorable songs to me, were “Amazing Disgrace,” a tailored version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and the showtune “Oklahoma” re-written as “Mar-a-Lago.” The crowd really got into the spirit of the thing, and after six or seven songs, called out for more.


But there was no more time for songs, it was time for the Jazz Funeral Procession to begin! People really got into the fantastic jazz music, bouncing along to the rhythm with the drums, tuba, clarinet, sax, trumpets, guitars, etc., etc. The group snaked around the perimeter of Washington Square Park, holding up umbrellas and following the pall bearers who carried the “Death of the American Presidency” casket. Honest Abe Lincoln led the parade, as it made it’s way out of the park, and up Broadway.




The group attracted quite a lot of onlookers, who, in true New York City style, mostly smiled, laughed, or applauded, and then continued along with their business. Just another day in New York City.


The procession continued to Union Square. There were a few short statements, an appeal for supporters to join and work with Rise & Resist, and a thank you to all the musicians and other participants.



I went looking for my friend Susan as the event broke up, and also ran into fellow reportage illustrator Alex Charner. He declined the offer to join us for coffee, as there was another group beginning to rally in Union Square from Venezuela, and he wanted to document that. As I’ve said previously in this blog, these are busy times for reportage illustrators!


So Susan and I went off to socialize, but not before I drew this gentleman holding a casket proclaiming his particular form of grief: “Mourning the Death of Environmental Regulation.”

A most imaginative and theatrical protest, one of so many events here in New York City since the inauguration.


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