Individual and Group Projects



In this unit, students will move beyond the days of the classic Civil Rights Movement and into contemporary times. Reading Jerome Smith’s chapter in Talk That Music Talk, they will learn how Civil Rights and music were combined together in a youth organization in New Orleans called Tambourine and Fan. Using the concept of a “cultural investment,” students will then create a presentation about their own community. The lesson also encourages the class to create their own social justice event or “moving classroom.”

Left: Curriculum for Tambourine and Fan shows a picture of Jerome Smith being arrested after a sit-in at Woolsworth’s. Photograph courtesy of Tambourine and Fan. Right: Jerome Smith standing in front of Craig Elementary School holding a picture of himself playing with young people in the Music for All Ages program at Lionel Batiste Senior’s jazz funeral. Photograph by Bruce Sunpie Barnes.




• Understand the concept of “cultural investor.”

• Discover how Jerome Smith acted as a cultural investor to aid in the enrichment of social life in New Orleans.

• Discover how they as residents of their own communities can engage in civic participation by becoming cultural investors.

• Devise a plan for acting as a cultural investor in their own community.



This lesson could be structured over a few days, or, if time permits, a number of weeks.



• Jerome Smith’s chapter in Talk That Music Talk

• Pen and paper for free-writing

• Handout on Cultural Investment

• Optional audio-visual equipment for presentations

• Materials for creative projects can be procured by students or, if doing a classroom project, provided by the school.


Jerome Smith is a life-long resident of New Orleans and a cultural investor in his community. Using the organizing techniques he learned in the Civil Rights Movement, he co-founded Tambourine and Fan, a youth organization that created events that brought young people together to create cultural experiences that enriched the life of the city. In Talk That Music Talk, he explains, “I wanted to create an organization out of children’s play and Civil Rights—use their fun time for social awareness and historical linkages, especially to the music. I wanted the organization to electrify their senses—electrify their spirit.”


Since the 1970s, Tambourine and Fan has run after school programs and summer camps in the downtown neighborhoods of New Orleans. One of the strong messages that came out of Tambourine and Fan was the importance of self-documentation—to get to know one’s own history and how it is connected to global struggles, and be able to tell these stories as a form of empowerment. For many years, they organized a parade, or “moving classroom,” called Super Sunday which honored important experiences in African American history, ranging from dance circles in Congo Square, where enslaved Africans met on Sundays before emancipation, to the stories of fallen civil rights leaders around the South. Tambourine and Fan mentored young musicians in the traditions of New Orleans street performances like brass bands and social aid and pleasure clubs. They also invited Mardi Gras Indian tribes, (who create elaborate beaded suits in honor of Native Americans who helped runaway slaves) and the skull and bone gangs (who dress as skeletons on Carnival day to send social messages to their community to embrace the fullness of life and honor ancestors) to join the procession. This cross-generational parade helped young people to make connections to a long tradition of resistance and art in the city.

STEP 1:  If students have not read Jerome Smith’s chapter in Talk That Music Talk, they can take turns reading out loud to each other to cultivate a culture of storytelling and active listening. Going around the room, each student can read one paragraph. If they have already read the chapter, begin the lesson by reviewing Bruce Barnes’ introduction to the chapter and the first section, “Where You Hear Music”

STEP 2:  Ask students to “free-write” on the topic, “How do people come together in your community?” for ten minutes. Free-writing is a method of writing developed by creative writers like Natalie Goldberg (see her excellent book Writing Down the Bones) to help tap into deep memory and cultivate a strong voice in writing. The Neighborhood Story Project uses it to help studens do ethnographic writing and connect with what is important to them. The rules are simple. A timed exercise, ask students to write continuously (without stopping or worrying about editing for punctuation, grammar, or clarity). It is okay if the writing goes in unexpected directions. The point is to not edit. This technique teaches “flow” in memory and develops strong writing and thinking skills.

STEP 3:  Ask students to read their responses and facilitate a conversation about similarities and differences between Jerome’s generation and their own.

STEP 4:  Pass out the handout, “Being a Cultural Investor.” Students can complete it as a brainstorming session during class, or it can be given to them as a more in-depth homework assignment.

STEP 5:  If time permits, students can share their ideas with the class. Afterwards, they will be given a week or more to work on a presentation about an important cultural practice in their community. Students should use their own interests and talents in the project. As part of their presentation, students should explain why is it important, and how it brings people together. Do participants consider it to be a form of “social justice?” Are there possibilites for connecting it to social concerns like Jerome Smith and Rudy Lombard did with Tambourine and Fan? If so, what issue would they like to address?

STEP 6:  If the format of the course allows for a more in-depth project, the class would then work on organizing an event at an important place in the community or create a “moving classroom,” which could take their presentations on cultural practices and social justice into the streets.


Depending on how much time is available, either option is an excellent way to learn about the art of community organizing. For instance:


• Students can work together to develop a social justice theme they want to highlight.


• If they decide to concentrate on a place or an event, students can create a program open to the public.


• If they decide to create a “moving classroom,” students can read other chapters in Talk That Music Talk, particularly the Black Men of Labor section, to learn more about how parades are put together in New Orleans. They can then consider what would reprsent their own communities the best.


• Students can invite people who are involved in culutral practices in their community if they would like to participate.


• Students can organize the school band or other students in the class/school to provide music for the parade.


•Students can work in small groups to create the “regalia” for the parade. Matching clothes, fans, banners, sashes,

Left: Benny Jones Senior dressed up for the Black Men of Labor parade with matching umbrella and fan. Photograph by Eric Waters. Top right: A sign created for a youth brass band for the Bucket Men parade. Bottom right: A banner for the Black Men of Labor’s annual second line parade. Photographs by Eric Waters.

STEP 7:  After the event is over, ask students to reflect on what they learned by doing another free-write. They can share these reflections with the entire class. What was successful? What would they do differently the next time.

STEP 8: Students can also write thank-you cards to the people who helped support their event.





Answer the following questions on separate sheets of paper to prepare for your Cultural Investment Project.

1. How would you define the term “social justice”?


2. How would you define the term “street culture”?


3. How would “street culture” be different from other forms of culture?


4. Why did Jerome Smith use music to further “social justice” in New Orleans?


5. How can an event like a parade help to build connections within a community?


6. What are some ways a person can be an investor, and how would you become a “cultural investor?”


7. What other social/cultural characteristics of your community could be used to further social justice and build community connections in your community? (List at least three)


8. How do community members invest in them, and what are the benefits?


9. What people, places, and events are important to know about in trying to understand social justice struggles in your community?


9. What social justice issues would you want to highlight from your own community?


10. Choose one and brainstorm ways that you can create a presentation for the class about it.



Below are general guidelines for answering the first half of the questions. There are, of course, many other possibilities.

1. How would you define the term “social justice”?


Social justice speaks to pursuit of the right of individuals and groups to be afforded the same opportunities and privileges in a society regardless of their background.


2. How would you define the term “street culture”?


Forms of art and expression that spring from home communities rather than professional or academic areas, and are presented in the public sphere.


3. How would “street culture” be different from other forms of culture?


There is not a strong boundary between the organizers and the participants. In many cases, the goal is to invite the audience to join in the celebration, and strong support is a sign of success.


4. Why would music be a way for Jerome Smith to try to further “social justice” in New Orleans?


Music in the streets of New Orleans was a way to organize and bring joy to the people who participate and those that have a chance to listen as the parade moves through the city. Many organizations use parades a way to honor community members and important neighborhood insittutions. Because New Orleanians are endeared to this form of “community organzing,” it was a good vehicle to use to incoporate other messages.


5. How can an event like a parade help to build connections within a community?


Parades like second lines require club members to work together to put on the parade, but then they must also advertise the event and invite the broader community to come out to participate in it. Young people in Tambourine and Fan worked to make the flags, signs, and regalies that were carried during the parade to share social justice messages.


6. What are some ways a person can be an investor, and how would you become a “cultural investor?”


An investor is someone who contributes to their community and hopes that their efforts, whether they are financial contributions or the giving of time and other resources, will help the community grow in positive ways. Cultural investment is when you recognize cultural practices that are important to your community, and work to cultivate them.


7. What are some cultural practices that are important in your community?


Community radio and museums, altars for All Saints Day and St. Joseph’s Night, Mardi Gras costumes, graffiti, dances, poetry nights, barbershops and beauty salons, sculpture, sports, architecture, landscaping/gardening, cooking, games such as chess, dominoes, and pitty-pat, and double-dutch, spoken word such as rap and poetry nights, art galleries,bookstores, festivals.



& Raising Awareness About the History of E.B. Kruttschnitt Park


Photographs by Bruce Sunpie Barnes.

After studying the history of Bayou Road in New Orleans, and a small park on the street dedicated to white supremacist E.B. Kruttschnitt, students in Rachel Breunlin and Bruce Barnes’ Public Culture course at the University of New Orleans created an anti-racist event in 2013. Located at the park, the event highlighted the multi-cultural history of the area through an interactive altar to raise awareness about the problematic naming of a public spaces after one of the architects of Jim Crow. They invited community residents, cultural organizations, and business owners to participate in the event.


Top left: Inside the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Photograph by Bruce Sunpie Barnes.Top right: A memory box and poem created by Lauren Franklin for the Public Culture course. Bottom: Sylvester Francis and the class with their altar honoring the museum.

After reading Talk That Music Talk, students in Rachel Breunlin and Bruce Barnes’ Public Culture course at the University of New Orleans visited the Backstreet Cultural Museum in Tremé to learn about street performances and have an opportunity to see the material culture that is documented in the book. Afterwards, they created an altar installation at a benefit for the museum to highlight different aspects of the displays, as well as photographs from the book, and their own creative projects.