Young Men Olympians

Leading the second line.

This was a big one.

The Young Men Olympians Social and Benevolent Society were celebrating their 135th anniversary. Just about everybody I knew came out. I reunited with photographers that I haven’t seen in years. That’s the exact spirit of any second line. They are about hanging with family and friends.

They are about a joyous celebration. That’s why I come out. I see my friends. As one of them says, it’s like going to church. Fitting, since second lines roll on Sunday. Sometime they roll on other days, but that usually to make up a parade that was postponed for some reason.

A little history.

The Young Men Olympians were found in 1884. Think about that time in the history of The United States. The South was still being reconstructed after the Civil War. Versions of Jim Crow laws were rampant. Even though they were free, African Americans were still second class citizens. Usually, they couldn’t buy insurance. They couldn’t be buried in certain places. They couldn’t go to white doctors. Sometimes, they couldn’t shop in grocery stores.

Social and Benevolent Societies started to emerge in Black communities. They were groups of mature men who provided many of the services they couldn’t get elsewhere. They took care of the sick. They buried their dead in two cemeteries that the city provided in Central City. They bought groceries for those who couldn’t afford them

Today, The Young Men Olympians serve a different function. The basic services that I mentioned are now easily obtained. And, if there is a problem they can solve it because the membership is made up of successful business people, doctors, lawyers and working class people who have connections in their industries. Some are members of other groups, usually brass bands, and Indian krewes.

They provide one very important service. They raise up young men who can join the krewe when they turn about 7 or 8 years old. They set strict standards. The children must get good grades in school. They cannot use drugs or get arrested for anything. They must be civil. And, even when they aren’t wearing their suits and YMO colors, they must be dressed well. No jeans pulled down to the bottom of their bottoms. No gang colors. No torn up clothes.

Ain’t that something?

Looking after children in their formative years. Helping them to grow up as productive and  upstanding citizens. They say it takes a village, and here it is in practice.

Joyful greeting.

The pictures. I haven’t come out to a second line in a good while. Most of my absence had to do with two things. Travel and heat. I won’t be traveling for a little while. And, even though the heat isn’t as bad as it was in July and August, the temperatures were still over 90 degrees. Between the urban environment and the large crowds, 90 degrees felt like 100 degrees. That’s the long way of saying that it was hot. Never the less, I’ll be out next Sunday.

Cameras. I used only one this time out. I wanted to see what my baby Leica could do in this kind of situation. So, that’s what I used. Leica glass is amazing. I used to say I could tell the difference between Leica taken pictures and all the rest. I certainly can see it in digital photography. I found myself reducing contrast in order to get back to my look.

The camera has a fixed lens. Like a high end point and shoot camera. It is fairly limited because it’s a 28 – 75 zoom lens. That meant I had to work a little closer than other photographers. You know me. I think you should work from the inside out so this camera suited me.

I seemed to make some pretty good pictures. Don’t be confused. There were plenty of clunkers that y’all will never see. That’s a pro tip. If you make 200 frames of a scene, you don’t have to use them all. Cull your work down to what you think is your best work. Show those. Learn from the rest.

That’s all, y’all.




Published by Ray Laskowitz

I am a visual storyteller. I've been making pictures for some 40 years. I travel the world in search of the right image. in the right light at the right time. You can reach me by phone at 505.280.4686, or by email at or For a quick look at my work please go to

4 thoughts on “Young Men Olympians

  1. Thank you. I’ve never been sure if anybody liked second line posts. In my defense, the season is about a month old, with this being the 3rd parade. We were traveling for one and it was too hot for me during the other. As long as we are in town, this should be a regular thing for me.


  2. I really enjoyed learning something about the Young Men Olympians. I’m glad you shared some history and their current role, as well. I don’t know of anything quite like it, in particular assuming a responsibility for raising 7 and 8 year olds to assume a future role. It seems quite unique and very special.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. That’s just the start of it. They are very heavily involved in their neighborhood. In some cases, they step in and revert back to their old ways.

      There are social and benevolent societies throughout the city. Most are a lot younger than YMO, but they do some of the same community support things.


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