She’s a New Orleans girl. Growing up in the Seabrook neighborhood, Tinice Williams saw the issues around her and wanted to make a change. She developed a passion for giving back to her community and supporting her neighbors, including feeding the homeless and holding school supply drives for low-income students. 

She is now executive director of Feed the Second Line, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the people and organizations that help to preserve the culture of New Orleans. Feed the Second Line provides general support services including purchasing groceries and personal essentials, as well as generating job opportunities for those who make the city vibrant with culture and tradition including jazz musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, baby dolls and those who parade in Second Lines.

Horace Anderson, who is a spy boy for the Mardi Gras Indian Creole Wild West, delivers groceries for Feed the Second Line on May 22, 2020. Credit: Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee

During COVID, Feed the Second Line hired culture bearers to do grocery shopping for elders. After Hurricane Ida, culture bearers were hired to gather and deliver supplies.

Even before stepping into a new position, her efforts in the community were noticed.

Williams’ longtime friend Lé Jean Hunter said that Williams has always created solutions for community needs, but the opportunity to become a part of an organization with the same mission was a move that would benefit the community on a greater scale.

“She knows what needs to happen,” Hunter said. “She’s very capable of doing this stuff on her own.” Hunter noted that Williams’ decision to join Feed the Second Line would help “make the community better.”

Williams said the mission of Feed the Second Line is to give back to the community and for it to be “a space where we can come together and fellowship, and create sustaining self-sufficiency for our culture bearers.” One example is the opportunity to install solar panels for restaurants in New Orleans. 

Williams’ connection to Second Line culture is through her children. She has three sons, two of whom are Mardi Gras Indians. Her son Terrance Williams Jr., 19, is the youngest Big Chief of his tribe the Black Hawk Hunters, while Tyrell “Ty” Williams Jr., 17, carries the gang flag of the tribe. Her youngest son, Simeon Israel, is 11.

“My children were involved in the culture and I took that as an opportunity to make sure and instill in them to say that, ‘Hey, you’re doing this for the community but you need to be involved in the community on a different level,’” Williams said in a video on the Feed the Second Line’s website. 

Before becoming the director at Feed the Second Line, Williams worked at Langston Hughes Academy for more than a decade. She was an interventionist, helping students improve their reading levels and also worked on the culture team, where she supported students dealing with challenging behaviors. 

“It gave me the opportunity to actually build relationships with those families and get them the outside resources they needed,” Williams said.

During her time at Langston Hughes Academy, her oldest son thought of an idea to help his peers. With support from staff, they held a school supply drive to encourage the community to donate educational materials for students in need. The event featured snowball stands, face painting, spacewalks and performances from the dance team. 

In addition to school supplies, the event included mental health resources and an eye doctor who conducted vision screenings. Some students received eyeglasses onsite.

The school supply drive also featured Indian tribes and chiefs in the city. Her sons were dressed in their Indian suits. Williams touted the event as a success “because we did it in the neighborhood. They were coming on their own.” 

Two of Tinice Williams’ sons are members of the Black Hawk Hunters Masking Indian Tribe. Credit: Tinice Williams

Together, the family found other ways to give back. They created a mentorship program for young Black men, in which each member of the tribe adopts a little brother. Her three sons also expressed interest in helping Black youth improve their reading skills. 

For longtime friend and mentor Lona Edwards Hankins, CEO of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, and also the Warrior Queen of the Timbuktu Warriors, it was inspiring watching how Williams raised her three boys and their genuine engagement in the community. 

“She just does things whenever there’s a need,” Edwards said. “Every August or before COVID she and her sons would collect school supplies and then donate them to the people in her community that needed it,” she said.

Recently, Feed the Second Line has partnered with Glass Half Full. The organization recycles glass, converts it into sand and uses the sand for efforts along disaster relief and coastal restoration to rebuild Louisiana’s shoreline. Last year, the organization turned more than 150,000 pounds of glass into sand. Not only does it bring unique job opportunities for culture bearers in the city but it also helps the city with coastal restoration efforts.

YouTube video

“This is very important, not only to protect the 9th Ward, but to protect New Orleans,” said Big Chief Dowee Robair of the 9th Ward Black Hatchet Mardi Gras Indians.

She understands community and culture. As head of Feed the Second Line, Williams is protecting the unique culture of New Orleans by advocating and creating avenues for the culture bearers.

“In our community, certain opportunities don’t fall in our lap. And no matter how much you know as far as the tradition to carry the culture on, you still have to live outside of your suit,” Williams said. “You still have to live when you put your trombone down. You still have to live when you take that second-line streamer off.  I want the culture bearers to be in a position where they don’t have to depend on anybody.”

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New Orleans native Nigell Moses graduated summa cum laude from Xavier University of Louisiana with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication. She is a published contributing writer, with stories in The...