BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - Cynthia Chen earned a local legendary status during her 35 years of tickling the ivories in New Orleans. When she lost her battle to cancer, her friends and fellow musicians decided to step up. Neil Ladner, a friend and fellow musician, organized the inaugural event.
“Cynthia passed away on Sept. 4. Ok, and I knew with cancer awareness month coming up, it would be a good time to have this event. But, also, I just wanted to pay tribute to her because I felt like she deserved it. She was a very unique and wonderful musician and talented person, and I wanted to show the community who she was," Ladner said.
So Ladner arranged for a New Orleans-style second line to march through the streets of Bay St. Louis led by another New Orleans pianist, Thomas Worrell.
“Cynthia Chen was a personal friend of mine and a fellow piano player. I believe that the spirit of the people that are here, it’s a very loving and compassionate kind of crowd," Worrell said.
The second-line winded through downtown Bay St. Louis all the way to the 100 Men Hall, where the community joined in on the celebration.
“It’s very important that this hall still resonates with the community, still be a place to gather for all events, all of life’s events. Musicians work in hazardous conditions, smoke-filled bar rooms, late hours and so we’re seeing a lot of our musicians dying of cancer. Cynthia Chen was one of our recent ones that passed. This parade, this second line parade was called Pinky’s Parade and it’s in her honor," said Rachel Dangermond, the director of the 100 Men Hall.
From the organizers all the way down to the people that marched in Sunday’s second line, cancer has touched them all. Marian Glaser, a participant in the parade, has had cancer hit close to home.
“People with cancer need help. I also have a cousin that’s suffering from breast cancer at this time, so I’m here to support her also," Glaser said.
While this was the first time Pinky’s Second Line rolled the streets of Bay St. Louis, with the help fo city officials and the Silver Slipper Casino, Ladner wants to see this event take on a reputation of its own.
“I want to do this every year as long as, you know, cancer exists. I’d like to continue to support musicians with cancer and grow this event every year," Ladner said.