Take down Nola Now going after ZULU for Blackface

Report: Group that pushed for New Orleans' Confederate monument removal wants Zulu to halt blackface

Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a group that has pushed for the removal of Confederate symbolism in New Orleans, has scheduled a news conference Thursday to demand the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club prohibit its riders from blackening their faces during the 2019 parade.

According to a WWL-TV report, the group is demanding the change because it says the makeup reinforces racist stereotypes.

On Feb. 13, Zulu put out a statement as leaders of the krewe aimed to head off any criticism over its long tradition.

“Black makeup is NOT the same as 'blackface.,'" the statement's headline said.

The four-page statement, issued amid a widening blackface scandal that has rocked the Virginia statehouse, focused on distinguishing Zulu’s tradition from the blatantly racist blackface of minstrel shows from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The statement also endorses the view that the krewe’s century-old tradition of members darkening their skin hails from black poverty in the post-Reconstruction South, when “makeup (and not masks)” was “the only option available to Zulu members at that time.”

The statement came a few weeks before hundreds of Zulu members and invited guests get set to roll on the morning of Fat Tuesday, delivering coveted painted coconuts to paradegoers.

Among them are expected to be more than 100 white riders, including invited sponsors.

While Zulu members estimate that perhaps 5 percent of the krewe’s membership is white, about 1 in 5 riders on its Mardi Gras floats are white.

They too are required to "black up" for the parade.

Zulu statement on 'blackface' controversy: 'Black makeup is NOT the same'; club defends its history

“Black makeup is NOT the same as 'blackface.'”

That’s the headline on a statement the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club put out Wednesday as leaders of the krewe aim to head off any criticism over its long tradition of Mardi Gras float riders blackening their faces.

The four-page statement, issued on the eve of Carnival amid a widening blackface scandal that has rocked the Virginia statehouse, focused on distinguishing Zulu’s tradition from the blatantly racist blackface of minstrel shows from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Shocking photographs periodically come to light exposing the fact that even some of our most respected citizens still engage in this racist behavior,” reads the statement, which includes a now-infamous decades-old yearbook photo that has landed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in hot water.

“Those who incorrectly compare our use of black makeup to 'blackface’ minstrelsy can first look to our name to dispel that notion,” Zulu's statement reads.

“Zulu parade costumes bear no resemblance to the costumes worn by ‘blackface’ minstrel performers at the turn of the century. Zulu parade costumes more closely resemble and are designed to honor garments worn by South African Zulu warriors,” the statement adds.

The statement also endorses the view that the krewe’s century-old tradition of members darkening their skin hails from black poverty in the post-Reconstruction South, when “makeup (and not masks)” was “the only option available to Zulu members at that time.”

The statement comes three weeks before hundreds of Zulu members and invited guests get set to roll on the morning of Fat Tuesday, delivering coveted painted coconuts to paradegoers.

Among them are expected to be more than 100 white riders, including invited sponsors.

While Zulu members estimate that perhaps 5 percent of the krewe’s membership is white, about 1 in 5 riders on its Mardi Gras floats are white.

They too are required to "black up" for the parade.

 
Adrian Long

Adrian Long

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