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'Take Em Down NOLA' Demanding Zulu Club To End Blackface Tradition
A group in New Orleans is speaking out against the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s tradition of using blackface for its Mardi Gras float riders.
In a series of posts on Facebook, the group Take ‘Em Down Nola is calling out the Zulu Social Club for promoting what they call “racist stereotypes that can be traumatizing behavior for parade-goers.”
“It is no longer tenable for ZULU to pretend that wearing Blackface is not reinforcing racist stereotyping of Black people,” Malcolm Suber, coordinator for Take ‘Em Down Nola, told reporters from WWL-TV.
The Zulu Social Club was founded in May of 1909 and is described as a social aid and pleasure club composed of men from all walks of life, including city councilmen, state legislators, educators and more. Dressed in feather headdresses, grass skirts, and blackface, hundreds of members a part of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club march down the almost 5-mile parade to hand out Mardi Gras beads and more to spectators.
Despite criticism from some members of the community on its blackface tradition, the Zulu Social Aid clubs touts its community involvement and said they have no plans of stopping their traditions. In a statement released by the Zulu Social Aid in response to the recent allegations of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s photographs in blackface, the group stated:
“Unfortunately, some ignorant people continue to costume in “blackface” minstrelsy through today. Shocking photographs periodically come to light exposing the fact that even some of our most respected citizens still engage in this racist behavior. Recent photographs showing certain high-profile individuals dressed as “blackface” minstrels reveal their hateful intent to demean, disrespect, discount, and demoralize African-Americans. The backlash to their conduct has thankfully been severe and the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, Inc. joins with countless others in condemning this behavior.”
The statement further reads, “Unfortunately, the offensive conduct of these individuals might cause some to confuse those racist actions with our rich history and traditions – which include wearing black makeup during the Zulu parade. Those who incorrectly compare our use of black makeup to ‘blackface’ minstrelsy can first look to our name to dispel that notion.”
“Unlike minstrelsy, which was designed to ridicule and mock black people, the founders of our Social Aid & Pleasure Club chose the name ‘Zulu’ to honor their African ancestry and the continent’s most fierce warriors.”