Mardi Gras has come and gone, but a rather peculiar image has sparked social media backlash after St. Patrick’s Day. A seemingly all-white “Irish Zulu” Krewe in New Orleans took to the streets, usurping the tradition of the century-old historically black organization, the Zulu Social Aide and Pleasure Club.
Members of the Irish Zulu krewe marched in a St. Patrick’s Day parade donning reddish-orange afros, grass skirts and white face paint, and handed out potatoes.
The look is an appropriation of the Zulu Social Aide and Pleasure Club, which marched in their first Mardi Gras parade in 1901.
According to the “Fans of the Irish Zulu” Facebook page, the Irish Zulu Krewe has been around since 2012.
There was even an Irish Zulu ball which sought to mirror the storied Zulu Ball gala, which is a massive New Orleans event.
Members of the Irish Zulu Krewe spoke out to defend their appropriation and distortion of official Zulu krewe’s traditions by stating that it is a “f*ck you to institutional racism.”
The Zulu Social Aide & Pleasure Club
The Zulu Social Aide & Pleasure Club has been around in New Orleans since 1909, becoming fully incorporated in 1919. The organization was born out of the immense discrimination from other krewes during Mardi Gras festivities. As recently as 1991, New Orleans Councilwoman, Dorothy Mae Taylor sought to pass a law requiring Carnival krewes to open their doors to all, without regard to race and gender, as a condition for receiving a city parade permit.
At the center of this controversy lies predominantly white, 19th-century social clubs such as the Mystick Krewe of Comus, the Knights of Momus, Proteus and Rex; all of which drew membership from elite business and political circles. In an infamous act of integration resistance, both the Comus and Momus krewes canceled their parades in 1991. Since then, krewes have annually agreed to sign sworn affidavits which vow against racial discrimination.
Zulu Speaks Out
Within days, images of the Irish Zulu krewe went viral and were brought to the attention of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club which released an official statement denying any affiliation with the group and declaring it an infringement on their trademark.
Irish Zulu Issues Apology With Intention to Rebrand
By Sunday, the Irish Zulu Krewe’s founder, Bobby Wallace reached out to the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club President, Naaman Stewart, to issue an apology and express his intention to rename the krewe. Wallace attempted to cast the Irish Zulu Crewe as one which paid homage through parody. (Leave the parodies to the Wayans Bros, sir.)
At the time of publishing, the Irish Zulu has since been removed from Facebook.
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