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.

Zulu Tramps march in the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s 2017 Zulu Parade on February 28, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Irish Zulu

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

Credit: The Advocate

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.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

Rinny

Texan by birth, Los Angeleno by situation. Lover of Tame Impala and Shoegaze music. Comedian by trade. Macaroni and Cheese connoisseur by appetite.

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11 Comments on "White St. Patrick’s Day Participants Tried To Columbus 100-Year-Old Black New Orleans Zulu Traditions"

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Joshua Johnson

Parody? What a joke. Great article.

Jai

But why mock the tradition? Parody is for comic relief, right?

TWA4now

Yes definitely culture appropriation….What most people don’t understand they usual: mock, believe sterotypes, or are afraid of someone’s culture. Surely, there are better ways to honor Zulu. At least, they apologized but still…so not cool.

Akilah
As being a person who actually from New Orleans, and has been to numerous Zulu parades, would place this situation as cultural appropriation. Whether it was intentional or not. As my family members told me, Black people weren’t allowed to go to parades, they were segregated. So we weren’t even fully accepted into our culture. Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club was created from a inspiration of a play, which turned into a parade route. This organization, which has benefitted numerous people of color in Nola has lasted for over a century. Along with comes centuries of oppression. Personally, Zulu… Read more »
lindy arter
I lived in NOLA for 15 years (originally from Mississippi), so I definitely get what you’re saying about life in the segregated South. It’s just that in this instance I don’t see mocking or insensitivity. I see some folks who really, really, really appreciated a culture and wanted to find a way to mix (maybe) their own with something that they like and respect. This is a real question and I hope it doesn’t come across as snarky which is not intended in any way. What do you think about the mardi gras indians who dress up in quasi native… Read more »
Dee

this is so confusiousing

lindy arter
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so no one has to agree with me, so let’s get that out of the way. This isn’t a real issue. No one was going to look at Irish Zulu and think that they were affiliated with Zulu. They weren’t in blackface, they were clearly stating that they were paying homage to Zulu and they were celebrating their own heritage while doing it. There is a ton of cultural appropriation out there, for sure. There are plenty of people who don’t know the history of their looks/music/clothing/speech and when it’s brought up to… Read more »
Chasity Phillips

They’re wearing grass skirts and afro wigs. That is cultural appropriation. They’re engaging in what very well could be trademark infringement. It’s not paying homage when you use white privilege to mock the traditions of marginalized communities.

lindy arter

But they weren’t mocking the tradition. They were paying homage to the tradition of Zulu and clearly stated an understanding of why Zulu was started.

If you want to argue trademark infringement, I’m with you. But in this case I don’t see cultural appropriation.

Because of Reasons
To me the statement that “Irish Zulu is a Krewe … sanctioned in homage to Zulu” implies a kind of informal affiliation, that Zulu somehow condones or endorses or supports the Irish Zulu concept. The apology indicates that the Irish krewe were under the mistaken impression that they had “informal” Zulu support. Re it being an homage, if the krewe was doing this in homage and the entity (Zulu) being thus “honoured” found the actions inappropriate and disrespectful then it was fitting for the Irish krewe to rethink their actions and revise them to be in line with what the… Read more »
lindy arter

Yep, and the Irish Krewe did exactly what you suggested they should do upon learning that Zulu was not honored by their homage.

Agree that Zulu has the right to protect their brand. I just don’t see how this was hurting their brand in any way.

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