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.




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

Leave a Reply

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

Notify of
Joshua Johnson

Par­o­dy? What a joke. Great arti­cle.


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


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.

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 »

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 them they… 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.