New Year’s Parade with its glorified past of racist and anti-Semitic costumes returns with a more overarching message

Thousands of people are expected to attend and participate in Philadelphia’s time-honored Mummers Parade despite the growing number of Covid-19 cases, locally and nationally, due to the Omicron variant. Normally, the event is held on New Year’s Day, but a forecast rain has pushed it to January 2 this year.

Mothers will celebrate in the streets and perform skits and parodies in costume, but this year’s revelers will be more culturally sensitive, organizers and participants said.

In recent years, some marchers have dressed up as anti-Semitic, nationalist and racist – including black people – according to Shira Goodman, director of Campaigns and Outreach. of the Anti-Defamation League.

“There’s a troubling history there,” Goodman told CNN.

But Mummers leaders and city officials said they have put in place additional safeguards to address past inappropriate and offensive behavior, said Kevin Lessard, the mayor of Philadelphia’s communications director. , told CNN.

Trainings, all skits and performances must first be approved by the human relations committee, and clubs or individuals found to be non-compliant will be banned from the Association, he said. Mummer festival and future parades, he said.

In 2016, all Mothers began receiving cultural and racial sensitivity training after complaints about certain costumes and parody content. Maita Soukup, a city spokeswoman, told CNN the training included understanding cultural appropriation, satirical rules and LGBTQ cultural competence.

Recent controversy

In recent years, some Mothers wear blackface even though it was banned in 1963 after the local branch of the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality persuaded the parade’s then-director to ban it, Catherine Hicks, president of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP, said. CNN. According to the Temple University Library’s Center for Special Collections Studies, the decision has sparked the anger of many mothers who oppose the ban.

Despite the ban and recent training sessions, some Mothers continue to protest. The most recent incident was during the 2020 parade.

The Fiasco Mummers group dances on 2nd Street during a night party on January 1, 2019 in Philadelphia, during the Mummers Parade.

“The use of someone’s black face in connection with Froggy Carr today is abhorrent and unacceptable. This hateful, selfish behavior has no place in Mummers, or the city itself. We have to be better than this. The group has been disqualified, and we will be exploring additional penalties,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted at the time.

Hicks said, “the history of blackface is disturbing and it’s very sensitive when it comes to the African-American community. Everyone should do their homework before dressing up as any character because it can offensive to a minority group.”

“People might think it’s a joke or a character disguise, but it gives a lot of the feeling of being enslaved,” she added.

Additional training ahead of the 2022 parade includes bias awareness training, Soukup said.

The veteran moms admit there have been some problems over the years but say it’s not a problem for the majority of members.

Sam Regalbuto, a Mummer and president of the String Band Association, told CNN that individuals wearing blackface in 2020, “are two individuals who are not Mummer 365 days a year who have a political ax to sharpen. file in the city of Philadelphia with the politicians They used us as a platform to make their political statements that day and ruined it for all of us. banned. Those with a political ax to sharpen are not welcome in our parade. We have rules and regulations that we follow.”

A traditional family and city

Mummery was brought into the United States in the 17th century by European immigrants from Scandinavian countries and England, according to the Mummers Museum.

Philadelphia has sponsored the parade since 1901.

Mummers consists of more than “40 organized clubs, divided into five divisions each with their own performing expertise and competing with each other for bragging rights, Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands and Fancy Brigades” visitors to the city’s website.

Regalbuto is a native of Philadelphia and has been in the parade for 35 years.

“It’s a family tradition. My uncles and dad went to marches and brigades,” he said.

“I have a creative capacity, I have to use that creative advantage – I love to be creative. I love making sure we put a smile on people’s faces. We are a very family oriented person. family and family-friendly hobbies… I would love to be able to do that and raise my son in it,” Regalbuto explained.

He said the parade has grown since the days of rampant blackface use.

“That era was different, it was wrong then, it’s wrong now. There’s no need for that kind of entertainment anymore.”

Regalbuto says Mummers are moving away from celebrating different cultures and ethnicities, and celebrating more, “fantasy things, Pirates of the Caribbean, witchcraft, Halloween-like things, we take a lot a lot from movies, space.”

But he said they were always working to make sure no one was offended.

“If we have topics related to religion, we make sure we reach out to people to make sure we’re doing it in a celebratory style to make sure we’re not offensive. in any way,” Regalbuto said.

“We’re adjusting and learning…everyone is welcome.”

Regalbuto said that a few years ago, the String Band Association wanted to perform a tribute to “Fiddler on the Roof,” a play about Jewish life in a village in 20th-century Russia. His father went to a Jewish organization to discuss what would be appropriate to do and say during the parade.

Melissa MacNair, co-chair of the New York Vaudevillians Band, said she is aware of some cultural stereotypes that have existed in previous Mummer parades.

“We definitely saw stereotypes and we saw things we disagreed with. Most moms are good people,” she said.

MacNair says the required racial and cultural sensitivity training is beneficial for Mom.

“I’m glad the city has opened up for conversation, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The parade starts at City Hall at 9am and lasts until 6pm

“While city health officials urge all marchers and spectators to get vaccinated, vaccinations are not required. The city’s health regulations require all people to be vaccinated. People marching along the parade route must wear masks,” Soukup, a city spokesman, told CNN.


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