Members from taking them Down NOLA stood across from the Zulu clubhouse on N. Broad Street holding signs protesting the group’s use of black makeup during Mardi Gras, saying the practice is akin to blackface.
“We will fight tooth and nail to the last drop of our blood to take down all the symbols of white supremacy,” said Take ‘Em Down NOLA coordinator Malcolm Suber.
Zulu members eyeing the protesters answered by painting their faces in their traditional masking.
In a release sent Feb. 13, a Zulu spokesperson outlined how the Zulu parade costume “has always been about celebrating African and African-American culture.
But Suber said while the practice and costume may be rooted in tradition, times have changed.
“Certainly, the national black community is opposed to people wearing blackface…We’re asking Zulu to apologize to the black community for its perpetuating these racist images. We’re asking Zulu members to rise, tell them you don’t want to wear black faces here,” Suber said.
Jay Banks is the chairman of the Zulu board of directors. He said while Take Em Down NOLA has a right to protest, he doesn’t agree with them.
“Blackface is a demeaning act. It is not only the makeup, but it’s also the clothes, the buffoonery, it’s the stupidity, it’s the complete devaluation of a race that we have never participated in, so it’s much different what they do and what we do,” Banks said.
Banks said Zulu’s black Mardi Gras makeup is as deep-rooted a tradition as their work in building up their community, members and citizens, and he said they would never do anything to tear that work down.
“At the end of the day, because someone wants to use something negatively doesn’t change the way I use it,” said Banks. “It’s not the same thing. Black makeup is not blackface.”
Several Carnival insiders told me today they feel only the Krewe of Zulu can decide how to address this situation, and whether they will continue using the black makeup.