By C.C. Campbell-Rock

As he was undergoing impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, then-President William J. Clinton said in a deposition, “…That depends on what the meaning of is, is.”

Clinton’s play on words is akin to the current debate raging over the 110-year-old Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s (ZULU S.A.P) position that the Mardi Gras parading krewe does not wear blackface paint but rather “black make-up.” Club leaders say the group will continue the black make-up tradition; in spite of recent criticism.

The debate over the ZULU S.A.P.’s members’ blackening of their faces, resurfaced in the wake of the blackface scandals of two Virginia democrats, Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring.  Northam first admitted and apologized for appearing in a photo of a person wearing black face paint and standing next to a robed Klu Klux Klansman, only to reverse course the next day by saying he was sure it wasn’t him in the photo on his medical school yearbook page. Herring admitted to wearing blackface in the past.

New Orleans’ Take Em Down NOLA Coalition (TEDN) is now demanding that the ZULU Club’s 800 members “take off the blackface” for this year’s Lundy Gras and Mardi Gras festivities on Monday, March 4 and Tuesday, March 5, respectively. Entertainment for the Zulu Coronation Ball include Monica, Jeffrey Osborne, and D-Nice & Friends.

“There is no excuse for the ZULU Social Aid & Pleasure Club to either accept and support or to deny what blackface represents. To defend the blackface paint you wear as “black makeup” is a distinction without distinction,” TEDN wrote in a letter to the club’s president; requesting that the parade krewe “take off the blackface.”

However, the Zulu S.A.P. leadership said they wear black make-up; not blackface paint. Zulu’s historian emeritus, Clarence A. Becknell Sr., said the early paraders wore blackface because they were too poor to wear masks.

“Black make-up is not blackface. Our black make-up has nothing remotely to do with blackface minstrel performances. Our members wear black make-up in concert with honoring the Zulu Tribe, including our entire ensemble. It has nothing to do with the demeaning or derogatory acts of wearing blackface,” said Zulu Chairman Jay H. Banks, who represents District B on the New Orleans City Council.

Merriam-Webster defines blackface as “black makeup worn (as by a performer in a minstrel show) in a caricature of the appearance of a black person also: a performer wearing such makeup”

The dictionary added a note to its definition: “The wearing of blackface by white performers was, from the early 19th through the mid-20th centuries, a prominent feature of minstrel shows and similar forms of entertainment featuring exaggerated and inaccurate caricatures of black people. Its modern occurrence in imitation of such performers is considered deeply offensive.”

 “Whether you call it makeup or blackface paint, the result is the same. To add insult to injury, five percent of your club members are Euro-Americans and 20 percent of your riders are Euro-Americans and they wear blackface, too,” TEDN organizer Malcolm Suber, an adjunct professor, wrote in the letter to Elroy James, President of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club.

TEDN is recognized as the group that started the movement to take down New Orleans’ Confederate monuments and other symbols of white supremacy. Since then the group’s work has inspired people as far away as Haiti, who are leading their own movement to remove statues of their colonial oppressors.

“It is no longer tenable for ZULU to pretend that wearing Blackface is not reinforcing racist stereotyping of Black people,” Suber adds.

Moreover, we learned that 20 percent of Zulu riders are White and also wear blackface makeup.  Why is this not seen as racist behavior?  Are we to give ZULU a pass and allow this to happen?  We say hell no!  Take off the blackface.”

Coconut Blackface

“Our black make-up is not meant to be offensive. My hope is that wouldn’t be offended and that they become educated about our reality,” Banks said.  He added that all of the club’s members are “walking in lock step,” in preserving the black make-up tradition.

TEDN is holding a press conference, Thursday, February 21, outside of the ZULU Social Aid & Pleasure Club, at Orleans Avenue and Broad Street to protest ZULU’s refusal to stop wearing “blackface.”

This not the first time that ZULU S.A.P.  received condemnation from New Orleans’ African American community.

 “In the 1960s, membership dwindled as a result of social pressures from civil rights activists. The protesters advertised in the local black community’s newspaper The Louisiana Weekly stating:

‘We, the Negroes of New Orleans, are in the midst of a fight for our rights and for a recognition of our human dignity which underlies those rights. Therefore, we resent and repudiate the Zulu Parade, in which Negroes are paid by white merchants to wander through the city drinking to excess, dressed as uncivilized savages and throwing cocoanuts like monkeys. This caricature does not represent Us. Rather, it represents a warped picture against us. Therefore, we petition all citizens of New Orleans to boycott the Zulu Parade. If we want respect from others, we must first demand it from ourselves.

“The krewe, with the support of the Mayor and chief-of-police, refused to give in to pressure and continued to parade, but gave up blackfacing, wearing grass skirts and kept the identity of the king secret. Due to continued pressure, by 1965 there were only 15 Zulu members remaining. The membership of local civil rights leaders Ernest J. Wright and Morris F.X. Jeff Sr. into Zulu eventually lifted tensions and membership started to increase and the krewe resumed their old traditions, including blackface,” according to Wikipedia.

On February 7, 2019, The Washington Post published an editorial entitled James Comey: Take Down the Confederate Statues Now, in which the former FBI Director wrote: “White people designed blackface to keep black people down, to intimidate, mock and stereotype. It began during the 19th century and wasn’t about white people honoring the talent of black people by dressing up to look like them. It was about mocking them and depicting them as lazy, stupid and less than fully human. It was a tool of oppression. As a college kid in Virginia during the 1980s, I knew that and so did my classmates.”

On that same day, The Washington Post reported that Gucci, the famous Italian fashion designer, apologized for and ceased sales of a sweater the newspaper called ‘Haute Couture Blackface.’

“We’re not going to let someone else’s delusion become our reality,” adds Banks.

Banks stands by the Zulu’s black make-up, as a time-honored tradition for the group. “When black riders have to wear the white masks in Endymion, where is the outcry about that? Should Native Americans stop honoring Pocahontas because “Donald Trump’s uses her name in a derogatory way?  Is there anything wrong with a black person wearing the mask of a white man that is sold with the Superman costume?”

New Orleans, UNITED STATES: Dancers from South Africa perform Zulu dance and music in the krewe of Zulu Mardi Gras parade as it rolls through New Orleans 28 February 2006. It is New Orleans’ first Mardi Gras since hurricane Katrina devastated the city six months ago. AFP PHOTO/Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

When asked what the real Zulus think of the Mardi Gras Club wearing black make-up, Banks said, “They were in the parade two or three years ago.” He said the tribe’s members didn’t object to the black make-up.

 “They wore the traditional costumes but they didn’t wear the black make-up,” Banks said of the South African Zulu Tribe that paraded with the Zulu S.A.P.

10 thoughts on “BlackFace vs Zulu Club’s Black Make-Up”

  2. Mardi Gras without masks and makeup? If everybody comes as themselves, where’s the fun? It used to be a family fun day. The poor seventh warders outfitted trucks to follow the parades and we joined in the fun of throwing beads and masking as our favorite entertainers like the one who made “Open the door Richard” a favorite in the forties. Masquerading in the thirties rewarded costumes with prizes of red beans and rice to take home to cook for supper. It was a city filled with depressed rich and hungry poor sharing the day.

  3. LBRC- Zulu Tradition? What happens when no reasonable, plausible explanation can be conjured to justify a “Behavior” ‘Dat defies logic- Anachronistically or even in a Contemporary Context? Heard an appointed “NOLA Zulu Historian” attempting to justify “Black Face”? To Wit:

    1. Back in the day, Charlie Chan was a conjured Stereotypical so- called Chinese Character, played by a Caucasian. Who was offended? Ans. Do your homework and read respected intellectual Chinese thoughts on the matter, during those times and especially contemporary thoughts aka 2019. Also- Show us a 2019 parade or celebration in which Chinese Americans invite Caucasians, cryptic racist overt or covert, bigots to openly parade beside them as disguised and made up demeaning “Caricatures” and “Stereotypes”? Disclaimer- “The Normal Bell Curve” is reflected in every culture. Therefore, Academic Retardation (Deviations of Average) has to exist among Chinese Americans as well! Who consciously demeans themselves as Minstrel Caricatures, then openly invites members of the dominant culture which created the Demeaning Minstrel Stereotype to parade along side them ‘kumbaya aka it’s all good? “I am a Stereotype”? Black Face is a good and fun ‘thang aka Stereotype?

    2. How many members of the Dominant Culture were Zulu “Tramps”, original organization? The Historian says, it’s all in jest aka fun? Didn’t Al Jolsen explain it something like ‘Dat? Was it Steven Foster of “Old Black Joe” Fame? David Duke as an LSU Undergraduate, or who?

    3. What is a Tradition? 1 a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)- //What makes Black Face good now? Because you demean your own self in caricature?//-

    b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable /end of Webster Definition/- //Who commonly accepts Black Face now? Zulu?//-

    -With respect to (b)- Science is highly dependent on “Verification”. What in the thoughts of “The Initial Zulu Tramps” say Black Face was honorable? Did they desire to “Sanitize” this stereotype or were they saying- “This is how you see us, so here it is in your face”? Some of us are old enough to remember what our NOLA relatives of the time said! Somebody is attempting to GasLight us in 2019, under the guise of being so- called official aka “Historical Revisionism”!

    4. There is nothing honorable or redeemable about Minstrel Shows then or now, only in  the heads of phony Anachronistic Accounts! Something got lost in translation, exactly why some embrace Black Face in 2019, besides the Dominant Culture who initially created it for reasons obvious to the literate! Rap Culture helped promulgate another demeaning slang aka Ni*#er! Black Face is its commensurate synonym! Let’s follow the logic-

    a. So a parade of Caucasians and Blacks is all good when a so- called Historian says- It’s all good and in jest when the two parade on route in public yelling Ni}*^r for all to partake and enjoy in jest? 

    b. What other cultures self- deprecates this way? 

    5. The Skinny? Some say Tomato, some ‘Toe- ma- toe’. Some say Racism, some say “It ‘don matto”! We say- Black Face is and always will be “Un- sani- tato”, and smells like Hell! Miss our intellectual plates with ‘Dat Brown “Re- tar- tado”!

    Respectfully and Hotep aka Peace Out…


    LBRC- BOLD, Black Organization for Leadership Development and Zulu? What is wrong with these pictures?

    1. “OT” aka Oliver Thomas will be our next NOLA mayor! Remember ‘Dat? Whether he would have or not, who knows? “OT” proudly proclaims Jim “Mississippi Migrant” Singleton his mentor. Jim was supposedly as beloved as OT. What happened to Jim’s run? This scribe recalls a meeting of a predominately “Caucasian” Group of wealthy Environmentalist, and guess what?

    a. This “Black Scribe” not only chaired the group which met with Jim, but also served as The Chairman of Marc Morial’s Transition Committee which created the NOLA Office of Environmental Affairs. What’s the point? Jim completely ignored my presence at ‘Dat meeting, and constantly deferred to Mildred Fossier, a Comus/Rex Blue Blood Rebel,  and several other Whites on our committee (They commented privately). Know what you’re thinking- Was I a token Negro? Well, besides owning graduate credentials in the field, believed respected by all and also one of the 1st to graduate as a “Fellow” at a prestigious institute, plus having written curriculums for the Deep South Center as well as  Hazmat, graduating more young African Americans in the field than ever! Maybe an anomaly? The Most High loves truth! I introspect always! Why was Jim so disrespectful? As the song goes- Is it because I’m black- But Jim is? Rhetorical except, J. Banks, Former Entergy Contractor now a Pro Entergy Council Vote, is also a BOLD Minion or whatever! We hate deceit and sycophants, especially the Politico ilk!

    b. Related to “White Media’s Obsession” regarding a Singleton or Thomas run for mayor? Jim believed his own press aka why not? However, Caucasian support en masse “Never” materialized. Frankly, 1st Person, was privy to lots of frank Caucasian sentiment about Jim’s run, some not very flattering! Let’s paint more! Patterns? “Microphones sanitize transgressions for ‘Simps”? 

    1st- Why is it ‘Dat as soon as a common Negro rises a dime above starvation,they immediately and egregiously start bidding out the interest of their community? 

    2nd- Let’s talk Karen Carter- Peterson, BOLD, and education legislation, RSD- Which led to present indignities regarding busing scandals, Black Teacher firings en masse and most  egregious- so- called “Opportunity Youth”, 99.999 % Black Children! Her hubby is an RSD Charter School Administrator? “Fool is an addiction”!

    3rd- All contrite “Confessed” criminals deserve forgiveness! Don’t get it twisted, but “OT” was a prominent member of BOLD. When Jim shows up at WBOK, “OT” proclaims him the best since sliced bread. “OT” proclaims this about nearly everybody- St. Bernard Republicans, St. Tammany Republicans, just about everybody, right? Now let’s go back to “OT’s” so- called potential mayoral run. What were these Republicans saying about “OT” Pre and Post Conviction for a Federal Crime on WWL? Should we really go there? Were they as glowing? How many wrote to “OT” on “Vacation”, incarcerated? “Convicted Negro Criminal”? Case closed!  BOLD aka Jim Singleton, “OT”, Carter Peterson and now it’s J. Banks the Pro Entergy zealot! Seeing a patterns yet? On to Zulu…?

    2. Zulu’s latest clarification on Black Face aka Black Make-up? “It honors Africa and African- Americans in “Black Face and Grass Skirts”- Lots of Drinking and Buck Jumping “On The International Camera”! Can’t say and be frank without being vulgar!

    3. NEGRO PLEASE!!! ‘Betcha a BOLD Negro originated ‘Dat BS! Patterns remember! 

    Hotep aka Peace…

  4. Explaining vs ‘Splaining vs #45?
    LBRC- Trump only got 46% of The Popular Vote. If he wants to win in 2020, where will he make up his needed 5%? (Disclaimer: Trump won the Electoral College but it was with a “Negligible” amount of votes in crucial states).

    1. Where does the math say voters are the best targets?

    a. Dim witted Negro voters, why #45 Pardons dead heroes?

    b. Traditional Negro Sell- outs, ABC spokespersons, Apostates and Politicos.

    c. Never exclude uneducated/ educated Fools, miseducated, the pseudo intellectual to include but not limited to Corrupt Preacher Apostates who exploit and corrupt in lieu of Filthy Lucre and/or in kind rewards amounting to bribes, even in ways etherial or implied!

    2. Undiagnosed Dimwits, sycophants are always at play by the bushels! They are least likely to have loyalty to self and are incompetent to discern or vote their self interest. 

    3. Heard a new term, have you? What are “Ni*#er ‘Splainers”? “They ‘Splain not explain?

    a. These are mostly emotional. They believe most of what they hear, read and see. Psychology 101: An inside “Self” is the real you, except it’s molded and highly vulnerable to input aka “The External”! Input trash in, output trash out”! ‘Splainers are profoundly attached to what is entrenched and reinforced from outside, little flexibility, your typical loud mouth and know it all with false humility to boot. They become very emotional even threatening, passionate and frankly “Full of it” and hates criticism deep inside! ‘Splainers rely on a preponderance of BS and argue to win, truth to them is De Facto inconsequential regardless what they say!

    b. Meta Cognition “Inner Self”? Imagine you can separate yourself from self and observe it. By doing so, you can “Objectively” look at you and observe. How do you look? Foolish, wise, misdirected? Ask yourself these things and think about what you are thinking while you are observing yourself. How difficult would this be? Why do it? Answers?- 

    a. Introspection is an invaluable tool but very hard when so much external output is constantly molding and determining outcomes. An “Outside Self” Observer allows observations free from  “The Targeted Inside Self” thus more reliable observations free from intrusion!

    The Skinny on “Ni*#er ‘Splaining”?

    The Pure Inside Self influenced by, motivated by and moved to act by external influences and psychologically persuaded! No clue with respect to the aforementioned aka “Their reality is outside input” never an original evaluation leading to enlightenment! The matrix rules them and they fight hard and emotionally to win above all else!

    Few are more dangerous than a sell- out or Apostate “Ni#*er ‘Splainer! 

    Trump has lots of committed “Ni*#er ‘Splainers”, just like Satan their Master!!!

    Hotep aka Peace Out…

  5. Zulu should be ashamed, but they are proud. Ask Jay to explain why the true born and raised Africans didn’t wear Black face in 2006. You know why, because they don’t do that. Why would a black person need to wear black face. And other than to mock why would a white person be in Black face and an Afro. What feels good about white people wearing Black face? And think about the grass skirts and throwing coconuts like monkeys mentioned in the 60’s. At a minimum white folks should not be wearing black face and afros. Where has Zulu been that they don’t think this is a problem. And to see this Black woman hugging on a doll pretending to tease children with it. These people are sickening. Like disgusting.

    1. BINGO!!! YOU TOTALLY NAILED IT!! I’ve been saying this ever since I saw the first white person wearing blackface! I was already disgusted with Zulu in so many ways: 1. Zulu was supposed to be in CARCICATURE of whites…NOT EMULATION & KISS ASS! 2. They’d been known for throwing all of their best throws to whites uptown, and having nothing, or next to nothing, when they got to N. Claiborne & up Orleans Ave., 3. I thought it RIDICULOUS when whites were allowed to join. Then, I admonished myself & said maybe the club needed the money to survive. THEN I SAW THE WHITES IN BLACKFACE!!! AWWW HELLL NAWW!! NO amount of money should have been enough for Zulu to allow WHITE people to wear BLACKFACE! NO! PERIOD! You can join, but u CAN’T WEAR BLACKFACE! I go to Zulu parades because even when black ppl are mad at each other, we still show up with other family/friends, even if we don’t speak to you! I stand and watch parade…I DON’T hold my hand out or try to catch anything! Ignorance, self degradation & loathing are CONTAGIOUS!!

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