Held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on the Friday before Shrove Tuesday, the Zula Ball gathered thousands of attendees. Homage was paid to Jay H. Banks and Artelia E. Bennett Banks in their roles as King Zulu and Queen Zulu. Since then, they led the Zulu parade that ran on Mardi Gras morning.
Not only did guests enjoy the traditional excitement of the ball, but also a special anniversary of the organization. The Coronation Ball was titled, “Zulu: Celebrating 100 Years of Incorporation.”
According to Arthur Hardy, it was named “after the fiercest of African tribes.” He continues, saying that a half dozen years before the incorporation, “the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s first king, William Story, wore a lard can crown and ruled with a banana stalk scepter. Louis Armstrong, who ruled in 1949, remains the most famous Zulu King.”
The 2016 regal apparel was most impressive and eye-catching. King Zulu’s costume was “authentic Zulu” with a grass skirt and natural colors accented in red and purple. The very elaborate collar had a center shield with the king’s logo of a lion with a crown and spears, as well as many fans of cream-colored and natural pheasant feathers. His tunic was covered in a rich gold embroidered fabric encrusted with many Austrian crystals and accented with red and purple stones, along with “leopard” fur and a feathered fringe trim.
As a symbol of power, he wore an authentic warrior crown with a traditional Z representing the krewe of Zulu, and many long cream-colored pheasant feathers mixed with those of natural color.
Queen Artelia E. Bennett Banks, in her costume, wore colors to complement those of her husband, Jay H. Banks. Cream-colored plumes and natural-colored fans were significant accents and features. The fabric of her dress was a sheer chiffon with heavy, gold-embroidered designs, along with Austrian crystals and numerous red and purple accent stones. The dress had long dolman sleeves trimmed in fur and a slight train. She, too, was outfitted with a crown and stunning collar.
As their majesties of 2016 were escorted to the throne, the Zulu maids were in place to be introduced by Darrin Mire. Madison C. Morton and Cayla J. Bean were the respective king’s and queen’s maids. Others were Galen A. Ambeau, Jasmine L. Nevil, Johnel C. Washington, Tayler J. Williams, Alexia D. Gillis, Ca’marie C. Hawkins, Kia J. Bedney, Ronjae J. Brady, Kaedrin A. Lee, Darione M. Brooks, Darinique C. Pierre, and Teja A. Johnson.
Also, Cameron R. London, McCaala O. Nelson, Haven K. Thomas, Jordyn E. Platenburg, Ciara A. Steward, Kamri Gordon, Alyssa G. Sylvester, Alexis B. Alex, Alexis M. Hart, Majella A. King, Paige L. Cameron, Dominique L. Gibson, Taylor J. Williams, and Cydni R. Holloway.
Playing major roles in the activities of the gala evening were King and Queen Zulu of 2015, Andrew “Pete” Sanchez Jr. and Dr. Janice T. Sanchez. They crowned their successors.
Then there were chaplain Rodney P. Mason Jr., who opened the ball with a prayer; the above Pete Sanchez, chairman of Carnival Activities, who served as the coronation coordinator; Zulu historian emeritus Clarence A. Becknell Sr., the master of ceremonies; and Zulu President Naaman C. Stewart, who presented the welcome address. Additionally, there were the officers and board of directors, 2016 Zulu characters, the coronation chairman, and Carnival principals, who were introduced at the ball.
King Zulu’s royal court included Joseph B. Morton III, Robert Kamala Johnson, Gralen Bryant Banks, Ryan Jaison Banks, Garland A. Thomas, Tristan Edward Thomas, Christopher W. Briscoe, Kaden S, Clark, Malachi J. D. Cosse, Malcolm X. Ferrouillet, Khalil M. Fisher, Rogers Gaines IV, Noah E. Jackson, Khalib J. Lee, Alijah K. Lombard, Jayden L. Renthrope, Travis D. Taylor Jr., and a host of others.
The above Darrin Mire figured in the royal court of Queen Zulu, as did Gregory N. Rattler Sr., Jaelyn A. Carr, Taya B. Fontenette, Dakota E. Thomas, Alaya L. Adams, Rayvyn-Sanaa’ F. Bonnee, Mia J. Robertson, Anais E. Santemore, Simone A. Spriggens, Jasani Thornsberry, Peja A. Wright, Jacqueline Hill Banks, Jonetta F. Bennett, Gizelle Johnson-Banks, Jerlinda A. Luckett, Natalie B. Thomas, Shannon K. Thomas, Nikita D. Clark, Stephanie Clark, KeShuna R. Jones-Lee, Voncile M. Lyons, Candace N. Newell, Rhenette C. Tobias, and quite a few others.
Applauding all the coronation ball excitement and the centennial salute, were Gov. and Mrs. John Bel Edwards, Mayor Mitch J. and Mrs. Landrieu, City Council members, Sheriff Marlin N. and Mrs. Gusman, Lt. Gen. Rex C. and Mrs. McMillian, Sgt. Maj. Anthony A. and Mrs. Spadaro, Protocol Officer Beverly Boyd, Rear Adm. David R. and Mrs. Callahan, Quinton Thomas, Dwight Barnes and thousands more.
The Zulu characters included Keith Thomas, Mr. Big Shot; Keith Celestine, Witch Doctor; Herbert Dunbar, Ambassador; Dorian R. Rawls Sr., Mayor; Anthony Laurent Jr., Province Prince; Christopher White, Governor; and Todd Duvernay, Mr. Big Stuff.
The Zulu Coronation Ball began at 6 p.m. with music by Captain Charles. Then, the formalities took place, culminating with the crowning.
During the evening, the entertainment featured recording artists Charlie Wilson, Denise Williams, Juvenile, and, as DJs Captain Charles and Polo.
At the ball’s conclusion, the thrills of the parade of three days’ later still awaited. But for the royal couple, the Bankses, who have dedicated much of their lives to service in the community, this was their time to enjoy the limelight. And, in the audience, well over 23,000 people agreed.