Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a group that has pushed for the removal of Confederate symbolism in New Orleans, has scheduled a news conference Thursday to demand the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club prohibit its riders from blackening their faces during the 2019 parade.
According to a WWL-TV report, the group is demanding the change because it says the makeup reinforces racist stereotypes.
On Feb. 13, Zulu put out a statement as leaders of the krewe aimed to head off any criticism over its long tradition.
“Black makeup is NOT the same as 'blackface.,'" the statement's headline said.
The four-page statement, issued amid a widening blackface scandal that has rocked the Virginia statehouse, focused on distinguishing Zulu’s tradition from the blatantly racist blackface of minstrel shows from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The statement also endorses the view that the krewe’s century-old tradition of members darkening their skin hails from black poverty in the post-Reconstruction South, when “makeup (and not masks)” was “the only option available to Zulu members at that time.”
The statement came a few weeks before hundreds of Zulu members and invited guests get set to roll on the morning of Fat Tuesday, delivering coveted painted coconuts to paradegoers.
Among them are expected to be more than 100 white riders, including invited sponsors.
While Zulu members estimate that perhaps 5 percent of the krewe’s membership is white, about 1 in 5 riders on its Mardi Gras floats are white.
They too are required to "black up" for the parade.
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