(A portion of this story has been retracted. See later post.)
Audiences were sparse at Wednesday’s Mummers Parade — the largest spontaneous folk celebration of American racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and peanut allergies.
What I just wrote is sarcasm, directed to those, mostly among the young(er), who have been taught to see offense in everything and anything. What I have written in seriousness about the Mummers is this: “That the parade is well over a century old and remains the largest spontaneous folk celebration in America speaks to Mummers’ spirit.”
Wednesday was the 120th edition of the unique parade that is permitted by the city, but not sponsored by it. In the opinion of someone — me — who has been a Mummer (Landi Comics) for a decade and who has reviewed the parade for a quarter-century, 2020 was an artistic success, offering some excellent musicianship, costuming, choreography and makeup among some low comedy offered by the Comics and, yes, some drunkenness from the Wenches and because there’s always one, at least one asshole who smeared the other 10,000 Mummers.
The picture, naturally, hit social media and Mayor Jim Kenney reacted to it. It appears to have been taken in front of the University of the Arts, it appears to be legitimate and the dimwit holding the sign is wearing a Froggy Carr suit.
The sentiment is perfectly acceptable. That the dumbass holding the sign appears to be in blackface is not. I have learned there might have been another offender from Froggy Carr, which has been disqualified.
Blackface has been banned for more than 50 years. At last count, Froggy Carr had some 800 members and the Wenches are the least organized of Mummers’ traditions.
I marched with them one year. All you need to march is a suit you get at headquarters New Year’s morning along with a badge. No one checks to see what you are carrying and makeup can be put on later. Along the parade route are Mummers’ and city officials who are authorized to remove banned images and makeup.
This stupid act has given the Mummers a black eye, no pun intended. It gives reflexive Mummers haters more ammunition. While I don’t normally like group punishment, I’d be OK with the city banning the Frogs from the parade for one year. (Without a doubt, they would still march in their South Philly home turf.)
Banning the Frogs would send a message of the seriousness of the offense to them, and convince the Frogs that everyone marching with them has to be responsible for the person on their left and right.
Back to the Good News: The temperature was good, breaking into the 40s by mid-day and (the few) spectators were happy.
They could have been happier.
More interaction between the Mummers and their fans. Like this guy is doing.
Not to brag, but to make a point, my Landi Comics group, King Kazoo, made a point of giving away stuff to spectators, to thank them for coming out so early to see us Comics. We gave away cheap novelties.
One year it was plastic combs that tied into our theme. My favorite — supporting a Russian theme — was a giveaway of raw potatoes. We would hand a potato to someone, and say, “It freeds six.”
As I recall, the “free stuff” idea came from me (I was ahead of Bernie Sanders) and I stole the idea from Mardi Gras, where the clubs (called krews) toss plastic necklaces and other gifts (called “throws”) to the crowds.
People in N’awlins loved their throws and so did Philadelphians.
Most Mummers understand they are performing for Philadelphians, but they sometimes forget to interact with their fans.
Consider this a reminder to my fine feathered friends — and also to be ready to eject those who bring shame on them,.