Mummers Parade threatened with extinction

2019 Mummers Parade (Michael Reeves/Billy Penn)

2019 Mummers Parade (Michael Reeves/Billy Penn)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and City Councilwoman Cindy Bass are threatening the Mummers Parade with fines or even replacement if organizers don’t prevent Mummers from wearing blackface.

Kenney sent at letter to the five parade division leaders saying the “future of the parade is in jeopardy if Mummers leadership does not make immediate changes to better control the parade and organize yourselves.”

“If you fail to make these necessary changes, the parade will forever be known for hatred and bigotry, not the hard-work, dedication and celebration that I once enjoyed as a participant,” the letter continued.

Then Kenney delivered a threat. “If you cannot commit to meaningful changes, the City will be forced to consider alternatives. Ultimately, the City may prefer to produce and control its own New Year’s Day parade or celebration that is more inclusive, which will displace the Mummers Parade on Broad Street,” the letter said.

The action comes after members of yet another Mummers brigade wore blackface. This year the Froggy Carr Brigade was disqualified from the parade because some members wore the offensive face paint.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass says she thinks those who put on this offensive display should be penalized more than that. “If you are found to be in blackface, there is a $75 individual fine and a five-year ban from participating in the Mummers parade,” Bass said.

Bass is hopeful organizations will self-police to prevent this from happening again. She says her proposal is only the beginning of an effort to make the parade more inclusive.

“We are looking at additional penalties to the clubs themselves if that happens and if they have not policed themselves,” she added.

While the city doesn’t give the Mummers Parade money directly, it does spend about $700,000 a year on police, trash collection and other parade related expenses. The Kenney letter also says the city might put limits on absorbing those costs.

Since 2016, the city has required the Mummers to undergo cultural sensitivity training, but even with those trainings in place, some in the parade have worn blackface.

A call to an attorney representing the Mummers was not immediately returned.

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