African-American performance groups who showed in the Mummers Parade on Sunday, said they were glad to be apart of the Mummers’ ongoing effort to diversify.
The Mummers parade has historically been chastised for offensive incidents that mock ethnic groups in addition to the lesbian and gay community.
In the 2016 parade, even though they added minority performance groups that included Second 2 None, an African-American drill team based out of West Philly; San Mateo Carnavaleros; Los Bomberos de Calle; and the Miss Fancy Brigade, a LGBT made group of drag queens, the Mummers still drew criticism for a skit mocking Caitlyn Jenner and a Mexican-themed performance that had white people wearing brown-face. That same year, some marchers carried signs that read “Wench Lives Matter.”
“Going into it, the band was aware of some of the conflict with the parade and the conflicts that happened before,” said Kristian Paradis, Musical Director for the Philadelphia Pan Stars steel orchestra, a group dedicated to the Trinidadian tradition of pan drumming. “But the way we looked at it, it’s similar to the growing pains of [Trinidad and Tobago] Carnival. We had a good idea of what to expect and our presentation is similar to what we have done at the Caribbean Carnival in New York or other Caribbean festivals on the East coast. And we got a great response from the other captains of the Mummers groups. They seemed genuinely appreciative of what we did. We were prepared to get resistance but there wasn’t.”
Paradis noted they were also well-received by the band, stating that “people were dancing and calling for more.”
The Pan Stars performed “Eye of the Tiger,” in a Calypso arrangement as their main piece.
“That’s our tip of the hat to Philadelphia,” Paradis said. “We did it in calypso style. [And] we played a traditional Mummer song — ‘I’m Looking over a Four Leaf Clover.’ That was a tip of the hat to the Mummers tradition — thank you for welcoming us into the tradition.”
The Pan Star drummers were carried on a float that was built to look like a boat. The float was accompanied by marchers and featured the flag of Trinidad and Tobago.
Nakeia Laws, founder and director of the Second 2 None drill team, said their performance was also well received by the audience.
“Last year we performed third, so coming down the street, there wasn’t that many spectators,” she said. “This year was a big difference and it opened our eyes up to dig a little deeper. There was so much love. We partied with spectators on the sidelines. It was very exciting.”
Second 2 None dressed in all black for the parade and presented an original step routine that Laws and her son choreographed for an upcoming competition. Laws said she expects the Mummers performance to teach the steppers, especially the youth, about tolerance.
“Any color, Black, white, Chinese, we can all can have fun at one time and get along,” she said. “It was a good experience and I’m glad the drill team can be apart of that.”
The West Powelton Drummers, another Black drill team, opened the parade.
“The dialogue itself this year has been very helpful in providing individuals with fresh perspectives on many of these issues,” said George Badey, chairman of Love the Mummers. “In the long run, if we continue this dialogue, all will benefit with a broader sense of the values of tolerance and diversity which are being promoted by Mummers leadership with support by the city.”