Philadelphia’s New Year’s Tradition Reflects Our Racist Past — And May Overcome It

The Mummers Parade is growing more diverse, showing how longtime traditions can be recast.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Frank Rizzo’s quoted comments came during a 1978 mayoral campaign. In reality, they came during a campaign to change the city charter so that Rizzo could run for a third consecutive term the following year.

 

For more than a century, Philadelphia has celebrated New Year’s Day with the Mummers Parade, a regional tradition that brings thousands into the streets to wear costumes, play music, dance and perform satirical sketches on local and national politics.

Almost every year, however, the parade sparks controversy. In 2019, for example, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke denounced the mummers because he incorrectly thought that the rapper Jay-Z had been portrayed by a white man in blackface, not an African American. While Clarke was wrong, the mistake was plausible, given that black Philadelphians, who make up more than 40 percent of the city’s population, have never participated in the parade in large numbers. And until the city imposed a ban on blackface makeup in the parade in 1963, many mummers marched in blackface, a practice inherited from the 19th-century minstrel show.

Even today, the Mummers Parade is imbued with performances reminiscent of blackface minstrelsy. The “strut,” the mummers’ signature dance step, for example, can be traced to the cakewalk, an antebellum plantation dance adopted by the minstrel show.

In many ways, the history of the Mummers Parade is a microcosm of the halting movement toward racial integration in the United States. The persistence of minstrel-show stereotypes in the parade mirrors and magnifies the persistence of racism in American society at large. But the parade is also one of the most prominent expressions of Philadelphia’s distinctive history and culture and, thus, also a potential source of civic strength in an increasingly diverse city.

Throughout much of northern Europe and colonial North America, groups of costumed “mummers” roved from house to house during the Christmas season, entertaining their hosts and expecting food, drink or a small tip in return. As early as the 17th century, immigrants from England and Sweden introduced this custom to southeastern Pennsylvania.

By the 19th century, most mummers were young, working-class white men, and their streetside antics were infused with forms of racial impersonation borrowed from the Indian melodramas and blackface minstrel shows popular in the contemporary theater. According to the Philadelphia Public Ledger, New Year’s Day 1876 witnessed impromptu parades by men dressed as “Indians and squaws, princes and princesses, clowns … [and] Negroes of the minstrel hall type.”

Philadelphia’s new, central police force eventually cracked down on unruly holiday celebrations, and H. Bart McHugh — a newspaper reporter and theatrical agent — led the effort to corral the mummers into an organized parade, with prizes funded by the city. In 1901, the city government sponsored the first official Mummers Parade, and the Public Ledger reported that “three thousand men and boys in outlandish garb frolicked, cavorted, grimaced, and whooped while the Mayor and members of Councils, Judges, and other officials, State and municipal, looked on.”

From the beginning, most mummers’ clubs specialized in fancy dress, music, dance or comedy, leading to an elaborate structure for judging a varied assortment of parade performances. Three African American groups competed for prizes in Philadelphia’s first city-sponsored Mummers Parade, and regular African American participation in the parade continued through 1929, when the Octavius V. Catto String Band (named for a martyred 19th-century civil rights leader) made its final appearance.

Sociologist Patricia Anne Masters attributes the withdrawal of independent African American clubs from the 1930 Mummers Parade to the Depression, which hit Philadelphia’s black community especially hard. Deteriorating economic conditions, along with the Catto String Band’s last-place finish in 1928 and 1929, clearly discouraged African American groups from competing, but black brass bands continued to march as paid accompanists for white mummers’ groups through the 1930s, a practice that remains common today.

Yet, Mummers documentarian E.A. Kennedy III suggests that the prolific use of blackface by white mummers also contributed to black disillusionment with the parade. This disillusionment erupted into full-blown conflict in December 1963, when Cecil B. Moore, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, and Louis Smith of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) successfully pressured parade director Elias Myers, a city official, to ban blackface from the Mummers Parade. This ban precipitated an unsuccessful legal challenge, as well as protests and counter-protests by mummers and civil rights activists.

The result was an uneasy detente over the issue of race in the Mummers Parade. Even in 1975, 12 years after the blackface ban, the New York Times described it as “essentially a white man’s event,” overseen by Mayor Frank Rizzo, who famously enjoined his white working-class base to “vote white” during a 1978 campaign to change the city charter so he could run for a third consecutive term.

 

Over the past six decades the parade has grown considerably more inclusive, even as brownface, redface and yellowface makeup have remained common sights in the parade, and blackface still appeared at the nighttime party after the official parade has ended. In the 1970s, most mummers’ clubs began admitting women for the first time. (Women had long worked behind the scenes, helping to stitch costumes but rarely appeared as performers). In 1984, the Goodtimers Comic Club, with an African American president and hundreds of minority members, started competing in the parade, just as W. Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s first African American mayor, took office. And in 1992, a group of Cambodian American artists and students teamed up with the Golden Sunrise Fancy Brigade to stage a Khmer dance drama along the parade route, reflecting the rapid growth of the city’s Cambodian American population.

Over the past six decades, the Mummers Parade has grown considerably more inclusive. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
Over the past six decades, the Mummers Parade has grown considerably more inclusive. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

By 2016, participants in the Mummers Parade included a Caribbean steel band, a Mexican American carnival organization, an African American drill team, a Puerto Rican bomba group and a brigade of drag queens — even as videos of individual mummers using racist and homophobic slurs along the parade route have also gone viral in recent years.

This bifurcation captures the complex state of the parade when it comes to race as we enter a new decade. Some mummers embrace the growing diversity of the parade out of conviction, whereas others view it as a pragmatic antidote to the declining participation and attendance that have afflicted the parade since the 1990s. Indeed, many if not most new mummers over the past decade have come from outside the white ethnic communities that traditionally sustained the parade.

 

Progressive and racially integrated mummers’ groups like the Vaudevillains, the Rabble Rousers and the Lobster Club have sought to change the political tenor of the parade, with performances that confront climate change, nuclear proliferation, big agriculture, student loan debt, access to health care and fracking in rural Pennsylvania. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the Vaudevillains from 2009 to 2012). These groups have realized that joining the parade is the only way to bring about a more pluralistic future for the mummers, offering a local lesson in direct political action that applies to struggles over diversity, equity and inclusion at the national level.

The Mummers Parade offers a carnivalesque bully pulpit to communicate directly with one’s fellow citizens, and as a city-sponsored event, participation is open to anyone. The reach of the parade has diminished from its peak, but roughly 8,000 marchers and 50,000 spectators crowd the parade route each New Year’s Day, and hundreds of thousands watch the parade on local television. Because Philadelphia is the largest city in America’s second-largest swing state, the vibrancy of the city’s political life has national implications, especially in a presidential election year.

A populist tradition like the Mummers Parade has the potential to point the way toward a more inclusive future or to remain mired in the racism that has characterized America’s past. Rather than abandon or decry the parade for its attachment to minstrel-show stereotypes and its history of racial exclusion, Philadelphians of all backgrounds would do well to embrace mummery as a powerful civic rite, with the potential to make the city’s growing diversity a force to be reckoned with.

 

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‘We’re All Wearing Diapers’: Shocking New Year’s Eve Truth

There are only a handful of cities with celebrations so spectacular on New Year’s Eve that they’ve built an international reputation on it.

At the top of the list, arguably, is Sydney – for it’s magnificent and world-class fireworks display on the city’s sparkling harbour.

Perhaps the most iconic, however, is the ball drop in New York’s Times Square – otherwise known as “the Crossroads of the World”.

It’s where some two million people pack the streets in the core of the Big Apple up to 16 hours before the clock strikes midnight. They come for the spectacle: a free concert featuring some of the world’s biggest stars; an illuminated ball that drops from above a high-rise building, marking the end of one year and the start of the next; and an explosion of confetti, with handwritten wishes written on each piece from members of the public, fluttering through the skies above the bustling streets. To be a part of it and feel the electricity in person is on the bucket list of many people all over the world. The celebration is so popular that revellers arrive in the morning to secure prime position before it fills up and police block access.

But there’s a catch that most tourists who flock to the city for New Year’s Eve are largely unaware of: There are no bathroom facilities. Zilch. No Portaloos, no public rest rooms, and no access to restaurant or bar facilities for non-customers. And in a place so packed that it can take hours just to shuffle from one block to the next – and that’s outside of police pen “lock-in” periods – it’s a discovery many revellers don’t make until it’s too late.

Those privy to the set-up, however, have a secret: adult nappies.

New Year's Eve fireworks display over Times Square, New York, USA.
New Year’s Eve fireworks display over Times Square, New York, USA.

It’s said that the streets of New York City will “make you feel brand new” – a line immortalised in Alicia Keys’ hit song Empire State of Mind.

Just don’t expect to get that on New Year’s Eve when the streets are lined with thousands of adults wetting their “diapers” and thousands more urinating directly onto the street.

“So far, it’s dry, and I’m hoping to keep it that way,” nappy-wearing Dallas teacher Heather Feist, 33, who began lining up at 9.30am, told the NY Post at last year’s event.

Others were not so lucky.

“I’ll definitely need to shower after peeing my pants all day,” Ayame Yamakawa, 22, told the newspaper after travelling 22 hours from Okinawa, Japan, just for New Year’s Eve this time last year.

She had already wet herself once by 2.41pm after lining up at 10am, according to The Post.

 

Crowds celebrate new year on Times Square, NYC. Picture: iStock
Crowds celebrate new year on Times Square, NYC. Picture: iStock

 

The celebration lights up New York. Picture: iStock
The celebration lights up New York. Picture: iStock

At a previous NYE street celebration in Times Square, Jeryl Lippe, from New Jersey, got a bad case of karma after she smuggled vodka into the alcohol-free zone inside a water bottle. She didn’t eat anything other than a breakfast bagel and didn’t have her illicit drink until the end of the day, she told local The Post. But, “by the time it was turning midnight, I had drunk a lot and was desperate to go to the bathroom,” she continued. “I tried to find some place to go – hotels, restaurants,” she said, but she was denied.

Chuck Pappas travelled from interstate for NYE at the “Crossroads of the World” in 2014, at the time telling Business Insider: “We have Red Bull, energy shots, lots of snacks, water, playing cards, we’re all wearing several layers and … we’re all wearing diapers.”

Brian Alvarado, from Westchester, New York, last year recalled how one of his friends gave up and urinated in the street, adding, “I’ve heard stories of people who wear (adult) diapers.”

 

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Geddy Lee Misses Playing With Rush but Doesn’t Expect Reunion

Rush‘s Geddy Lee says he misses playing with his band mates but doubts whether the band will ever tour again.

“I don’t miss leaving [my family]. But I miss those three hours on stage with my buddies. That, especially in the last 10 years of touring, was so much fun and so gratifying,” Lee said in an interview with the Toronto Sun.

When asked whether the band knew the last show of the R40 tour would be the last ever, Lee said, “Neil [Peart]insisted that that was his last gig. And you know, Alex [Lifeson] and I would look at each other and go, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s just saying that.’ So I think we kind of knew, we should have known, it was the last show. But I think being eternal optimists we hoped that after a break we would be back out there. That never materialized.”

Lee says he sees Rush guitarist Lifeson “quite a lot” and that he and Lifeson visit drummer Peart “quite often.”

“So we’re all close but I don’t think we would ever do a project — the three of us,” he added. “It’s certainly possible that Alex and I would do something down the road. I can’t see the three of us ever really doing anything.”

Meanwhile, Lee is currently busy promoting his new book, Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass.

 

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Tales of Rock – Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister Consumed Jack and Meat

Lemmy Kilmister was the frontman of Motorhead, an all around hard rock legend and a lifelong poster boy for friendly mutton chops. He was one of the very few true rock ‘n’ roll icons of the olden times who not only graced the land of the living for far longer than anyone expected, but did it actively doing his thing.

He was also, with the possible exception of Keith Richards, by far the most unlikely person to actually do so.

The Diet:

Jack Daniels, meat, cheese, drugs.

Lemmy drank at least one bottle of whiskey a day, and did it for over 35 years. The food he consumed was equally unhealthy: He loathed vegetables and ate mainly meats and cheese, with the occasional cake or biscuit thrown in, administered on a “however much he likes, whenever he likes it” basis. He’d been smoking since he was 11. He did copious amounts of drugs daily, and did so for decades.

If that sounds like the lifestyle of every rock star on earth, you’re partially right. But what set Lemmy apart was his apparent good health. His liver was completely fine. As were his kidneys. And lungs. In fact, the man was pretty much as healthy as he’d ever been — the few times he’d actually been ill were everyday performer stuff such as a lung infection and stage dehydration. Even then, he maintained a schedule that would have exhausted a person half his age.

There was evidence that he was only human, though: Sometimes, when the concert conditions got unbearably sweaty, he was known to hydrate by adding a couple of extra ice cubes to his onstage Jack and Coke.

I love you Lemmy! Rest in Peace!

 

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Children of the Night: The Best Horror Actors of All Time

Behind every great horror film monster is an actor with the perfect chops for sending a chill down your spine.

Some of the silver screen’s best actors and actresses have portrayed monsters or ghosts or the victims in which those monsters stalk.

In honor of Halloween, my love of films and the wonderful performances that have existed in horror films, I will count my top-5 horror actors of all-time.

No. 5: Boris Karloff. From 1919 to 1971 Boris Karloff racked up credit-after-credit as monsters, murderers and maniacs. Most notably, Karloff was Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 Universal Studios classic “Frankenstein.” Karloff would portray the famed man-made monster two other times in his career and also starred in Universal’s “The Mummy” as Imhotep — the mummy himself. Karloff was tall and menacing-looking, with haunting eyes and prominent cheekbones. His looks, along with his cold and chilling acting style made him the perfect horror film actor.

No. 4: Bela Lugosi. Hungarian born Bela Lugosi is most recognized for his role as the evil vampire Count Dracula. His mysterious looks and accent became Dracula’s signature for decades (until another actor on this list flipped the switch). Lugosi was Universal’s Dracula several times throughout his career, and also appeared in 1941′s “The Wolf Man;” played Frankenstein’s monster in “Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man;” and appeared in films like “The Black Cat” (alongside Karloff) and “The Human Monster.” An icon of horror cinema, Bela Lugosi’s name is still recognized by horror fans of all ages as one of the genre’s best performers.

No. 3: Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It’s hard to separate Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, chiefly because the duo starred in a bevy of Hammer Horror Dracula films together. The two were pitted against each other several times: Lee as the haunting and suave Count Dracula, and Cushing as the altruistic vampire hunter Van Helsing. Lee starred in several Dracula films including “The Horrors of Dracula,” “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” and “Taste the Blood of Dracula” — to name a few. Cushing portrayed Van Helsing several times, and starred as Doctor Frankenstein in Hammer’s Frankenstein series. Both actors starred in several other horror and sci-fi films: Cushing in “Star Wars Episode V: A New Hope” and Cushing in “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.”

No: 2: Lon Chaney Jr. Perhaps no horror actor pulled off inner torture and turmoil quite like Lon Chaney Jr. Chaney Jr. is most known for his role in 1941′s “The Wolf Man.” He’d portray the famed werewolf four other times but also starred as Frankenstein and Dracula in various Universal films. Chaney Jr. — a one time Colorado Springs resident — was a classically trained actor, starring in films like “Of Mice and Men” prior to his roles with Universal. Chaney Jr.’s chops allowed him to pull of the inner guilt, turmoil and fear as a lycanthrope which in turn made his Lawrence Talbot/Wolf Man character a sympathetic near anti-hero.

Honorable mentions: Jamie Lee-Curtis, “Halloween;′ Sigourney Weaver, “Alien;” Jack Nichoslon, “The Shining” and “Wolf;” Robert Englund, “A Nightmare on Elm Street;” Bruce Campbell, “The Evil Dead.”

And the best horror film actor of all time is …

No.1: Vincent Price. His ghoulish laugh, hauntingly deep voice, pointed haircut and mustache and acting chops made Vincent Price a legend. The king of macabre performances, Price shines in films like “The Last Man on Earth,” “House of Wax,” “House on Haunted Hill” and the original “The Fly.” Even in the 1970s and 80s Price continued his run as horror’s screen king, starring in films like “The Abominable Dr. Phibes,” “Theater of Blood” and Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands.” Price’s laugh and voice have been used in songs (notably Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”); cartoons and on various radio programs. He read many of Edgar Allen Poe’s works on recordings throughout his career. Price has become a horror icon and rightfully so. Beyond his looks, Price pulled off creepy, mysterious and wicked better than anyone.

 

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Death in Paradise: Why did Sara Martins leave Death in Paradise?

DEATH IN PARADISE has been on our screens for almost 9 years and throughout the show’s history many cast members have come and gone. But why exactly did Sara Martins leave Death in Paradise? Here’s everything you need to know about why Martins left the BBC series.

Death in Paradise season nine is coming to BBC One in early 2020. Sara Martins was part of the show’s original cast, starring in the crime drama from 2011 until 2015. Martins is a French-Portuguese actress and is best known for her roles in French television and film.

Why did Sara Martins leave Death in Paradise?

Sara Martins starred in Death in Paradise as DS Camille Bordey.

Martins played the role of DS Camille Bordey from 2011 until 2015.She first appeared in episode one of Death in Paradise in 2011 and was last seen in season four, episode four.

Bordey was an undercover investigator who, at first, did not get on with new Detective Inspector Richard Poole (played by Ben Miller).

Sara Martins starred in Death in Paradise as DS Camille Bordey.

Sara Martins starred in Death in Paradise as DS Camille Bordey. (Image: GETTY)

As time went on, Poole and Martins got closer and even verged on having a romantic relationship.

Sadly, Poole was killed off in season three and DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) replaced him.

Goodman had expressed romantic feelings for Martins’ character but nothing happened between them until Camille announced the was moving to a new job in Paris.

As she left the island of Saint Marie, she kissed Goodman goodbye.

Camilla was written out of the show by securing a new undercover job in Paris.

Speaking about the decision to leave Death in Paradise, Martins told What’s On TV?: “I’ve loved everything about the show but the only way to grow in life is to take risks, even if it means losing something you love or leaving a place that’s comfortable.

“You should always go forward and take new challenges.“

However, Martins did not rule out returning to Death in Paradise.

She said: “We wanted to make the best exit, and they didn’t want to kill me off, there was no reason to. And who knows? There’s always the possibility I can come back.

Sara Martins is a French-Portugese actress

Sara Martins is a French-Portugese actress (Image: GETTY)

Who is Sara Martins?

Sara Martins is a French-Portuguese actress from Faro, Portugal

She is best known for appearances in French television and film.

Martins made her debut acting role in the French series Police District.

Since then she has starred in the French films, Tell No One, Beyond the Ocean, Paris Je t’aime, Summer Hours and Little White Lies.

Death in Paradise was her debut role on British television.

Since leaving Death in Paradise in 2015, Martins has gone on to star in the NBC series American Odyssey as Serena and The law of Alexandre.

Martins has also appeared in Captain Marleau and Father Brown.

 

Sara Martins starred in Death in Paradise from 2011 until 2015

Sara Martins starred in Death in Paradise from 2011 until 2015 (Image: GETTY)

When is Death in Paradise season 9 out?

The BBC has not confirmed an official release date for the new series of Death in Paradise.

The previous eight seasons have premiered in January, apart from season one which arrived on screens in October 2011, so season nine is expected to arrive in early 2020.

Filming for season nine is currently underway on the French-Carribean island of Guadaloupe.

Death in Paradise fans will be pleased to know that the BBC renewed Death in Paradise for two seasons last year, meaning fans can expect season nine in 2020 and season 10 in 2021.

Express.co.uk will update this article when more information is available.

Death in Paradise season 9 is currently in production.

 
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Tales of Rock – Why Ian Anderson Left a Club After One of the Rock GODS Went Onstage

Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson recalled how he met future Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant – and how Anderson’s band “got out pretty quickly” after Plant took a guest turn onstage.

The incident took place sometime in the mid ‘60s in London, before either artist had reached the pinnacle of success. “I’ve never been a strong singer,” said Anderson, who was complimented for retaining the vocal abilities of “a man decades younger” during a recent interview with Prog magazine. “Comparing me to, say, Robert Plant is absurd – he has a God-given talent, which I recognized, fearfully, the first time I ever met him, when [British blues icon] Alexis Korner brought him into a club we were in.”

Robert Plant

Anderson said they were playing in a “dreary, shitty club in town and it was awful” when Korner “came in with this lean youth and said, ‘All right if my boy stands in and does a number? He sings and plays harmonica.’ And I was like, ‘Well, that’s what I do, but sure, I’ll just sit this one out and he can have a go.’”

Anderson recalled that his reaction was immediate. “You knew instantly that he had something special about him,” he said of Plant. “And he was a good harmonica player too. I sat there feeling this growing dread. … We got out of there pretty quickly, as I recall. Not too much looking back that night.”

Jethro Tull are marking their 50th anniversary with a tour that launches in the U.K. on Apr. 3 before reaching the U.S. on May 30. Anderson started work on a new album last year, although he remains unsure whether it will be released under his name or the band moniker. Plant recently said that Led Zeppelin were planning to discuss ways of celebrating their own 50th anniversary this year.

 

 

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