Rep. Richmond readies for Mardi Gras ball

The black-tie ball is hosted by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, one of the krewes that put on the city’s legendary carnival. Founded in 1909, Zulu is the oldest and most prestigious of the Big Easy’s African-American carnival clubs. 

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Membership is limited to approximately 500 men (sorry, ladies), and Richmond told ITK that he has been a member “since right before the storm,” post-Katrina shorthand for 2005. “The club is [racially] integrated, and women are welcome at events. We even have a clubhouse, which is really just more of a bar.” 

And while Zulu is best known for its raucous carnival parade, “most people don’t know that Zulu does a lot of mentoring in schools all year round, and that social element is important to me,” Richmond said.

The Coronation Ball is held at the New Orleans Convention Center; Richmond anticipates as many as 20,000 guests. In keeping with Mardi Gras tradition, a king and queen will be crowned early in the evening. Former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers is a two-time Zulu Queen (1988, 2000), and jazz great Louis Armstrong was Zulu King in 1949.

“I usually get [to the ball] a little bit after the court has been presented,” Richmond said, noting that the event runs from 7 p.m. to about 3 a.m. But don’t expect to see the lawmaker cutting a rug in the wee hours. “I don’t think I’m going to have a long night at Zulu this year,” he laughed.