Story at a glance

  • Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the City of Philadelphia is banning all publicly advertised gatherings of more than 50 people on public property through February 2021.
  • The ban effectively cancels the annual Mummers and Thanksgiving parades, as well as races.
  • The cancellation has raised calls for an end to the tradition of the Mummers parade, which some have criticized for racist depictions of black people and other people of color.

The City of Philadelphia announced on Tuesday that it will not permit any large public events through the end of February 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, effectively canceling a number of annual events. 

Some had already been rescheduled from earlier this year, including the Broad Street Run, the Philadelphia Marathon and the Mummers Parade. While some on social media bemoaned the cancellation of such traditions, especially the Thanksgiving parade, others took the opportunity to call for an end to one in particular. 


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The Mummers Parade is held on New Years Day, with its roots in the Mummers' plays, or folk plays, performed in Britain. But some of the elaborate costumes featured in the parade have historically been racist caricatures of nonwhite cultures, including blackface. Although the Mummers banned blackface in 1963, the racist caricature originating from minstrel performances has persisted. 


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This year, Mayor Jim Kenney threatened to end the parade if organizers didn't crack down on enforcing their ban after members of the Froggy Carr Wench Brigade, an official group of participants, were seen in blackface at the parade. 

“If you cannot commit to meaningful changes, the City will be forced to consider alternatives,” Kenney told the parade’s organizers, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “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.” 

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But blackface wasn’t the only instance of hate on display. Past parades have included a transphobic caricature of Caitlyn Jenner's transition to a woman and “brownface” skits and costumes playing off ethnic stereotypes of Hispanic and Indigenous cultures. Protesters have sought to bring an end to both this behavior and the parade itself, with some citizens demanding that no taxpayer dollars go towards the parade. 

Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia NAACP, told a local news outlet the Mummers have had many chances to correct racial issues and failed. 

"We've had the Juneteenth parade, we've had Unity Day, every year we have Odunde and we have thousands out. We offend no one. No political groups, ethnicity or religions. All people have wanted is fair justice and want to live in this city without annual insults," Muhammad told ABC6.


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Published on Jul 14, 2020