January 26, 2020
One of the five Mummers group leaders, whom Mayor Jim Kenney addressed in a letter Tuesday that threatened to end the annual Mummers Parade, says he’s willing to work with the mayor to fix and improve the parade.
“We need them to help us come up with a solution,” Comic Division President Richard Porco told to WHYY. “You can’t arrest them, it’s not an arrestable thing they are doing, it’s their way of thinking.”
“We are trying our best,” Porco continued. “We’ve improved our themes. Out of 10,000 Mummers two knuckleheads went rogue and I think they regret it.”
Porco’s comments come just days after Mayor Kenney, a former Mummer, wrote to the five presidents of the Mummers groups that changes must be made to the parade in order to keep it from being cancelled. Kenney went as far as to threaten to “explore options such as hosting the city's own New Year's Day Parade or changing the city's policies regarding informal cost forgiveness applicable to cultural parades."
"The Mummers Parade is one of our city's most unique and recognizable traditions. However, the behavior of a few participants has once again cast a shadow over that tradition," Kenney wrote.
"This parade has an infamous history of using racially and culturally insensitive themes, and the repeated inability of Mummers leadership to control the use of blackface by some participants threatens the city's continued support for the parade," Kenney continued. "Despite your progress in recent years, every time a parade participant mocks our Black community through the willful, ignorant use of blackface, it exacerbates the parade's association with racism and bigotry."
The letter came just weeks after the 2020 Mummers Parade when at least two mummers with the club Froggy Carr were seen wearing blackface while marching. It resulted in the South Philly-based wench brigade being disqualified from the competition portion of the annual event, and a strong rebuke from Kenney via Twitter that day.
The leaders of the Froggy Carr club condemned the two men who wore blackface and vowed to put procedures in place to prevent future incidents.
Froggy Carr's theme for the parade was based on Gritty, the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers, and members wore orange and black costumes. Many even painted their faces various combinations of orange, black, and white, while some did not paint their faces at all.
The club said that the two men who wore blackface broke from the ranks and applied the paint after the parade started once costumes had already been checked by club leaders.
Saying that their actions were not approved, Froggy Carr's leaders said the two men will never be allowed to march in the Mummers Parade again, and that they will make sure that the men are never permitted to be part of the tradition with other mummers groups.