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February 13, 2020

‘We’re scared of it’: Mummers say that they aren’t taking Mayor Kenney’s threats lightly

In the wake of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's threats to end the annual Mummers Parade on New Year's Day, the Mummers are not overlooking Kenney's statements about the future of the parade.

"Sure, we're scared of it" said John Pignotti of the String Band Division at a press conference on Thursday. "That's why we're taking this whole situation seriously. This isn't a joke or anything. We're serious. We hear what the mayor says and we're going to address it and make it work."

"There were over 10,000 marchers on New Year's Day, two people did a deplorable, disgusting act [that] reflected on all of us that marched," said former String Band Division President Tom Loomis on Thursday.

Pignotti's and Loomis' comments are not the first sign of the Mummers' willingness to work together with Kenney after two Mummers with the club Froggy Carr were seen wearing blackface while marching at the 2020 edition of the parade. It resulted in the South Philly-based wench brigade from being disqualified from the competition portion of the event, as well as a tweet from Kenney strongly rebuking the act.

"We need them to help us come up with a solution," Comic Division President Richard Porco said just days after Kenney's letter to the five Mummers group leaders threatening to cancel the parade unless serious changes were made. "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."

Kenney has called for meetings between his office and the Mummers leaders, but Philadelphia City Councilmembers have already gotten an opportunity to meet with Mummers leadership to discuss reforms and improvements to the parade. 

City Council has introduced legislation that would ban Mummers who wear blackface in the parade for five years, as well as impose a $75 fine on violators. They are also calling for an end to the "One-Day Mummer" policy, where people can purchase a pass to march in the parade. 

The two men who wore blackface at the 2020 parade were able to march via this policy, and the Mummers have shown a willingness to go along with the proposed legislation.

"If it takes that, we're for it. We're not against sanctions," Porco said after the meeting.

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.

Saying that their actions were not approved, Froggy Carr's leaders stated that 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.

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