Senator Williams Condemns Mummers Performance

PHILADELPHIA, PA, January 3, 2019 – The mummer comic performance “Made in America” was racially offensive and a continuation of a dark and disgraceful aspect of mummer history.   Using a black man to depict Jay Z leading a white man on a leash depicting Mayor Kenney was as offensive as if the spoof had been done in black face.  In fact, on first glance many of the African Americans who called me with objections, thought exactly that….assuming the “Jay Z” performer was in black face. 

As recently as 2016, the Comics, despite a 50 year ban on black face performances, marched in “brownface” and dressed as Mexican stereotypes.  In the same parade, they mocked members of the transgender community. 

The fact that no one associated with the Mummer’s association objected to this is statement enough (let alone if objections were ignored or silenced).  But the leaders of our city cannot countenance it.  In 2016, Mayor Kenney was quoted as saying “It was bad.  Hurtful to many Philadelphians.  Our Trans Citizens do not deserve this type of satire/insult.”.   Today, the Mayor minimized the performance because it involved an African American.

The Mayor doesn’t quite get it.  It doesn’t matter whether the performance was in black face or a black face, racial insensitivity has no place in Philadelphia.  

The larger point is that some of these people probably work in the city or for city government and supervise people of color everyday.  Whoever was involved should be held accountable and sanctioned.  They can’t be allowed to hide behind Mummer’s masks.   

At the very least, the Mummers organization and Sugarhouse, the lead sponsor of the parade, owe the African American community an apology.  Moreover, policy needs to be adopted to curtail even thinly veiled racial, ethnic, gender or homophobic themes from emerging in this annual celebration. 

I have asked members of the Legislative Black Caucus in Harrisburg to make time this week to meet with the Mummers and Sugarhouse to discuss this matter in depth and come to some agreement about the future tenor an event that is so deeply embedded in our city’s character and image. 

We are proud to live in a city that is among the most progressive urban centers that is “Made in America”.   We’ve worked hard to earn that descriptor.  Living up to that label means calling out anything that tries to take us back to a time that dishonors the progress we have made.   Like most racial jokes intended to amuse bigots, Philadelphia needs to show the world that we didn’t think it was funny.