Representatives of the Mummers and a pair of African American leaders met Thursday, with city Democratic boss Bob Brady in the middle, to talk about the parade’s checkered history with racial imagery, spurred by a Jan. 1 skit that some found offensive.
After the hour-long closed-door meeting, participants said it was a useful session but did not elaborate.
State Sen. Anthony H. Williams, the Philadelphia Democrat who asked for the session, called it an “extraordinarily candid and honest" conversation.
“In this space, as in many spaces in America, sometimes we do things or say things that we don’t really realize could be offensive to someone else, with no malice intent behind it," he said. “But it’s seen differently by different people.”
George Badey III, a lawyer and Mummers spokesperson, called the meeting “productive" and said the goal was "to have more diversity in the Mummers Parade going forward so that the tradition thrives.”
“We don’t want to offend people,” Badey said. “But at the same time, a big part of the comic skits is to poke fun at celebrities. Our general rubric is, we want to punch up, we don’t want to punch down.”
The Rev. Jay Broadnax, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and Rusty Martz, president of the Mummers Museum, also attended.
At issue was a skit performed by the Finnegan New Year’s Brigade Comic Club that portrayed Mayor Jim Kenney on his hands and knees, led on a leash by music mogul Jay-Z. That brought to life an editorial cartoon by the Inquirer and Daily News' Signe Wilkinson last summer that mocked Kenney for backing down in a dispute about Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival, held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The controversy skidded sideways last week when City Council President Darrell L. Clarke inaccurately accused the Mummers of using blackface in the skit. The Mummer who played Jay-Z is black. Clarke backtracked on his claim but still accused the Mummers of minstrelsy.
The skit that prompted the meeting was approved before the parade by Kenney’s administration.
Williams urged the Mummers to form their own pre-parade advisory committee to get more diverse opinions involved in the planning and discussion of skits.