Jay-Z Mummer: ‘There was no blackface. I am black.’ | Perspective
I am a black American male Mummer who portrayed Jay-Z in a skit. Our skit was not racist.
My name is Darrel Young. I am a black, American, male Mummer. Yes, I am a Mummer, and a proud member of the Finnegan’s New Year’s Brigade for the last two years.
In the 2019 Mummers Parade, I happily accepted a prominent role in my club’s theme. I portrayed Jay-Z, another black American, in a skit that poked fun at Mayor Kenney. Most of us remember the situation involving the mayor’s cancellation of the Made in America concert. After Jay-Z intervened, Kenney reversed his decision. There was a political cartoon that showed Jay-Z walking a dog on a leash with Kenney as the dog. It was political satire. It painted the mayor as Jay-Z’s lapdog.
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke issued a news release that says that our skit “brought shame and embarrassment to the City of Philadelphia” and that our skit involved a “blackface Jay-Z walking a long-nosed Mayor Kenney like a dog.” Clarke claimed that our good-natured skit “was offensive, racist, and not even a little bit amusing.” None of that is true. Here, we portrayed a prominent black celebrity treating the mayor as his lapdog.
First: There was no blackface involved. I am black.
Second: Mayor Kenney was portrayed by a white man with a Pinocchio nose.
Third: It absolutely was not racist.
Fourth: It was satirical criticism of our mayor (who happens to be white) caving to pressure from Jay-Z (who happens to be black).
Fifth: The city, including Mayor Kenney’s Office, was aware of and did not object to the skit.
The fact that the Mayor’s Office never objected says great things about Kenney. He gets it. A primary purpose of Mummers is to poke fun at our elected leaders, and, given the backlash, this obviously worked. I’d love to see more people of color get involved in Mummers. I have a lot of fun, and it’s a great Philadelphia tradition.
It is bad enough that our nation is plagued with a president who constantly lies in order to fan the flames of racism for his own political gain. Please don’t let that happen here in Philadelphia.
Darrel Young has lived in Philadelphia for more than a decade and has been a Mummer for two years.