By Mike DeNardo and Nicole Brewer
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Kenney is hoping some training will result in a Mummers parade that doesn’t offend. From the sound of the string bands to the fancy strut in their step, the parade requires months of preparation and for the first time, some training in cultural sensitivity.
“I think it’s a really great idea,” said one passerby in Society Hill. Another added, “I don’t think it can hurt.”
Social media exploded last New Year’s, when one Mummers comic skit mocked Caitlyn Jenner. Another with a Mexican theme had revelers in brownface.
Mummers leaders promised to be more sensitive, and hundreds of Mummers went through training on cultural and LGBT issues.
Mayor Kenney – who was a Mummer for 35 years – says it’s okay if comics satirize him. But he doesn’t want to see marchers miring themselves in old stereotypes.
“Denigrating someone’s sexuality, denigrating someone’s race, denigrating someone’s ethnicity is inappropriate and it’s not part of the parade. And anyone who thinks that that’s part of the culture doesn’t understand the culture.”
Kenney says the city provides police, paramedics and other support for the parade, and if a small number of Mummers insist on being insensitive – the mayor says “the long-term existence of the parade is in jeopardy.”
“The mummers themselves decided to do this,” said George Badey, Chairman of Love the Mummers and tenor saxophonist for the Fralinger string band. He says their hope is to grow the organization in a way that reflects the diverse culture of Philadelphia.
“If the parade is going to survive and thrive into the 21st century and beyond, we need to be more inclusive and that’s our goal and our aim.”
That’s why the organization is encouraging its members to watch three training videos posted to its website,covering cultural appropriation, LGBT issues and satire.
“Mummers want to do the right thing, they want to have a good time, it’s a family oriented parade,” explained Badey.
“It was unfortunate that some drunken person said some stupid things. That’s not reflective of Mummers and it’s unfair to broad brush all Mummers,” insisted Badey.
And while there’s only so much the organization can control, parade organizers and city officials are taking steps to prevent future incidents. They will now pre-screen the programs, skits and costumes before they make their way to Broad.
One person Eyewitness News spoke to said it could be “a slippery slope,” toward censorship, but the others felt it was a step in the right direction.
“You’re nipping it in bud before it gets to be controversial,” said Marc Johnson of Philadelphia.
“So, if the adults set the example for new kids coming along, the tradition will continue for another 100 years.”