The president of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club presented President Barack Obama with a hand-painted, personalized Zulu coconut in the Oval Office on Monday afternoon, marking the 100th anniversary of the black Carnival club and the election of the first African-American president. Read the entire story HERE
Okay, okay, I know most of you are not familiar with the exotic and quirky customs of my beloved New Orleans. In fact I was not familiar with them either, and as a damn Yankee I still do not understand everything.
And yes, our President Barack Obama was lovingly given a Zulu coconut by a delegation from New Orleans.
Now what may you ask is a Zulu coconut? Well, it's the most prized Mardi Gras favor bestowed upon you by a rider on a float in the Zulu parade, the first parade that rolls on Mardi Gras morning.
Zulu is a prominent organization here, and since this year it celebrates its 100 year anniversary, there is a big exhibition mounted by The Louisiana State Museum at the Presbytere, a beautiful exhibition space in The French Quarter.
Our friend Jessica, who is a prominent textile restoration expert, installed the exhibition, and invited us to see it with her.
The Presbytere is one of three major buildings facing Jackson Square, the other two being St. Louis Cathedral and The Cabildo.
Jackson Square is charming park, with fixtures from early last century still in use.
Anyway, back to Zulu and those coconuts.
You can see how they hand make each one of them.
Zulu's members mask wearing black face. It's an interracial club, so everybody wears it.
In a racially charged and aware city like New Orleans, the idea of black face was very confusing to me, not to mention the horseback riders in other Carnival parades who wear hoods and masks that look very KKK to a Yankee know-nothing. But everyone here assures me it's all in good fun, and perfectly acceptable.
In fact the NAACP tried to disband Zulu in the 1960's, but its members stood fast and the club prevailed. You can read all the history on the Zulu web site and figure it out yourself.
The costumes they wear are fabulous, and the show featured many great ones.
Even the footwear is ingenious and beautiful.
The costume that White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers (and New Orleans native) wore when she was queen (1988 and 2000) of Zulu is a highlight of the exhibition. You can read more HERE.
It is a wonderful exhibition, something you will see only in New Orleans.
The President was very happy to get his coconut, and knew a great deal about the history of Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Of course the delegation was even more thrilled.
President Obama expressed his gratitude for the coconut, commented on its smaller-than-expected size, said he would find a "real special place for it" in his office, and said that he would love to come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
Who knows, maybe he'll be king of Zulu one year!
And Michelle his queen!