Let the good times roll.
Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club will be hosting its popular Coronation Ball at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on On Friday (Feb. 17). Rich with culture and tradition, the event is widely recognized as one of the best social functions during Mardi Gras season.
Because of the pandemic, the group faced restrictions for the past two years, said Dennis Robertson, chairman of carnival activities. But this year’s Zulu Ball is special, he said. The club is expecting 20,000 guests to attend the grand festivities.
“We expect this Zulu Ball to be the biggest ball we ever had,” Robertson said.
The gala evening will have themes of royalty and community, said Nick Spears, this year’s King Zulu. He said that the event will reflect on the cultural heritage that bonds the organization with people of the city.
When other parade organizations didn’t accept Black members, Zulu created a space for African-Americans to feel safe and welcomed, Spears said.
“It’s its own party with a purpose, where we come together and we have entertainment, [and] we just celebrate us,” he said.
The ball will feature performances by R&B artists Anthony Hamilton, Lloyd and Midnight Star as well as DJ Jubilee. The event will also celebrate 30 years of New Orleans bounce music.
Robertson refers to the coronation ball as a large picnic with tuxedos and gowns. Guests are allowed to bring in their own food and drinks.
However, it’s the elaborate pageantry that sets Zulu apart from other organizations.
The ball celebrates Black excellence in a grand fashion with the Royal Court in the Mardi Gras colors of green, purple and gold. The crowning of the king and queen is the highlight of the night.
“We’ve been blessed again, where we are professionals now and we’re able to keep raising the bar, elevating the colorful pageantry,” said Spears.
The ball is more than a celebration, said Zulu President Elroy James. The Zulu organization is about the people and giving back.
“Our organization would not have the appeal that it has without the community,” James said. “Realizing that what we have is culturally significant and we ought to be about preserving it, everything that we do, we put back into our program.”
The organization’s commitment to community service is one reason why Zulu Queen Dr. Christy Lagarde Spears, wife of Nick Spears, continues to be excited about the Zulu organization.
“We’ll go out, speak at different schools and engage with the young people of the community, and so I take pride in continuing that particular legacy,” she said.
Fat Tuesday is the other culmination of Zulu’s tradition and celebration. The Krewe of Zulu is set to roll down St. Charles Avenue, to Canal Street and end at Broad Street, a route that was once banned to Zulu. “We couldn’t parade down those streets. When Mardi Gras was segregated, Zulu was what we had,” Nick Spears said.
In the early years, Zulu paraded in the Treme neighborhood and was sponsored by Black business owners. Strolling through the Black community, they defined their own route.
Today, the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club is a reflection of Black history and New Orleans culture.
“Come see us on Mardi Gras day and the night of the ball, to see the pageantry in which we take pride in keeping the tradition of those before and moving forward,” Spears said.
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