A minority activism network doesn't think an all-male dance troupe should be raked over the coals for its divisive costume, saying the context does not make the blackface outfit "a racial thing."
The Britannia Coconut Dancers received the backing of minority advocacy group Lancashire BME Network after the John Morris Organization, the dancers' parent company, ruled the troupe could not continue wearing the costumes, part of which requires the dancers to wear black face paint. LBN said the historical context shows the dancers' blackened faces are not intended to be offensive, saying the face paint is part of "a rich cultural tradition linked to Lancashire."
"In the past, when I've worked on similar topics, I've never seen them as a racial thing at all," Jonathon Prasad, the network's project officer, told the Daily Mail. "We believe that communities should be going out and really asking questions about why people do blackface."
The JMO ruled last year that its dance members would be required to stop darkening their faces because the paint "has the potential to cause deep hurt." The Britannia Coconut Dancers refused the JMO's requirement and split from the organization shortly after.
While the exact origins of the troupe's costume are unclear, one theory explained by Prasad holds that "the mill workers who were quite poor had to earn extra income, so one of the things they did was they painted their face black so their employers wouldn't know that they are dancing for extra money," adding that it's "also linked to a whole pagan ritual as well about not wanting to be attached to evil spirits."
Other incidents throughout the world in which people appeared publicly in blackface have attracted criticism. One elementary school staffer in the United States was placed on leave last month after wearing blackface to work, and political figures such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced calls to resign following the release of photos purportedly showing them in blackface years earlier.
The Britannia Coconut Dancers held its first performance since splitting from JMO on Sunday, dancing around Lancashire for roughly five hours. Gavin McNulty, the troupe's secretary, called the performance and the public's turnout "a great success."
The Washington Examiner contacted LBN, JMO, and the dance group for comment.
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Original Author: Asher Notheis