The Mummers Parade is one of Philadelphia’s oldest ongoing folk festivities, and one of its most contentious. A bacchanalian celebration of New Year's Day, the largely white parade has an extensive history of exclusion, xenophobia, and racism, including blackface minstrelsy. My short documentary, “New Divisions”, tells the story of the first significant attempt to diversify the Mummers through the addition of a so-called "New Division" for ethnically and culturally diverse performance groups.
The film follows a handful of cultural and performance groups of color from various neighborhoods in Philadelphia as they prepare for and perform in the parade for the first time. The performance groups profiled in the film include a Puerto Rican bomba and plena group called Los Bomberos de la Calle; a Southeast Asian troupe comprised of members from the cultural organizations Laos in the House and Southeast by Southeast; 2nd to None, a West Philadelphian step team; and Los Carnavaleros del Puebla, a large group of folk dancers originally from Puebla, Mexico.
While the film focuses on interrogating the past and present of the parade, it also celebrates the rich performance traditions of marginalized communities within Philadelphia.