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Changes to Zulu 2022 parade route could force krewe out of black neighborhoods

"This is home for us and this is our community and we certainly want to come back to our community," said Zulu historian, Clarence Becknell.

NEW ORLEANS — Down the street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Uptown, on Jackson and Claiborne, is where the Zulu parade usually starts for Mardi Gras.

"I like it because it's a lot of black culture coming back to the city and I like the Tramps because they are on foot and they get a chance to be personal with you," said Tess Gibson.

Tess has been in New Orleans for 61 years and Uptown or 40. So, you could say she's more than familiar with the Zulu Krewe.

From Claiborne, Zulu's parade continues down Jackson to St. Charles and ends up on Orleans Avenue. 

"It's amazing, a lot of people, business is great," said Baby Snack Box owner, Antoinette Davalos.

Due to concerns about the capacity and bandwidth of first responders, the mayor is in discussions with the Mardi Gras council to change parade routes for all krewes to Napoleon and St. Charles avenue.

"It goes well beyond public safety," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell in an interview on Wednesday.

On Thursday her office released this statement:

"Conversations around potential changes to some routes are in the early stages. No decisions have been made. We will remain in close contact with our krewe captains, and we invite their input. As we have said: we have concerns regarding the bandwidth and capacity of our first-responders, who have been under intense strain throughout the pandemic. When Mardi Gras comes back, we want to do it in the safest way possible: in terms of public health and in terms of public safety."

"This is home for us and this is our community and we certainly want to come back to our community," said Zulu historian, Clarence Becknell.

Zulu has been in the community since 1909 and the organization has paraded down Orleans Ave. since Louis Armstrong was Zulu King in 1949.

"Zulu's had a lot of milestones in this community," said Becknell.

"I think it means a lot to the community to see them come down Orleans Avenue and it's been a tradition for many many years," said Davalos.

Davalos' shop, Baby Snack Box, is on Orleans Ave.

She's been there for a decade and has fond memories of the Zulu krewe coming down Orleans for Mardi Gras.

"It's going to be missed," said Davalos.

Many people who spoke with Eyewitness news say they understand the need for safety precautions

The hope is that safety and tradition can meet somewhere in the middle.

"It's understandable. Yea, we're going to miss it, yea it's going to be hurtful but hopefully, she'll change her mind," said Davalos.

The mayor's office said that the good news is the city is on track for Mardi Gras 2022, as long as COVID numbers stay low.

Conversations around potential changes to some routes are in the early stages. No final decisions have been made. 

Stay with eyewitness news for the latest.

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