NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club was founded in 1909; at a time when free people of color and the formerly enslaved were not allowed into other societies Mardi Gras crews.

Over the years, the organization has grown to become the most visible representation of African Americans involved in Carnival. Every year, the Zulu Coronation Ball attracts thousands to New Orleans’ Convention Center, as one of the largest formal celebration gatherings of African Americans in the country.

After a year of Mardi Gras absence and a year when an estimated 17 Zulu members were lost due to the coronavirus; the celebration returned with the mission of restoring good times and spreading a message of community involvement in New Orleans.

Slyvia Holmes is a Zulu Ball attendee, who has been to numerous Zulu Ball celebrations and says, “this is a joyous occasion for me! I have two granddaughters who are Zulu maids.”

Karis Felton is a first time attendee who showed up with her friends to celebrate another friend who is also a Zulu Maid, saying, “I had been wanting to come down to Mardi Gras and the pandemic really slowed that down. I’m really excited to be here with Mardi Gras being back and to see New Orleans in full action.”

Zulu elected William Storey in 1910 as the first king of the organization. The first Queen was Edwina Robertson in 1948.

2022’s king-elect is Randolph Davis; a longtime Zulu member.

This years queen is Crystal Monique Guillemet, a homegrown Gentilly native. She works at Tulane University’s School of Medicine and is a University of New Orleans graduate.

Part of the majesty of the Zulu Coronation Ball is seeing everyone dressed up and Dana Washington Collins is an attendee that made an original dress, saying, “I glued all of the feathers on. This was a $40 dollar dress that I turned out and hand made!”

Beyond the dresses, tuxedos, brass bands, pomp and circumstance and catered food; many look forward to the Zulu Ball concert. This year’s concert included the likes of Keith Sweat, Stephanie Mills, Tamia, Dru Hill and DJ Jubilee.

Throughout it’s inception and into it’s current years, the constant layers of the Zulu organization include knowing how to throw an exceptional party and knowing how to engage with the community. There is simply now other organization like it on earth.

Zulu President Elroy James says, “it was never a doubt in our mind that when we were allowed to return Mardi Gras back, that it would return in full force. Happy Zulu 2022!”