Dance troupe using black face paint says it represents mining history, not racism

A dance troupe has started performing again after being kicked out of the national dancing body last year for declining to stop painting their faces black.

Under pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement, The Joint Morris Organization ruled that “full face black or other skin tone make-up was a practice that had the potential to cause deep hurt.” 

“Morris is a unique cultural tradition of which we should be rightly proud. We want people from all races and backgrounds to share in this pride and not be made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable,” the statement continued. 

A BAME charity has spoken up publicly for the Britannia Coconut Dancers of Bacup, Lancashire, saying the origin of the black face paint was not racist, but instead represented the history of underpaid miners who would dance in the evenings for extra money but did not want to be recognized by their employers.

The Britannia Coconut Dancers are an all-male dance troupe that is rooted in clog dancing, a tradition that goes back over 100 years.

Last year when confronted with expulsion from the national dance body, the members of the Coconut Dancers, or “Coconutters,” voted to continue using black face paint because “it has no connection with ethnicity nor any form of racial prejudice.”   

“Our age-old tradition is embedded in the hearts and souls of the people of Bacup, Rossendale and overseas,” the troupe said in a statement.

“We have discussed the use of black face make-up in great detail and have come to a unanimous decision that this will continue to be part of our unique mining tradition.”    

The charity Lancashire BME Network said they did not object to the Coconutters using black face makeup because they “recognise it’s a rich cultural tradition linked to Lancashire” and had “never seen it as a racial thing.”

The Coconutters’ outdoor performance this past weekend lasted a total of about five hours, as they danced along the streets of the town and in front of local businesses.