Cedric George Givens, King Zulu 2013
GREG MILES PHOTOGRAPH
One of the most coveted throws of the New Orleans Carnival season is the famous coconut. As a Carnival tradition dating back to about 1910, the coconut has had a storied history: Not only is it a cult favorite (people collect them), it was almost banned due to possible lawsuits but saved by a 1988 law passed by the Louisiana Legislature, informally called the “Coconut Bill.” It excluded the coconut from liability for alleged injuries caused when it was handed from the float.
These mysterious coconuts only make their appearances one time a year – Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) – and are given out in one parade: Zulu.
The group, more formally known as the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, was founded in 1909 by laborers who originally called themselves “The Tramps.” In 1915, Zulu added floats to their parade, and in 1920 they selected their first Queen, who is traditionally the wife of the King. In addition to the King – this year’s is Cedric George Givens – there is other royalty in the entourage called “Characters”: Big Shot, Witch Doctor, Ambassador, Mayor, Province Prince, Governor and Mr. Big Stuff. Each plays a roll in the parade that is both serious and humorous. For example, Mr. Big Stuff always tries to outshine the King. (A better coconut, perhaps?)
Based in their clubhouse on North Broad Street, Zulu does more than organize a parade for Mardi Gras: They are active in the community. For example, they have a Toys for Tots in December. In 2012, they distributed toys (including 400 bicycles) to about 1,500 children.
King Givens, whose election celebration was captured on a YouTube video, is an enthusiastic member of Zulu and a fan of Carnival, overall. So, this year’s parade is bound to be as fun and raucous as in years past.
Be sure to be up bright and early on Tues., Feb. 12, as the parade starts at 8 a.m. Now, Zulu does have the reputation of taking its time on its Uptown route, but remember: The early bird gets the coconut.
How long have you been a member of Zulu? Since 1999 (14 years).
What positions have you held in the Zulu organization? I have been on the Board of Directors, 2008-2012; I have been the Anniversary Chairman for four years; and assistant chairman for the Christmas events and Zulu picnic.
Do you have any other family members who have been part of Zulu? My uncle, Charles Givens, was King Zulu in 1982.
Why did you become a member of Zulu? I love every part of Carnival. I originally became involved with the Crescent City Trucks parade, then became a member of Zulu in 1999.
What is one of your favorite things about Zulu? Involvement with the community. [For example,] the Christmas party – with the holiday baskets we hand out, we make children and their families happy. It’s a great feeling.
Why did you run for King? Back in 2000, some members came together whose ambition was to become King Zulu. Called “A Group of Kings,” I have been the second one of the group to become King Zulu. The first one was Tyrone Mathieu (King Zulu in 2009).
Have you been other Zulu parade characters? I was Governor in 2005.
Who is your Queen? My wife, Monica Veal Givens.
What is your slogan for this year’s parade? “Let’s Make it Happen.”
Are you involved in any other Carnival organizations? Endymion. I’ve been a member for three years.
Are you going to ride in Endymion as well this year? Not this year. Not enough time!
What is your favorite parade other than Zulu? Endymion!
True confession: My favorite ride at Disney World is “It’s a Small World.” I also like “Splash Mountain.”
Note: This year’s official Zulu poster was designed by artist Terrance Osborne. For more information about it and Zulu, visit KreweOfZulu.com.
Name: Cedric George Givens Age: 46 Profession: Director of Transportation for Intercontinental Private Equity Born/raised: New Orleans, La. Resides: Algiers Family: Wife, Monica; two children, Ryan Williams Givens and Rayna Brantley Givens Education: Graduated from Alcee Fortier High School; degree in management from University of Louisiana–Lafayette Favorite book: The Scarlet Letter Favorite movie: The Professional Favorite TV show: “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” Favorite restaurant: Crescent City Steak House Favorite food: Rib-eye steak Favorite musician: Freddy Jackson Hobby: Baseball, shooting pool, play ping pong and bowling Favorite vacation spot: Orlando, Fla. I love the Magic Kingdom.