Behind the Mask: The Krewe of the African Kings 'let down their crowns'

Photo: The Krewe of the African Kings Source: WEAR Kathryn Daniels via Twitter

The Krewe of the African Kings is one of Pensacola's longest running all-male Krewes; they have been around for 28 years.

Martin Lewis is the Krewe Captain and is an original founder. He explained their start, saying "We were sitting in the pews of Saint Joseph's Church when we got together and agreed to form a Krewe."

Lewis said that from the beginning, they decided to keep the group small. Membership is capped at 20. The first core members also settled on focusing on fellowship and festivity.

Lewis said that back then, and still today, most members are church and community leaders who need one place to "let down their crowns."

He continued, "When we formed it, we talked about that and they said 'No, this is gonna be a fun krewe'."

They do bring a lot of value to our community. Each year, Krewe members choose an African King from history to honor.

The late monarch's identity is revealed at their annual Carnival Ball. "Then we have a skit that gives a picture or portrait of that king, as he was famous during that time," said African Kings Krewe member Rollie Early.

Earley says members take that skit and perform it for local church audiences. Earley has traveled to many places in Africa, and he loves sharing his heritage with interested groups. He added, "We try to be role models for the young kids."

The Kings have a sister krewe, The African Queens. The Queens host a separate ball and have their own floats, but often socialize together.

Earley said Krewe members get together year-round and that he loves the camaraderie of the close-knit Krewe.

He credited founder Lewis with steering the royal gentleman on the proper path all these years. He said, "He's diligent- nothing gets by him and he has many ideas every year that keeps us accurate."

Lewis says all men of all races and religions are welcome to apply to be a King, and that their membership is as diverse as Africa itself. "If you think about it, Africa has all nationalities and racial groups. We've had a king from King Tut to Alexander the Great."

The Krewe of the African Kings is taking part in all three local Mardi Gras parades this weekend. On Thursday morning we are profiling the "Krewe of de Pez."

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