“For families across the country, today marks the beginning of a joyous time to reflect on the rich African-American culture and to remember the principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith—principles that reflect our most cherished values as Americans.” — Barack Obama
I originally shared a similar post in 2015. Once again, I made the mistake of reading some of the comments made about Kwanzaa from some of our news sources. Little has changed it seems, so I decided to rewrite and share again.
Kwanzaa is racist. It is contrived. SOME PEOPLE are trying to replace Christmas. The founder was a Sixties’ black militant felon with ties to the Black Power Movement and not even African. Most of these arguments are made by very “hard right” publications like…well all of them. Or made by internet trolls on liberal or middle of the road news sites.
Is St. Patrick’s Day racist? It’s no longer a religious celebration I would say. Is Cinco de Mayo racist? It celebrates a great Mexican victory over the French…Mexico for the most part doesn’t celebrate it. There are dozens of other ethnocultural celebrations, mostly white celebrations, so why pick on Kwanzaa? Are our racist petticoats still showing?
Kwanzaa is contrived. All holidays are contrived. When Adam and Eve were created or our forefathers learned to walk on two feet, did they have a holiday to celebrate? I don’t think so. I don’t know when the celebration of Christmas first occurred. Well, I do. I also know there was no biblical mandate to celebrate the Birth of Christ at all.
Emperor Constantine first mandated the celebration of Christmas on December 25 in 336AD. Constantine didn’t know when Jesus was born. No one knows and Constantine did it as much as a political move as a religious one. Does that detract from its importance? While Christmas was celebrated in the colonies before John Smith raised a glass of eggnog, it didn’t become a national holiday in the US until 1870. Contrived? Made up? Well, the date is.
Again, why are we picking on Kwanzaa? If you are going to pick on a contrived holiday pick on St. Valentine’s Day. The former religious celebration has become an observance of guilt for the purpose of lining the pockets of candy makers, jewelers, and florists.
Kwanzaa begins on December 26 and ends January 1 and is not a religious celebration at all. It is a celebration of family, community, nation, and race and doesn’t compete with Christmas or the dozen other year end or New Year celebrations. Why not pick on them?
I cannot deny that Kwanzaa’s founder, Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett) was a Sixties Black Power militant, who at the time had never set foot in Africa. Let’s remember this is an African American celebration celebrating African culture, not an African celebration celebrating African culture. He did serve time on felony charges and was paroled in the mid Seventies. His time in prison was well spent. He is now Dr. Karenga and taught African Studies which I guess makes him even worse…a liberal.
The Sixties were a time of social strife. Civil Rights, the War in Viet Nam, gender inequality, the Native American movement, and the Chicano movement were just some of the social issues championed by people like Cassius Clay, known to us now as Muhammad Ali, or Tommie Smith’s and Juan Carlos’s Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics.
Kwanzaa was “contrived” just two years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and just two years before the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. African Americans might be forgiven for wanting something positive to hang on to…and still might.
Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 to be the first pan-African holiday. Karenga said his goal was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holidays and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”
Kwanzaa is inspired by African “first fruit” traditions, and the name chosen is from Swahili, “matunda ya kwanza.” The rituals of the holiday promote African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage” that Karenga described as “a communitarian African philosophy”. Thank you, Wikipedia
Those seven principles are: Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. Radical?
To say it is not African is absurd. There are over fifty countries in Africa and some three thousand tribal units. Many of the countries did not exist at the time Africans were being shipped to the New World. Each tribe has a different culture. Kwanzaa is a blending of those cultures. Many African Americans do not have the luxury of knowing the country or tribe of their origin, so Kwanzaa is not culture specific. Whoopsie doo dah! I would say celebrate to your heart’s content and if you don’t…quietly go about business.
If you would wish to learn more about Kwanzaa, History.com, connected to the History Channel, has a link: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/kwanzaa-history you might want to visit. I would say “Don’t let the facts confuse you.”