Earlier today, a good friend hit me up asking if I thought Kwanzaa was wack, because he had just seen this blog post.
I had to chuckle, because since the late 80’s, I can recall going to a lot of well-meaning, half-ass attempts at churches and local community centers to observe this made- up holiday that was supposed to instill pride in black Americans everywhere. Watching people light the candles and try to pronounce the principles of Kwanzaa was torture. Yet, trying to be all conscious and whatnot, we went along with it. I’m still mad at the leather Malcom X hat my mom used to rock…
If you want to spend a few hours trying to understand Kwanzaa please check out the “Official Kwanzaa Website” at your lesiure.
Frankly, I think I understand the meaning of Wu Tang’s 36 Chambers better than I do Kwanzaa, and find it much more exciting. No disrespect.
In my house, my parents used Kwanzaa as a threat if we weren’t acting right for Christmas. “Yall better act right, or else we’ll celebrate Kwanzaa instead of Christmas, and I know you don’t want US to make your presents.”
Some super conscious black folks would balk and say that’s ignorant, and this blog post is ignorant. But hey, once again why do all black Americans have to accept this holiday some brotha made up? That’s just as ignorant.
I have a couple of problems with Kwanzaa.
Mainly its identity crisis. I just can’t co-sign.
1. Why are you competing with Christmas?
First of all, a lot of black people aren’t big fans of winter and the cold (stereotype yes. True, yes). How many of us are in the winter Olympics for real? The timing is wack.
However, I think it was courteous of the creator, Dr. Maulana Karenga
to start Kwanzaa the day after Christmas, not to offend the many black Christians who have already been fighting to keep Christ in Christmas in the first place.
2. Why are you trying to be as long as Hanukkah and have as many candles?
For this reason, I kind of agree with homeboy’s conspiracy theory about just making up a holiday and saying it’s rooted in African tradition… hmm. Africa is huge and made up of so many different nations and individual tribes within nations. Black Americans are mashups of all of them and Europe and everyplace else, we can’t possibly deem anything just “African.” Seriously, you gonna rip off Hanukkah?
3. Why do gifts need to be even involved? (See problems one and two) the super long website explains this.
4. Why do they need to be handmade? Let’s just get rid of the gift thing altogether, you just had Christmas. Dang. The super long website explains this, something about self-reliance, etc.
I actually have a couple of solutions. I do think that the principles of Kwanzaa are valuable and should be upheld and celebrated in the black community. But let’s face it, today’s black folk prefer their life lessons from T.I. (when he’s not in jail, he kind of makes sense and seems like a cool, and caring dad.) So good luck with that. However, schedule-wise it shouldn’t be squished in between Christmas and New Year’s.
1. Move it to the last day of black history month.
Black people love, appreciate and respect black history month, and non-black people may have a greater appreciation for Kwanzaa too with it not being during the major holiday season. Make it one day. It doesn’t need an entire week, people’s attention spans are terrible.
2. No Gifts
3. Do a major community service event involving the entire community
4. My personal favorite: Abandon Kwanzaa altogether and focus on Juneteenth
Sounds wild right? No, it’s not. Juneteeth (June 19) is the epitome of the African-American experience. It is the celebration of slaves in Galveston, Texas finding out (albeit well after the Emancipation proclamation was signed 2 and a half years later) that black people were indeed free.
Naturally, black people in southern states tend to do a way better job of celebrating this major event in American history formally than in other places.
I attended such a celebration once in Shreveport, Louisiana. There was music, food, a really great time and it felt like a celebration. We really take advantage of and take lightly just how far we’ve come in this nation. I was the first one yelling and screaming when Obama took the oath of office (I was there with thousands of other people of all colors freezing), but how easily we want to forget about this nation’s horrible past.
Juneteenth is a far more brilliant, worthy and personal holiday for black Americans to get on board with than Kwanzaa in my opinion.
Instead of trying to make up rituals that “Africans” someplace or everyplace may or may not do, during a season that’s already jam-packed with traditions and rituals, let’s stick to something that is REALLY tied to our true ancestors here. The weather is warm (we can barbecue–yes another true stereotype), and there’s actual facts and history right here on American soil tied to it. It is indeed our own identity as black Americans.