The Question of Kwanzaa

I first remember seeing it in middle school. I'd grown up hearing Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas (mostly the latter) and was used to them. Then, out of nowhere came Happy Kwanzaa. I wondered what is Kwanzaa, and why did it start getting mentioned along with Hanukkah and Christmas? The "African" decoration of Kwanzaa displays revealed a little about its origin, but not much, and also revealed that I probably couldn't get away with criticizing it. I've been seeing it for the past few years so I learned a little more about it. But now that I keep seeing it, I finally looked it up on the ever-inspiring Wikipedia. Given that entries can be modified, I reproduce the whole article below (sans working links) as I found it when I started this entry.

It's become clear to me after more reading that Kwanzaa is a bunch of nonsense. Alert readers may remember my stating earlier that I am agnostic, and so will wonder why I don't make the same comment about Hanukkah and Christmas. The difference is that these holidays, as far as I know, are organic products of religious communities. They are both based on something and evolved into their current forms, so even if I don't participate in the religious communities at least I respect the process by which they were accepted. Kwanzaa, as the article indicates, was made up and simply handed down from on high by a cult leader in 1966, complete with his arbitrary Seven Principles of Blackness and Swahili vocabulary, which fails to reflect the West African origins of America's black population. Worse, it's now maintained by PC authorities at various levels. I don't see it becoming part of the consciousness of its intended community at all. Only anxious councilmen and administrators enforce the minimal celebration of Kwanzaa.

The article on founder Ron Karenga is another exercise in shock. Karenga is apparently a well-respected black studies professor who just happens to have done time for torturing two members of his group.

Though the Official Kwanzaa Website (yes, there's an official website) says that since it's a cultural holiday, Africans and African-Americans of all faiths can observe it, I doubt it's really compatible with Islam, and it could easily be viewed with suspicion by Christians.

I am all about creating one's own cultural identity and running with it. But I'm not all about having the PC police force everyone else's arbitrary identities on me. If any of our readers has a special insight not mentioned in the article, feel free to set me straight.

Note: before you send me hate-mail, please remember that I am not a racist, a conservative, or a religious partisan of any kind.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of life and the up life of human beings based on the principles of African culture. It is celebrated by some African Americans between December 26 and January 1, and is a week long celebration. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. title="Mulana Karenga">Mulana Karenga/Ron Karenga (born Ron Everett), a professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Karenga is an author and activist who stressed the indispensable need to preserve, continually revitalize and promote American culture through African rituals. Dr. Karenga is chairperson of the organization US.

Kwanzaa was established in aftermath of the Watts, California Watts Riots. This series of riots was due to police brutality viewed by citizens. Black Liberation, Black Freedom Movement the 1960s (see Black Power), and reflects that movement's concerns for African-American cultural groundedness in thought and practice (commonly referred to as 'black pride'), and the community and self-determination associated with this.

In May of 1971 Karenga stood trial for torturing two dissident members of his cult. Both Deborah Jones and Gail Davis described how Karenga had demanded that they strip naked. The naked women were then whipped with electrical cords and beaten with a karate baton. Detergent and a gushing hoses were forced into their mouths. Ms. Jones had one of her toes clamped in a vise. Karenga's supporters forced a hot electrical soldering iron in to Ms Davis’ mouth. Similar treatment of Jones and Davis continued for two days. Karenga was convicted and served more than three years in a California State prison.

Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one, a syncretic festival, based on various elements of the first harvest celebrations that are widely celebrated in Africa, as in the rest of the world.

Each of the days symbolizes one of the "Seven Principles (Nguzu Saba) of Blackness":

  • Umoja (Unity),
  • Kujichagulia (Self-determination),
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility),
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics),
  • Nia (Purpose),
  • Kuumba (Creativity), and
  • Imani (Faith).

Its name derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning "first fruits". An additional "a" was added to Swahili "kwanza" so that the word would have seven letters, one for each of the seven principles.

External link

Reference

Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, Commemorative Edition, Los Angeles,
University of Sankore Press, 1998

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Kwanzaa Explained My take is

Kwanzaa Explained
My take is similar to McElroy's. All people should be able to freely celebrate whatever they desire, but no one should be forced to celebrate something they don't believe in.

"It’s become clear to me

"It’s become clear to me after more reading that Kwanzaa is a bunch of nonsense. Alert readers may remember my stating earlier that I am agnostic, and so will wonder why I don’t make the same comment about Hanukkah and Christmas. The difference is that these holidays, as far as I know, are organic products of religious communities. They are both based on something and evolved into their current forms, so even if I don’t participate in the religious communities at least I respect the process by which they were accepted."

Your argument is also a bunch of nonsense. Since when did the argument from antiquity become valid? Why exactly are Hanukkah and Christmas "organic" while Kwanzaa isn't? What makes "organic" better anyway? Do you realize, by the way, that Christmas was very deliberately invented by Christian priests to wean the pagans off their solstice rites, or that modern Jewish commemoration of Hanukkah owes mostly to Christian preservation of the apocryphal book of the Maccabees, and a 19th century Jewish desire to have a festival with something of the pulling power of Christmas?

People "invent" cultural traditions all the time, and all you're really doing here is rationalizing your prejudice against a custom that happens to have been taken up by a group which has long suffered low prestige in the eyes of white Americans. If Kwanzaa is silly, so is Hanukkah and Christmas - and in fact, I believe that they are all absurd. Don't just pick one out and make fun of it because of the low status its members have in the larger society, in the same manner that people laugh at "Ebonics" even as they can acknowledge that Scottish Lallands is a genuine dialect of English.

Kwanzaa Bashing In

Kwanzaa Bashing
In discussing the African-American custom of Kwanzaa, Randall McElroy makes statements that are as absurd as they are blinkered by prejudices he is unaware of.It’s become clear to me after more reading that Kwanzaa is a bunch of nonsense. Alert

Ron Karenga was also in the

Ron Karenga was also in the pay of the FBI (see http://www.anncoulter.org/columns/2002/122402p.htm), specifically as a source of information about black separatist movements.

Of course Kwanzaa is nonsense. It was synthesized from wholly incoherent African pseudo-rituals, is observed nowhere in Africa itself, and is a thinly veiled exaltation of socialist ideals -- the suppression of individual rights and enterprise in favor of "unity," "collective work and responsibility," and "cooperative economics."

What garbage. Oh, by the way, Mr. Lapite, Christmas isn't an anniversary; it's a commemoration. You might want to learn a little genuine history, and perhaps a little genuine English (as opposed to "Ebonics") before you sound off like an ignoramus in a public forum.

Hey, Randall, go check out

Hey, Randall, go check out the third comment from the trackback above. Did you know you were a conservative? I know, I'm just as surprised as you are!

Abiola, Don’t just pick

Abiola,

Don’t just pick one out and make fun of it because of the low status its members have in the larger society, in the same manner that people laugh at “Ebonics” even as they can acknowledge that Scottish Lallands is a genuine dialect of English.

It's unfair to assume that the argument is motivated by the "low status" of Kwanzaa celebrators or by "prejudices he is unaware of" as you state on your blog. Not every criticism is motivated by racism/classism, and to imply so only weakens your own response.

Francis,

You might want to learn a little genuine history, and perhaps a little genuine English (as opposed to “Ebonics") before you sound off like an ignoramus in a public forum.

While I disagree with his implied accusations of racism/classism, Abiola's English is nearly always impeccable.

:furious: I think Dr

:furious:

I think Dr Karenga is no role model! Yet have not things of beauty sprung from dubious sources due to the evolution of those who inherit and choose to work or play with them? Do celebrations and cultural myths not evolve and grow over time?

I have attended Kwanzaa celebrations for 30 years and find them a welcome infusion of positivity and solidarity if one is not bent on focusing solely on the political aspects. To see the beauty and joy is an act of the heart; to form a critical view based on arbitrary standards of legitimacy is an act of mind. As other more "legitimate' or traditional holidays, Kwanzaa is mixed, as is human nature and human behavior. Yet the positives of Kwanzaa, the people of Kwanzaa have enriched many lives.

Kwanzaa may not be perfect but it is beautiful. The current American Conservative mindset seems to have little heart or soul (capacity) to experience beauty.