I’ve been nursing a lemon pound cake jones by going to Starbucks a bit more often than I’d like. I know it is not a business that I should patronize with my graduate student funds, but a craving is a craving. Anyway, I’m standing at the counter listening to the Starbucks employee recite my order for clarity because 1. N’s order is always complicated and leaves me tongue-tied, and 2. I refuse to employ Starbucks’ asinine ordering language. I say “small,” “medium,” and “large.” As much as I pay for tea at Starbucks, I pay for that right–or perhaps Starbucks justifies their prices because they have fancy names for sizes on their board. But I digress. As I was standing at the counter waiting for the employee to hand me my luscious and fresh slice of pound cake, I look down and notice that the first mate has its holiday gift cards on display. And, what do you know, but Starbucks has Kwanzaa gift cards.
At that moment precisely, I heard Maulana Karenga say, “Brooklyn, we did it!” all the way from Floss Angeles, California.
Kwanzaa, meaning “first fruits,” was first celebrated in December of 1966. A seven-day celebration created by Maulana (nee Ron) Karenga, Kwanzaa’s main purpose was to celebrate African culture (because it’s monolithic like that) and create a connection among people of the African diaspora. Each day of the holiday coincides with one of seven principles, in no particular order: Nia, Simba, Umoja, Imani, Nala, Kuumba, Mufasa, Ujima, Ujamaa, and Kujichagulia. People, so I’ve heard, can celebrate Kwanzaa by participating in drum circles, pouring out libations to the ancestors, and watching the first disc of Roots. The holiday gained popularity when everyone was black and proud in the 70s. I know approximately zero black people who celebrate Kwanzaa.
All, okay most of my joking aside, I’ve long been under the impression that part of Kwanzaa’s purpose was to help steer folks away from the consumerism of the Christmas holiday, and that hand-made gifts were in order. Well, two stamps and a Starbucks gift card later, Kwanzaa is officially official. Score another one for team capitalism.
It’s amazing; nothing gets passed these guys. I can actually go to Target and buy several Kwanzaa cards, place Starbucks gift cards inside of them, stamp the envelopes with Kwanzaa postage, and mail the cards to friends and homies. People will, indeed, do this–and somehow think that their behavior is different, progressive, or I dare say, “conscious.” Perhaps we are not what we eat, but what we buy. I’m neither appalled nor surprise by the scenario. Personally, if someone sent me a Kwanzaa card with a Starbucks gift card in it, I’d be excited. I really like gift cards (and sneakers and watches and books, if you’re interested in sending me something), and prefer them over hand made gifts with Kwanzaa symbols. Still, I simply think the scenario is worth noting. That said, please know, if you’re not sure what to get the black person[s] in your life, Starbucks got you. Nothing says “Happy Merry Joyous Kwanzaa” quite like fifty dollars worth of iced venti white mocha frappucino lattes with soy and no whip.
Enjoy your holiday shopping.
‘Tis the season.