This post is obviously a week late. I wasn’t able to post it last week but I still wanted to share.
The perception that Kwanzaa is inaccessible, and only celebrated by daishiki clad radicals and those of us trying too hard to reclaim our African roots is outdated. I’ve seen more and more that Kwanzaa is more accessible than it has ever been, especially considering that the celebration originated over 40 years ago, in the midst of the Black Power Movement.
Despite the controversial past of its founder, Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa seemed to survive the 1980s Black Power purge relatively intact. Other ritual celebrations founded by Karenga such as Dhabihu (Malcolm X’s assassination day) and Kuzaliwa (Malcolm X’s birthday) have since perished in the minds and hearts of all but the serious Pan-Africans. Why did Kwanzaa have such staying power?
In it’s most basic form, Kwanzaa is a celebration of Black family, community and culture. It allows us to reflect on the past year and project into the next, focusing on strong values and moral principles such as unity, faith, self-determination, and purpose. Kwanzaa allows us, as individuals to position and examine ourselves in relation to our families and our communities. It’s a week long period of reflection, focusing on key principles that allow for personal growth. We all need that.
On the day after December 25th, people took to the Twitter to poke fun at Kwanzaa, calling it everything from a made up holiday to just another excuse for Black people to light candles. These statements and others like it are the very reason we need celebrations like Kwanzaa.
This statement says it best so I’ll leave it at that.
“I had every expectation that I would never celebrate Christmas again, yet the things that eventually brought me back to Christmas—giving, family, reflection—are the very things that keep me interested in Kwanzaa, despite the fact it no longer represents anything reminiscent of its radical founding. There are so few opportunities for Black Americans to celebrate their heritage and the struggles that continue to frame our futures. Kwanzaa and its seven principles seems a good a chance as any to do so.”