Kwanzaa – It’s A Black Thang But Some Want No Parts Of It

English: Ron Karenga celebrating at the Roches...
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Kwanzaa is the wonderful celebration of African American unity that was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, California State University-Long Beach.  He conceived of this celebration after the Watts Rebellion of 1965 as a means of bringing back unity and as a way for African Americans to refocus on something positive.   Dr. Karenga used his knowledge of ancient African culture rites to create Kwanzaa, which is loosely based in the African practice of celebrating First Fruits.  Numerous African cultures celebrated in this way in order to give thanks to God for His bounty.

Nzugo Saba – Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

So in creating Kwanzaa, Dr. Karenga wanted to help us as black people to redirect our energies and help us refocus on building ourselves in a positive way, since we are a captured  nation within a colonizing nation.  The 1960s was a powerful time in history and black people were asserting their power in many ways.  Historically black people in America have been systematically destroyed in every arena – economics, education, spiritual, and mental.  We have no idea who we are.  We are nobodies in the white man’s land.  We have been stripped of our cultural connections, and often are used as tools in our own oppression.  We try to tak on the oppressor’s cultural norms as a means to authenticity. Unfortunately, we are never allowed to forget that we are considered inferior.   Kwanzaa rose up in the midst of this spirit of black reawakening so that we wouldn’t allow the Watts rebellion to sidetrack our forward progress.  It is a vehicle upon which we can strengthen ourselves, and rebuild and reconnect to the best aspects of our forgotten culture.

But I’m sad to say that the spirit of Kwanzaa has been lost to many of our black people, or they never truly understood Kwanzaa beyond the outward symbols of the candles, candle holder and cloth that is used in the ceremony.  For me, these folks have an understanding that’s like a racist white’s understanding, and they are ashamed, and unwillingy to overcome that shame.  Because everything that black people create in America is ALWAYS maligned or appropriated, a lot of foolish talk and straight out bashing has attached itself to Kwanzaa.  Today, I was just on a website thread with white people mocking Kwanzaa as being a FAKE holiday, and a copy of Hannukah, which is ridiculous.  As we know, there are certain white people who cannot stand for there to be black unity of any kind, and they feel compelled to try to stamp it out.   They use the argument that because it was created in 1966, it’s fake.  As if the creation of new traditions are an impossibility.

That’s to be expected from white racists.  But when our black youth do the same thing as the racist and mock Kwanzaa instead of learn about it, we have to acknowledge just how pervasive and powerful the White Western machine is.  What’s taught and what’s not taught speaks volumes.  Black culture is not consistantly taught in racist culture.  We probably get 1% of our black history lessons in American public schools.  I know this is true because while I was on Twitter today, I read numerous tweets from young black people proudly mocking Kwanzaa.   This is a sad example of the miseducation that we too readily embrace.  We are made to feel ashamed of who we are, so we openly reject our traditions.  We spend no time studying what our traditions are about.  We don’t believe they are about anything, because we don’t believe WE are about anything.

Kwanzaa was created to counteract this very thing, but we wouldn’t know that because we are afraid to learn about it, and ourselves.  We have so deeply internalized that we are good for nothings, (except dance, song, sports) that we fear going past the surface of the controversy (all black culture is controversial) and delving into the meat of the thing.   Because Maulana Karenga was “an FBI informant” the ancient African principles he re-introduced are invalid.   Well my people, Malcolm X was “Detroit Red”, a zoot suit wearing pimp, but can we discount his important example and contribution to black self-determination?

That’s why it’s imperative that we name ourselves for ourselves, which is another principle of Kwanzaa, and set our course for ourselves.  We don’t call Malcolm X Detroit Red.  We call him El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.  Should we call Maulana Karenga “FBI Informant”, or Brother Karenga, double PhD?  We have to learn to bring balance to our black scholars, heroes and sheroes!  Do white folks call Thomas Jefferson a rapist slave holder?  No, they call him Founding Father of “this great nation”.  We need to always hold up our heroes just as everybody else holds up there heroes.  We have been miseducated and trained to throw the baby out with the bathwater when looking at our black heroes.  If they have done questionable things in their lives, we are made to be ashamed, then we invalidate the person in total, and toss out of the important work and research they’ve done as well.  This is not effective for us as a people, and it’s foolish.

Check out all my links that I provide to get a complete understanding of Kwanzaa.  The most powerful is the following Ile Omode School (House of the Children) link, which shows the fulfillment of practicing the 7 principles of Kwanzaa in concrete reality everyday life

Building a black community with concrete infrastructures – schools, businesses, churches, connections to life, ways to sustain ourselves and employ ourselves.  People, that’s all Kwanzaa is about.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Writer Jobs says:

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  2. Carolyn Moon says:

    Electronic Village wrote a post about Kwanzaa too and we discussed the waning of the celebration in our respective communities. The comments on the site varied from not being aware–to forgetting–to wanting more info about it. Education is the key and the writer of Electronic Village asserted that the beauty of having your own blog is that we can make sure ” a worthy cultural initiative such as this one is promoted”.

    Wonderful post!!

  3. Amenta says:

    I think Kwanzaa is a great idea and one worthy of celebrating for those that wish to celebrate. And I agree that you are totally correct when you speak of only 1% of our history being in the history books in government schools. Really it’s probably less than that. For those that choose not to celebrate Kwanzaa, and they are well informed of Dr. Karenga’s past which not only included informing, but tortue and murder I can see their point as well. However, when one is not informed, or ill informed and choose not to celebrate and go so far as to belittle the celebration, that is where we have a deeper problem.


    1. Anna Renee says:

      Hey Brother Amenta! You are probably right, at it being less than 1%. For those who choose not to celebrate the principles of Kwanzaa for Karenga’s sake, yes I could understand it. But if we celebrate Kwanzaa, it ought not be for Karenga’s sake, but for the soundness of the principles that God re-introduced to us through the flawed Karenga. And God always does it like this.

      In 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 it states:
      27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no [a]man may boast before God.

      All wisdom is from God. What Karenga has brought forth is not new. There are no new things under the sun. God chose him to remind us of God’s principles of living, which God gave to our African ancestors, and not only them, but the entire world. All enlightened cultures have principles of good living.

      We have to be forgiving, because it’s to our benefit, and we have to be patient, as I have tried to do with the other commenter, who has tried to attack me as though that elevates him. When he attacks me, he attacks himself.

  4. Travis says:

    I think the principles of Kwanzaa are certainly noteworthy. However I will say that if Dr. Karenga really wishes for people to embrace Kwanzaa and more importantly, the principles of Kwanzaa, it would seem that he would strive to disassociate himself from the event since to most conscious African-Americans consider his transgressions against the liberation movement have proven unforgivable. Considering that fact that Karenga’s actions could have and likely may have caused people their lives is absolutely NOTHING to minimize. Dr. Karenga has justly earned the disdain he continues to receive as he has made no public effort to atone for his transgressions nor has he made any public apology to the that black community. As a matter of fact not only has he not atoned for his transgressions but his inflated ego seems to precede him in word and deed. ALSO, the even mention his name in comparison to brother Malcolm reveals a substantial measure of ignorance on behalf of the author of this article/blog entry. Brother Malcolm committed his transgressions against the community BEFORE he embarked on his path to spiritual growth and liberation… easily excusable. Karenga on the other hand committed his transgressions WHILE on that path which was an absolute and utter personal betrayal to the movement. As far as I am aware Brother Malcolm had never done anything remotely comparable to Karenga’s betrayal, as such does not deserve to be discounted by being compared to Karenga. If you want to compare Karenga to the likes of Thomas Jefferson or any other mainstream character feel free. However, you again reveaby your ignorance by suggesting that we should reference and internalize the mainstream practice of making heroes of those who are utterly undeserving of such recognition for the purpose of advancing any righteous cause. When you do this you actually don’t advance the cause but imstead cheapen it. Understand that the truest and most sincere of our leaders and liberators gave their lives to the fight as it seems that always do while their pseudo contemporaries still walk among us in present times perpetrating a fraud (e.g. Sharton, Jesse, Karenga). Their actions and associations expose them as the frauds that they are.
    The principles of Kwanzaa existed long before Karenga sought to bring them into the focus of black pop-culture. I am confident that those of us enlightened enough to follow them will do so regardless of Kwanzaa as we did before, during, and after Karenga’s betrayal. Those who choose to live in ignorance will continue to do so regardless of Kwanzaa.

    BTW, I actually saw Dr. Karenga last year when he visited ASU during Black history month. His lecture was very uninsightful for a double PhD, and again his ego is difficult to look beyond.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      You have a penchant for calling people ignorant. I would say that you are no better than the Karenga you speak of. But will you be able to see that, my brother?

      If I practiced the principles of Kwanzaa, then I don’t do it to praise Karenga, the man. The issue is whether the principles are useful.

      1.Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
      2.Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
      3.Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
      4.Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
      5.Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
      6.Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
      7.Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

      You say this:
      “…Brother Malcolm committed his transgressions against the community BEFORE he embarked on his path to spiritual growth and liberation… easily excusable. Karenga on the other hand committed his transgressions WHILE on that path which was an absolute and utter personal betrayal to the movement…”

      This is bullshit. Plain and simple. This shows me that you have no true understanding of a spiritual path. You look at it as a linear thing, which is sooooo Eurocentric. Spirituality is circular. We fall down, and we get up. And you, brother are stuck. You revel in your level of understanding. You call others out like you are the only one with knowledge. You refuse to assess your own weaknesses. But you over-assess what you deem as others’ weaknesses. You have gained knowledge to put others in their place. And putting others in their place, makes you feel superior, which is soooooo Eurocentric. Well let me tell you, my brother, that you are not conscious. You’re unconscious. You need to wake up.

      Brother Karenga did what he did. I dont condone it. And yet God allowed him to re-introduce us to these principles. WHY? I dont know, but you do. I dont celebrate Kwanzaa for Karenga’s sake, because that would be deifying him. But I give credit where it’s due. And respect where it’s due.
      You on the other hand, are jealous of this brother being gifted by God to bring this to the people. So you attack him for his “transgressions” and attack his intelligence, which is sooooooo fucking Eurocentric.

      You believe like the white man that heroes have to be flawless. Name one hero that is flawless. You are flawless though. You are an affront to the movement because you have taken on the spirit of aggression against me. Now if I looked at your products and appreciated your products, I could decide to buy your products because they speak to the greater good. But you personally, you like to attack. You’re aggressive. Your spirit is fucked up. I wouldn’t want to be near you spiritually. But I could wear your clothing that speaks to the greater good, and not ever mention your name.

      IT’S THIS KIND OF arrogance that is the black man’s downfall everytime. Too many black people get caught up in the surface shit and the negative shit—that’s why Co-Intelpro was able to infiltrate both the US movement and the BPP movement, and get them to turn against each other and start shooting and killing each other. AND Isnt that what our deal is right now? Killing each other?

      LEARN HOW TO EAT THE MEAT AND THROW AWAY THE BONES, and stop attacking me, my brother.

      1. Travis says:

        Hey apologies. Wasn’t my intent to attack anyone. I’ll readily admit my ignorance on any number of topics. Ignorance is merely a mental state and not a character flaw. If someone makes an assertion that seems less than reasonable my inclination is to presume that the person making the assertion must be unaware of some relevant detail which allowed him or her to make a less than reasonable assertion.

        I’ve probably added all I have to add to the conversation.

        1. Anna Renee says:

          As I have stated to you before, you are welcome to teach your perspective. But your approach is fucked up when you come to my blog and try to slam me in my own house! WTF? I dont agree with your perspective, but I dont agree with alot of my commenters perspective, yet I hear them out. I agree with my own perspective, unless someone comes to me and cogently put forth their point in a way I can receive it. We black folks are sensitive like that.

          Imagine if your professor sits before you and instead of teaching, she/he slams you because you dont know what he/she does. What will you do? You’ll drop the course and curse the professor to everyone you know on campus. If you want to teach your people, you need to come with a spirit of humility. Or they will NEVER listen to you, no matter what you know or think you know. Black people are no different. We can’t stand no high fallutin brova, high on his knowledge. We gonna put them back in their place, and not learn nothing from them. Which seems to be your issue concerning Karenga.

          I’ve been put in my place too, when somebody thinks I needed it. All that can be done is to accept it and come back down to earth.
          Apologies accepted.

  5. Jason says:

    I had the displeasure of reading that post on VSB written about Kwanzaa by a guest writer. I found difficulty understanding how a celebration created for the purpose of honoring family, community and culture was negatively criticized and lampooned by so many black people on that comment thread. Although people have a write to their opinion I found it really sad and ignorant. Kwanzaa is an alternative for black people that are sick of embracing eurocentric celebrations and also to incorporate principles into our lives that will positively move the culture forward.

    Great post Anna!

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Hey Jason! Luvvie is funny! I follow her blog and respect her ability to make me laugh at the sublime that resides in us all. But with this one, she overstepped, because Kwanzaa has nothing to do with fun and games. It’s a deadly serious thing. Where she went wrong is where we always go wrong: looking only at the surface and comparing it negatively. Of course, the surface is where we all are trained to stay focused. If she understood Kwanzaa from a deeper level, then she would admit that she probably lives her life from those very principles that Dr. Karenga re-introduced with Kwanzaa.

      We black folks want something more than the crass consumerism that is crammed down our throats daily, and Kwanzaa is that alternative. We should be living our lives by Kwanzaa’s underlying principles, anyway, whether we celebrate the cultural aspects of Kwanzaa or not.

    2. Travis says:

      I am not sure whether your noted reaction was in regards to the comment I made on the subject but if so please feel free articulate what specifically about what i stated do you find objectionable. For clarification sake, I would encourage any and every African-American to celebrate Kwanzaa and to go even further by living it’s principles. My issue specifically is with the recognition of Karenga in conjunction with the celebration of the holiday. What Karenga did as I understand it is indefensible. And since he did not create the values celebrated through Kwanzaa I don’t wish to imply through it celebration that he did. While was busy selling the movement out in the worst possible way, our truest leaders (Dr. John H. Clarke, Brother Malcolm, etc…) were living and paying the price to live the principles of Kwanzaa. If you understood recent history you would understand clear as a bell why many conscious African-American have an aversion to the event and it’s “promoter” but NOT to the principles of Kwanzaa. I am certain you understand that it’s more important to live the principles than to celebrate them under the pretense of Kwanzaa and the negative history Dr. Karenga has unintentionally associated with this event through his reprehensible behavior and seemingly egotistical demeanor.

      You feel where I am coming from or is there something I said either irrational or unreasonable?

  6. Travis says:

    It seems so exceptionally to me that people are so willing to defend Kwanzaa as if it’s value cannot be promoted outside of the artificial event. It’s almost as if to some people, the principles of Kwanzaa didn’t exist until expressed through the formation of Kwanzaa. In addition, if this purposed holiday was not espoused in egotism, why in the world would he copyright this event as I understand him to have done?!?! That behavior is certainly not in the principle of Kwanzaa. Again I think the principles of Kwanzaa should definitely be celebrated, but for amyone to not understand why those who would seem to be most receptive of it (the culturally conscious among us), ignore this event displays a lack of knowing concerning basic human behavior. Once something promoted as being authentic is associated with a promoter who is anything BUT authentic, the validity of what’s being promoted becomes irreversibly corrupted.

    In addition when one speaks of “crass materialism”, why are Kwanzaa goods, a copy written brand, being sold in department stores now? It seems it’s already been prep’ed for commercialization. Not in the spirit of Kwanzaa I am certain.

  7. kekemichel says:

    Heri Za Kwanza!

    Five years ago, when I first learned about the controversial background of Dr. Karenga, I was appalled about the gruesome details too. Overtime, since then, I regard him according to the African Proverb–I am always becoming. I believe that his early life experience gave birth to his creation of the Nguzo Saba, Seven Principles of Kwanza (correct spelling), and its rituals. I believe he saw the er (correctly spelled) of his ways and saw how outside forces come in to corrupt and destroy our culture, specifically the African American culture, especially men and boys. The Nguzo Saba is a Divine blueprint, if you will, that shows us how to be, maintain, build, and progress as a Black people in a diaspora. On my blog, I have adopted the Nguzo Saba for discourse relative to women, especially Black women. I will be done in a series for each day of Kwanza. Check out part one.


    1. Anna Renee says:

      Thanks, Keke! We have to be willing to forgive as Christ says forgive, otherwise, no one will be worth listening to. Wisdom is from God, not man. Man is the vessel in which wisdom is delivered.
      No one is perfect, no, not one.

      I’ll check out what you’ve prepared for us, my beautiful sister.

  8. We can do better. says:

    Instead of celebrating a holiday created by a psycho who tortured two women, I suggest a different fake holiday. Festivus for the rest of us!

    1. Anna Renee says:

      OK, Soup Nazi! 😉

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