What EXACTLY IS KWANZAA?!?! I pondered this question for years. I heard Kwanzaa was this “black” holiday but I’d never heard of it before and I didn’t know anyone else who did. No one seemed to know what it was, just something for “black people”. I tried and tried to understand it but there was some kind of mental block. I would sit down to start reading about Kwanzaa and the next thing I knew I was done reading and when I tuned back in, I had no idea what Kwanza was <smh>. I even saw a movie on Kwanza once but the guy in the movie was so cute I just remember him. Still didn’t know what Quanza was. So I set out, as I often do, to discover EXACTLY WHY I could not comprehend what this holiday was all about…
I gathered some info on Kwanza and set out to reading…
BOOOR-ING. snooze city. I was completely disinterested. I didn’t know what this was and it was boring, so I decided to learn about the founder instead.
Dr. Maulana Karenga (he has a doctorate in political science and in social ethics) developed this holiday as a way for american black people to pull away from american white culture and to have a holiday all their own. Some people feel like its “made up” – well Every holiday is “made up”. Made up just means people “made up” their mind to observe a given tradition from this point forward. Anyway, grossly disenfrachised from the wicked schemes against people of color in the 60’s (and before and after the 60s) there was a desire to disconnect from white society and to embrace our own holiday with its own traditions. In a nutshell that’s why it was founded.
HOWEVER, in keeping with the breaking away from white cultural hand me downs like names and religion, Dr. Karenga incorporated African language (specifically Swahili) and African foods and customs into the holiday to really make the point that we want to be separate from white america. its best for us to move forward with our own cultural vision of what our life should look like rather than deal with the put-upon social norms of a society that keeps blacks looking to whites for acceptance and never getting it.
Ok. motive established – a noble one.
I went back to learning about Kwanza with “FOCUS-FOCUS-FOCUS” in mind and I read the first day of Kwanza is Umoji..snooooooooooooze…AHA!!!!HA!!!Ahaha!!! that’s it !!! Caught myself fallin asleep again! I don’t know what “umoji” is and I’m not really interested in learning that language so Immediately I was lulled to sleep. OK! Allright. Umoji. Not working for me. Problem established. But how do I learn what Kwanza is?
Why not take out all the African language so its more clear to me and I don’t feel like I’m in a bad school classroom. So I took out umoji (which incidentally is swahili for unity) and I was left with the exact name of each of the 7 days of Kwanza:
day 1 – unity
day 2 – self determination
day 3 – cooperative economics
day 4 – collective work and responsibility
day 5 – purpose
day 6 – creativity
day 9 – faith
ok. makin progress here. I’m actually interested in these concepts. so I read about each one and I said ‘This is wonderful’ this is terrific! what’s all these colors and the other foreign stuff? And I began to replace the foods, attire and even the colors with my own culture’s food and observances. After all, the holiday is for “us” right? so why not make it more “us-relatable”.
I even changed the colors of “Africa” black, red, green with my corresponding preferred colors of choice: brown (for Earth), pink (for Love) and Sage green (because its just a peaceful color man). Now the colors that were chosen by Dr. Karenga have special meaning HOWEVER they did not have special meaning for me. For example, I acknowledge and hold dear the sacrifices my ancestral heritage afforded me – ALL of my ancestral heritage (not just the african part) but that does not mean I want the color red to remind me of people whose blood was shed. I prefer to learn about afro-american history and to enjoy my life and give back to my community as a means of expressing my understanding of where I came from. So I chose the color pink because if there is ONE thing among many, many things that I learned in Afro American history class, it was that the enslaved black people of the americas were filled with LOVE. L.O. V. E. Love for each other, Love for their life and Love for God. Filled to the BRIM. They made the BEST out of the WORST in every way, True Alchemists, Brilliant, Intelligent, Savvy, Caring and Resilient as a Mother-Fkr and I Love and Admire them for that. And that is how I choose to remember them, In All their Beauty, in All their Glory. It is that Love that runs through my veins today, that Strength, that Resiliency. And I am Blessed to have come from them. They paved the way for me, for us.
So Basically I culturally appropriated Kwanza into something I could relate to, something more in line with my own existing culture, not the culture I wish I was, but what I actually am right here, right now. That is american, not african, english-speaking not swahili speaking and um you don’t really expect me to give up soul food RIGHT? So instead of african food (I’m sure its yummy) but my culture’s food has special meaning for me. For example, hoe cakes, white pancake-shaped corn meal rounds cooked on a hoe because the slaves did not have pots, has more meaning for me because #1 they’re really good and #2 the resiliency tho…
So this Kwanza thing was working out – on paper anyway. I thought these principles were wonderful! I thought EVERYONE should celebrate Kwanza because this is how we should ALL be living – in accordance with these values. Truly Kwanza is a celebration of LIFE!!! and how we can enjoy it.
So – What EXACTLY is Kwanzaa?!?!?
Kwanza is a set of Principles used to govern our life.
the principles revolve around personal development and community development.
Following these principles will help us to lead happy, complete and fulfilled lives (not enslaved to a society that zaps our energy and depletes our soul, making us feel disempowered and weak)
Kwanza is a Celebration of Life!!!
Each day is a day of reflection on how We can Spring Into Action to achieve unity, self determination, entrepreneurship, interconnective community, purpose, creativity and faith. Yes, this is a journey into your soul. Yes it is easy to write down and observe But the WORK is how we change our lives to live with Purpose.
I have embraced most of the principles of Kwanza and I AM NOW at the point of Action – you guessed it – Entrepreneurship (or Cooperative Economics). This is how we live with Purpose, how we turn those dreams into Reality. I AM so Excited about this year because this is my Creative Year. I Already Designed My Life and Now I AM ready to Build on the principles of self determination, purpose and faith to step into my Power.
Will You Join Me?
If You’re Already There, Will You Encourage Me?
I invite you to watch my YouTube video link on Kwanza (I promise I made it fun ☺♥)