I’m trying to figure out the best way to make this post short but I have so much to say about this.
I resolved last year to try to make a collective effort to get all of my friends and family to embrace the celebration of Kwanzaa this time around. I was introduced to it in the 3rd grade, and then my family tried to initiate it into practice before the turn of the century courtesy of my brother Khalid’s ex-wife who thought it was a happy medium for my family that is part Islamic, part Christian, and part whatever.
Safe to say it didn’t stick, although my sister Veen and her children and husband picked it up a few years back and have been going strong now for a minute.
So I was determined to re-teach myself the values and rituals, but this time with a fuller understanding of why and how. As a child and the way it was presented to me in school, I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread that this even existed.
But as I grew older, I got severely turned off by Afrocentricity and the personalities of people who were engulfed in it. In my experience, the folk who are super in touch with their “Roots” have a tendency to be dramatic, overbearing and a little outdated. I never quite got the whole Pan -African thing. Africa is the Biggest continent in the world, with the most countries and nations, and what afrocentricity does is blend it all into a hodgepodge of oneness, mostly leaning towards the West African influences, as if each region shouldn’t be acknowledged for it’s individual identity and cultural distinction. Somalia is nothing like Togo. And Swaziland is nothing like Morrocco. I even had to ask if Swahili is a national language of any African country, and Iam still researching. Yet and still, it is the universal dialect of Africa-obsessed Americans.
So my experience has been a jaded one. I have spent a great amount of my lifetime around this lifestyle, and have rarely come across someone who is truly down to Earth and in touch with their African ancestry. It always just seems so sad to me that we as Black Americans will always be that people who will never really know our clear history, and only be able to tap into it by engaging in these neo – cultural, amalgamations of traditions scattered across The Continent. What’s even more saddening to me is that in my experience, Africans who I’ve met from the continent never seem to have such a sense of urgency as we do, and quickly differentiate themsleves from the African-American. Although, by technicality, they themselves are classified as such.
But what an amazing people we are for trying!, and always creating something from nothing.
I want to be as in touch with my ancestry as possible, but I don’t want to have to grow dreadlocks or wear a dashiki to exhibit this. I don’t need to have a bunch of statues of oblong breasted figures or giraffes around the house or do dances. What I need to do is just talk to my Grandmother who is a well of history herself and can tell me firsthand so many things about her life growing up as a Liberian woman. Lord knows my Mom sucks at it. She can only remember her life in Africa up to the age of 9. Which was quite an Americanized one, since most people contest that Liberia is a made up Country.
Nevertheless, I wanted to get into Kwanzaa for what it represents, and coincidentally, my homegirl Indigo put me on to this film that was done by a talented Young Man named M. K. Asante Jr. titled The Black Candle. It’s an award winning documentary on the black experience and the creation and foundation of the Kwanzaa celebration that features in depth commentary by the creator of the holiday(Maulana Karenga), as well as many famous Black leaders, and is narrated by the one of a kind Maya Angelou. You should really read the description on the youtube page, because it does it better than I can.
Now this film blew me away and I took my little nephew Winnie to see it with me. We watched it in a screening room of the Teachers’ College among a group of teenagers. Prior to this viewing, Winnie asked me what Kwanzaa was, and I was shocked to see that his school hadn’t yet made mention of this celebration that by now is so widely practiced that it should be given it’s own televised parade (but that would be too black). But even more than that, I was taken aback at how many of the teenagers themselves were in the dark about it, as their questions and comments after the viewing displayed a total lack of awareness.
This was an issue that was visited in the documentary itself. The quick clips from street interviews with local youth pointed at the fact that there is a lack of positive self awareness and crucial historical education.
I kept thinking, damn, how could something I learned back in the day in 3rd grade have regressed to a point of obscurity in the local education system instead of progressed?? I thought curriculum was supposed to advance! It’s not like I went to a special school where the aim was teaching Blackness.
This let me down a bit, but the film gave me such a reinforced and stronger motivation to take on the Kwanzaa festivities, with renewed determination to instill some of the principles into my nephew while he’s still young. I also want to see the togetherness of my friends and family all moving in unison for something that we may actually understand all of, as opposed to Christmas, where we just do without really thinking about why.
I’m also Hellbent on making this holiday Fly! It’s not meant to be commercialized, but still, it’s not all about hand woven baskets and books. We can have a 7 day extravaganza of dope gift-gving (homemade and store-bought) AND enlightenment.
So let the Celebration begin!
It all goes down on the 26th of December. I’ll be posting up each principle daily. I just hope I can get my stuff in time…