Yes, Black America Still Observes Kwanzaa
4 months ago
Somewhat obscure tradition remains an influence in black communities this holiday season
Happy Kwanzaa! Or as it’s said in Swahili, “Here za, Kwanzaa!”
It might surprise many people in the post-Civil Rights Movement era to know that Kwanzaa, an African American holiday tradition created more than four decades ago, is celebrated, according to its creator, Dr. Maulana Karenga, by more than 28 million people around the world.
But the anecdotal estimate has been enough for President Barack Obama, who has annually released a statement marking the start of the seven-day observance, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
“Michelle and I extend our warm thoughts and best wishes to all those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season,” the nation’s first African American president said in this year’s statement.
“It reminds us that though there is much to be thankful for we must recommit ourselves to building a country where all Americans have the opportunity to achieve their dreams,” the statement continues.
Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies at the California State University-Long Beach, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this article, has said that Kwanzaa in 2012 is about reaffirming black identity and the community’s connection to pan-African culture.
“Kwanzaa is also a time of self-conscious recommitment to honor the awesome ancestral legacy left us by preserving and expanding it; to uphold the time resistant moral and cultural values that ground and guide us in our daily lives,” Karenga said in a Kwanzaa statement published in the "Los Angeles Sentinel" earlier this month.
Some within the African American community, who are lukewarm on Kwanzaa and admit to having only celebrated a few times when they were younger, believe the holiday has good intentions but is overshadowed by the other major Christian and Jewish holidays celebrated this time of year.
“I think it’s great, especially at the time [Kwanzaa] was created, that African Americans have a cultural balance,” said Damond Haynes, an instructor in the Junior Scholars program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.