Thursday, December 25, 2008

Has Kwanzaa Sold Out ?

Has Kwanzaa Sold Out ?

Paul Scott

On that old school Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon, there is a scene where Charlie is complaining about the commercialization of Christmas. If the token black kid, "Franklin" had more of a speaking role, he probably would have made the same point about Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa, the African (American) festival that starts December 26 used to be strictly a holiday for black folks to get themselves reconnected to African based principles. The festival, which was started in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, has in recent years gone the way of Jazz, Rock and Roll and everything else that black folks have created and started to crossover, ie sellout.

Let me say from the jump. I like my Kwanzaa like I like my coffee; black!

Some things should be sacred. As a matter of full disclosure, I remember, I wasn't too happy when they integrated Soul Train, either. The music just wasn't as funky anymore.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with cultures admiring other cultures. But when white folks start "feeling" black culture, well, it starts losing its blackness. This is especially problematic when they start dictating the terms of black celebrations.

I don't see too many Irish people letting black folks tell them how to run St. Patrick's Day.

This is what is happening to Kwanzaa. It has gone from a time of black empowerment ,where issues affecting African people were discussed to a perpetual session of "Kwanzaa for Dummies."

Most times, the festival events are stuck in Kwanzaa 101 mode and are geared towards the handful of white folks in the audience and the bougie black folks who just discovered that they were black, yesterday. So, the moderator of the program never gets to the point of discussing the practical applications of the Kwanzaa principles (Nguza Saba.) but concentrates on teaching the new target audience how to pronounce Kujichagulia.

"Now, for the 100th time say it with me, koo- gee- cha- gu -lia"

Also, many people who put on these Kwanzaa programs have an innate fear of offending white folks, so many times the speakers are chosen from the "Safe Negro Temp Agency." Therefore, most Kwanzaa discussions rarely deal with anything deeper than explaining the meaning behind the Kwanzaa candles.

How many times have you heard a Kwanzaa speaker start his presentation with the obligatory, "Kwanzaa is not just for black people but for all people" and you said to yourself "what kind of Umoja Juice has he been sippin' on ?"

The reason why black folks allow our culture to be misdirected is simple.

Money, Cheddar, lucci (I'm not sure how to say it in Swahili)

I just can't see Denny's sponsoring a real, in depth workshop on African Ujamaa (collective economics.)

Every year, we are forced to chose between having a small event in the back of a black bookstore or having a "great extravaganza" at some large convention facility. We have to chose between an event where a few black folks scrape together a few dollars for an African pot lock dinner and presentations by a few local activist speakers or a corporate sponsored mega event where even the African drummers go home with a fat paycheck.

Fortunately, there are folks who have championed the cause for Kwanzaa purity like the S.T.E.P. organization in New Jersey.

The O'Jays once sang "Christmas just ain't Christmas and New Years just ain't New Years..."

Until we get our "Kujichagulia" act together, Kwanzaa just ain't Kwanzaa either.

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots
He can be reached at (919) 451-8283