It is that time of year that I always think about Kwanzaa. Yes, there was a time in my life where my family got together to try to celebrate this cultural tradition. This seems silly now, but I choose not to celebrate the past few years, because I felt embarrassed to not be with a Black person, and celebrate this holiday. These days, I figured, it is simply best to show someone my full self, so they are not completely surprised. I have grown up to find that dating someone is not Black, does not mean they cannot understand you, or that I have to hide my blackness. I certainly do not want someone who is colorblind, but someone who accepts me as whole.
( I didn’t want to be this guy)
I digress. Kwanzaa was established by a professor of mine back in college by the name of Mulana Karenga. The man himself is to be debated, but he did start this tradition back in 1966. The time is me ants to honor African heritage while celebrated culture, community, and family. During this time, the Black Power movements among other were in full swing. This celebration was a time to reclaim and celebrate the heritage of people of African descent, since it was stripped away over the last few hundred years during slavery. The name has its origins in Swahili and translates “matunda ya kwanza” or first fruits in English.
When is it celebrated
– December 26th to January 1st
Red – blood shed during slavery, jim crow, and civil rights movements, in addition to symbolizing the blood united everyone with African ancestry.
Black – Represents the people
Green- Represents Africa
There are 7 principles that are celebrated daily throughout the time of Kwanzaa.
Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility
Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics
When we celebrated, we would light a candle and exchange words or handmade gifts. My father even purchased some traditional clothing from Nigeria that we wore. I hated it at the time, because I was completely into Christmas, and could not understand the reason behind it. Thanks parents for forcing me to learn. There would also normally be a small dinner on the 1st.
Kwanzaa, though still not widely celebrated, I believe still is important, especially to those in the diaspora (people of African descent living outside of Africa/descendants of victims of the transatlantic slave trade). It is a nice way to put life in perspective, and make the season less about materialism but about honoring one’s heritage. I think many people do not realize what it is like to be raised in a place like America, where as a Black woman I was taught the history of people who looked like me started with slavery, and ended with MLK, and now everything was fine. There was no connection to Africa, and absolutely no way of knowing where you came from on the continent. It helped spark and interest in me to learn about my roots (or as much as I could find) by trying to get back to them. It is a start, but of course you cannot paint African traditions as if they are all one monolith. My goal is to afford an actual DNA test to figure out where I could of possibly came from in Africa. Would be nice to finally answer that question.
So for those wondering what Kwanzaa is, and why some people celebrate it, hope this helps you discover something new.