Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kwanzaa



Kwanzaa is a fake holiday created by a misdirected lunatic in order to draw attention away from the real Holidays that take place in late December. An inflammatory statement? Perhaps, but I'm completely prepared to back it up.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by an African-American scholar and social activist named Ronald McKinley Everett. It is a week-long holiday celebrated primarily in the United States honoring African heritage. The purpose of Kwanzaa according to Everett is to celebrate "The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa," or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba - "The Seven Principles of Blackness"). Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. Seems like a pretty straight up holiday so far right? Here's where things start to get dicey.

First off Holiday originally meant Holy Day. There is nothing Holy about Kwanzaa so it should not be referred to as a Holiday at all. Everett said his goal in creating Kwanzaa was to "...give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society." A celebration, sure. But a Holiday, no way.

Secondly in order to learn more about the Kwanzaa "holiday" one should take a closer look at its founder. At the beginning of the 1960's, Ronald McKinley Everett met Malcolm X and began to embrace black nationalism. Following the Watts riots in 1965, he interrupted his doctoral studies at UCLA and joined the Black Power movement. During this time he changed his name from Ronald McKinley Everett to Maulana Karenga. "Maulana" is Swahili for "master teacher" and "lord". "Karenga" means "nationalist." Earlier, Everett had called himself Ron Ndabezitha Everett-Karenga. Ndabezitha is Zulu for "your majesty." Hmmm... sounds like somebody's got a God complex.

Everett says his greatest influence was Malcolm X. To honor Malcolm X and carry on his legacy Everett founded the US Organization, an outspoken Black nationalist group which was considered more radical than the rival Black Panther Party. More radical than the Black Panthers? That's a little scary. In 1969, the Black Panthers and the United Slaves Organization (US Organization) disagreed over who should head the new Afro-American Studies Center at UCLA. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Everett and his supporters backed one candidate, the Panthers another. The Black Student Union set up a coalition to try to bring peace between the groups, which ended when two members of the Black Panthers, John Jerome Huggins and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter were shot dead in an altercation. Two groups fighting for basically the same thing and killing each other in the process. That makes sense.

In addition to creating a fake holiday and founding a murdering black power cult, Everett also committed felonious assault and false imprisonment. In 1971, Everett, Louis Smith, and Luz Maria Tamayo were convicted of felony assault and false imprisonment for assaulting and torturing over a two day period two women from the US organization, Deborah Jones and Gail Davis. A May 14, 1971 article in the Los Angeles Times described the testimony of one of the women: "Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Ms. Davis's mouth and placed against Ms. Davis's face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Everett also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said. Whoa, torturing an African queen? Isn't that a bit counterproductive to the cause? But who am I to judge.

At Everett's trial, the question of his sanity arose. A psychiatrist's report stated the following: "This man now represents a picture which can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and illusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment." The psychiatrist reportedly observed that Everett talked to his blanket and imaginary persons, and believed he'd been attacked by dive-bombers. Crazy anyone?

What I'm getting at with all this is that if a holiday is only as good as its founder, one must seriously question the validity of Kwanzaa.

Lastly I find it very interesting that Everett chose December 26 - January 1 to celebrate Kwanzaa. According to Everett Kwanzaa is a harvest celebration. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language. If Everett truly wanted to celebrate the meaning of Kwanzaa as it was meant to be and not simply draw attention away from Christmas and Hanukkah, he would have popularized the celebration in the fall when the the harvest actually takes place.

In summary I have no problem with the ideals behind Kwanzaa. The purpose of the celebration is just and the principles which it promotes are admirable (even though its founder is straight fucking crazy). I do however have a big problem with people calling Kwanzaa a Holiday and putting it in the same category as Christmas and Hanukkah. Go ahead and celebrate whatever or whoever you want to, that's your God given right. Just please recognize your celebration for what it is and stop trying to make it something that it's not.

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