Washington Post reporter and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart recently wrote a long winded nonsensical blog
questioning attacking Kwanzaa, its merit and its worth to the black community. The misguided missive was written under the guise of attacking a racist tea Party Congressman who he quotes in his piece as saying:
“Why must we still hear about Kwanzaa?…Why are hard-core left wingers still trying to talk about Kwanzaa — the supposed African-American holiday celebration between Christmas and New Year’s?”….Of course, almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa — just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans,” ~ Tea Party Congressmen Glenn Grothman
Now this was said almost two years ago (January of 2013) by the incoming freshmen republican congressman while he was still in the Wisconsin state senate so I find it odd that Capehart would use this guys wayward musing as a spring board to express his own dislike for the “made up” holiday (as if all holidays are not made up) almost two whole years later. Capehart goes on to say:
“Kwanzaa-themed holiday cards elicited hard eye rolls from me and a few choice words delivered . When a well-meaning white friend sent me a Kwanzaa card a few years back, I was enraged for hours. A Christmas card would have done nicely. My disdain for the holiday runs so deep that when Kwanzaa was the answer in the game Heads Up, my clue was “made up black holiday!” My teammate answered the question without a nanosecond’s hesitation. The ensuing laughter can only be described as uncontrollable.” Jonathan Capehart
Now I don’t begrudge Mr. Capehart for eschewing the Kwanzaa holiday in lieu of the more mainstream holidays that puts his bosses, BFF’s and adversaries at ease. I have not celebrated it in a significant way since the late 90’s so it’s not at all one of those monolithic endeavors that would get your black card revoked if not adhered to. However as a black man working in the mainstream media it’s not a good look to be so overtly and needlessly dismissive of the cultural construct–it’s one of those opinions that he could and should have totally kept to himself. As a black man in mainstream media you should be duty bound to respect black culture–even aspects as obscure as the decades old Kwanzaa holiday. Especially when so many of its principals are so contemporaneously apropos. One could even argue that the 7 principals that comprise the holiday is the perfect panacea for the ongoing problem of police brutality and misconduct. It’s principals are the antithesis being a victim or a purveyor of violence.
Umoja (OO-MO-JAH) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, "I am We," or "I am because We are."
When Mike Brown was shot down in cold blood in broad daylight in August of 2014, in addition to claiming the life of an 18 year old college bound African-American, those bullets that recklessly exited Officer Darren Wilson’s gun sent out a clarion call to African-America. It was in and of itself a unifying call. Umoja which is the first principal of Kwanzaa is all about unity and even though it was precipitated by a heinous act of hate, the spontaneous combustion that ensued gave rise to a movement. One that is focused, fortified and fearless. An American spring led by a black agenda with tangible demands. #blacklives matter is one of the central themes of the movement–now what’s more Kwanzaa than that?
Kujichagulia (KOO-GEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-YAH) Self-Determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.
A lack in the self-determination has been a problem possessed by the black family ever since the first slave ships reached the shores of Jamestown VA, in 1619. Some 395 years later it still remains the crux of the problem as it pertains to full equality for the black family in America. Self-Determination, or Kujichagulia as it pertains to the current grass rooted protest is what has people like Pat Lynch and other notable and formerly respected voices speaking in such unhinged ways exposing to the world what community activists have long decried as an endemic and systemic culture of abuse and disregard for black life within the department.
Self-determination is not just putting your enemy on blast. It’s also respectfully telling your friends “no can do” just as these very same protesters that are being threatened with war did Mayor De Blasio upon his request that protest be halted until the two slain officers are buried. If the “benevolent” officers of NYC see fit to wear “I Can Breath” t-shirts as an affront to the protest and as a show of support for killer cops, than protesters should be able to continue the protests that have absolutely nothing to do with two slain officers.
3. Collective Work And Responsibility
Ujima (OO-GEE-MAH) Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.
Being that many of these protests, from Ferguson to NYC are carbon copies of protests from the past, the mere notion of people today petitioning their local, state and federal government for redress of long standing grievances indicates ones connection and more over ones understanding that we who protest in 2014 stand firmly on the shoulders of those that were fighting this same power in 1964. Ujima reminds us that we are part of a continuum. One that we too must pay forward with our blood, sweat, tears and even lives (for some).
One of the more heartwarming and crucial connections that were made during the tragedy that is the Town of Ferguson is the linkage to the Palestinian cause. The global connection in addition to the parents and Mike Brown taking their grievance to the United Nations is the embodiment of this generations responsibility to the world. It’s also a reminder that white supremacy is the enemy and that enemy is global. It’s also what helped buoyed the respective movements pus
4. Cooperative Economics
Ujamaa (OO-JAH-MAH) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.
The 4th Kwanzaa principal is perhaps the crown jewel when it comes to principled protest. The power of the purse just as it did during the Montgomery Bus boycott has the power to move the previously immovable. When the call went out to boycott Black Friday a lot of black people balked. They
rightfully logically surmised that a single day of abstaining from shopping will only net higher sales receipts the following days as Black Friday merely marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. With that point duly noted many decided to sit out the entire 2014 Christmas shopping season. Black Friday sales were down about 11 percent and while I don’t know the exact figure overall, I do know that it’s down from last season. It’s not down in a mountain moving kind of way but this is just the beginning. Next year with a little more honing the holiday season boycott could be every bit as effective a weapon as the Montgomery Bus boycott which itself took well over 300 straight days of all manners of sacrifice to come to fruition as the game changer that it was. A sustained annual protest of Black Friday and the commercial Christmas holiday shopping season, if done in a unified manner could be the the most powerful weapon wielded collectively since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man.
And here’s why: Many of the giant retailers like Target and Walmart that siphon the expendable incomes of poor to upper middle class blacks are strategically located in or around these majority black communities. This means that black people, and black people primarily have the ability to stop many of these stores bottom lines from ever getting out of the red and into the black. That’s a pretty powerful thing to do. It’s one hell of a statement to make. Especially since both Walmart and Target are already in the legislative game. Often times to the peril of many of their shoppers so there really is a direct correlation and leaning on them as a political strategy is actually the logical thing to do. The American Legislative Council (ALEC) is an organization of corporate conglomerates that lobbies congress and state houses across the nation for laws and bills most favorable to their respective bottom lines. One of the more nefarious bills successfully lobbied for and implemented around the country is the Stand Your Ground law. You don’t need me to remind you of how bad such a law is for black people. However you might want to remind Walmart that #blacklivesmatter.
The money saved from being spent with these major corporate conglomerates could and should be spent with black and small neighborhood businesses so that the dollars you spend actually have a chance to contribute to the growth of your community.
Nia (NEE-YAH) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.
Protests must have principal and in order to find principal in protest one must establish purpose. Truth be told their has been a purpose for organized protest for many centuries now. Along the way we have been side tracked and distracted but thanks to people like George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo we will never forget our purpose.
Kuumba (KOO-OOM-BAH) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.
The creative energies out in the street in mass protest are undeniable. From the chants of “No Justice, no Peace, no racist police”, to the creative and thought provoking signs and internet memes that makes mockery of our nations failed justice system. The rush hour traffic shut downs, the mall protests and die-ins are all examples of the creative forces bringing about much needed change. The creative ways in which these protests are agitating the populace is keeping the protests at least one step ahead of the police and moreover forcing the mainstream media who has for years been adept at ignoring or outright misrepresenting black pain into actually covering it. So much so that the fight against police brutality has been voted the biggest story of 2014. It only took about 400 years…
Imani (EE-MAH-NEE) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the current pathology that engulfs black people today and come away discouraged. Devoid of a long view that employs nuance of thought it’s completely logical to come away with a rather pessimistic view for the future. It’s even easier to come away with the opinion that these protests are a waste of time and energy and will yield zero gains. Such primordial misunderstanding is understandable but no longer acceptable. No longer can we rely on short views of historical problems. No more vacuous conversations that at best can only come up with linear solutions to holistic problems. Imani does mean faith, but it ain’t the kind of faith that you learned about in Sunday school. It’s not blind faith. It’s an open up your damn eyes and look what’s going on (and has been going on) kind of faith. Once that kind of perspective is gained it is rarely lost. It is more often than not spread.
In summation the sum total of the 7 day celebration is one that runs parallel to the mission at hand, so why not partake? It’s not a religious holiday, nor does it conflict with the Christmas holiday. And since Santa Clause has next to nothing to do with Baby Jesus in the manger it even makes sense to do your gift giving AFTER the 25th. It also makes very sound personal economic sense since pretty much everything that you purchase will be discounted to the tune of 70 percent o better.
Think about it….