From The Ramparts
Junious Ricardo Stanton
The Relevance of Kwanzaa
"There is no way to understand and appreciate the meaning and message of Kwanzaa without understanding and appreciating its profound and pervasive concern with values. In fact, Kwanzaa's reason for existence, its length of seven days, its core focus and its foundation are all rooted in its concern with values. Kwanzaa inherits this value concern and focus from Kawaida, the African philosophical framework in which it was created. Kawaida philosophy is a communitarian African philosophy which is an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world." http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/7principles.shtml
Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration initiated by Dr. Maulana Karenga to encourage and promote a deep sense of unity, cohesion, meaning and social change in the lives of African people during a time of radical social upheaval. During the 1960's Africans in America struggled to throw off the yoke of racial apartheid and dismantle the economic caste system. Movements came into being that demanded civil rights, Black Power and human rights. Several strains of thought and calls for action emerged during that time. One called for inclusion and integration into the existing social order. Another called for self-determination, a sense of self and community apart from Euro-American influence and domination. A small minority called for armed struggle.
The US government responded to all three via its ongoing counterinsurgency program called COINTELPRO. The corporate media, the FBI and local police collaborated to demonize Black leaders like Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Stokley Carmichael and Martin Luther King Jr. and their organizations. The FBI and police infiltrated all the groups, created enmity and animus between the various organizations and waged a vicious and ruthless campaign to undermine and destroy any grass roots leadership that was emerging. The lethargy, hopelessness and helplessness we see in our communities today is a direct result of COINTELPRO and their policy of dumping massive quantities of drugs in our communities.
Dr. Maulana Karenga was a "cultural nationalist"; he espoused unity and organization based upon African values as opposed to following Karl Marx or any other European analysis, doctrine or assessment. Karenga understood the power of values as the shaping and driving force behind philosophy, politics, economics, behavior, interpersonal and collective relationships, one's world view, behavior and notions of reality. Much like Marcus Garvey before him, Dr. Karenga saw a distinct need to link the deep yearnings of Africans in America to be their authentic selves to a set of values that empowered us to take the action to free ourselves from mental slavery. As a scholar who familiarized himself with African and world history, sociology and anthropology he structured a set of values he called the Nguzo Saba or Seven Principles, using universal African values as a foundation and tool to resurrect a people beaten down by state sanctioned violence, bigotry and menticide.
Karenga understood clearly from a psychological perspective that to encourage and initiate new behaviors and lifestyles amongst the colonized victims of Euro-American oppression would require an incentive, a specific reason and a solution that would benefit us both now and well into the future. So he created Kwanzaa as a way to emphasize personal, family and community unity, cohesion and behavior
Dr. Karenga would be the first to tell you Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. It is not a hero or personality based celebration. It is a cultural celebration that binds ancient African values, ways of seeing oneself and being in the world to modern socio-political realities, in other words it fosters mental decolonizaton, personal and social reorientation. But due to the success of COINTELPRO and the ongoing brainwashing of the mass media, many Black folks not longer think we need to struggle for freedom, relate to Africa or even resist US fascism either at home or abroad. Many of our people are caught up in the materialism, hedonism and superficialities promoted in the US mass media. We have become distracted, deceived and discombobulated by the glitter and the bling of American culture. We have internalized the incivility, profanity, disrespect and misogyny beamed at us 24/7 by the corporate media and now our communities reflect this pathology. That is their plan.
Many of our people don't understand Kwanzaa. Many of us suffer from psycho-sclerosis, closed mindedness; an unwilling to expand our thinking to entertain and embrace new ideas, even though Kwanzaa is over forty years old. Many don't see the significance of a cultural holiday based upon African values. Some think their particular religion is all they need. Some are mesmerized by Hip Hop and see no need to reorient to a more righteous way of looking at the world. But if we stop and look at the moral and fiscal bankruptcy and decay of this nation, it should be obvious we need to rethink our role and place in this country; especially its values.
Will we remain silent as the US and its imperialist allies continue to bomb innocent men, women and children and conduct ever expanding drone warfare around the world under the bogus guise of "national security" and "the global war on terrorism"? Will we acquiesce to the blatant class warfare waged against us as the ruling elites and their puppets in Congress steal our wealth and get away Scott free?
As the US economy continues to implode due to the intrigues of the ruling elites and their flunkies in government, shouldn't we begin to think about developing a unified cohesive purpose (Nia, Umoja) and strategy for our survival? Shouldn't we be developing an internal sub-system of commerce and economics, (Kujichagulia, Ujima and Ujamaa) given what we are seeing all around us? Could we use our creativity (Kuumba) and genius to formulate ways to feed, cloth and protect our people?
As confidence in the Congress and government plunges, and we see our elected official sell us out at every turn, shouldn't we begin to think in terms of unity, self-determination and developing faith (Imani) in our ancestors, ourselves and our potential given no one is here to save us but us?!
If you answered yes to any of these questions then Kwanzaa has relevance for you here and now. If you think it's time to embrace a new way or relating to one another within our own communities, then Kwanzaa is relevant to you. If you want to heal the psyches of our people, restore our families and communities, strengthen them and help them thrive despite the economy and the moral rot permeating this society, then Kwanzaa has relevance to you.