Kwanzaa Is Wack?! Now, You Done Gone & Got Me Mad!

By Aiyana Ma’at

A few days ago Adisa Banjoko, West Coast Editor of NewsOne, wrote an article on that pissed me off. I couldn’t believe this dude had the nerve to publish such an irresponsible article. Check the article and my response out and, as always, share your thoughts.

Kwanzaa is wack. The other day I said this on my Facebook page. Actually, what I said was: “Is it wrong of me to say that I love AFRICA, but I think Kwanzaa is wack? #ducksfromthebricks.”

Now, when I said it, I meant it but gave no thought to how it might affect people. I’m kind of bad like that. A ton of people (some Black and some not) got on and said they thought Kwanzaa was wack too. I never thought about it again really. Just a funny little thread.

Then someone got real upset. I felt bad about that, truly. But the reality is that Kwanzaa was created by an FBI informant named Dr. Maulana Karenga. Straight up! That’s an actual fact. Beyond that, stuff like corn that is used in a lot of the rituals is not even native to Africa. A friend of mine noted “it’s truly corny.”

Now hold on. I did participate in a few Kwanzaa events back when ’89 was the number. I always tried to do observe it. But once I did the history on its founder and some of the deeper elements of its hollow cultural base, it was hard to continue on. For those who do, I promise I’m not mad at you. Not that you would care. But you can’t get your kente cloth all in a bunch because I’m not feeling it.

Look, I love Africa and what it means to be Black. I love almost everything African (aside from the tribal fighting and the needless murder and rape of women across the continent). But Kwanzaa is not African. I never knew an African (from any part of the continent) who was like “Yo Adisa, bro you wanna slide thought to the Kwanzaa fest playa?” It has never happened! They don’t get down like that.

Kwanzaa is like a bad weave. People might kinda like it, but we all know it ain’t real. Now, I live on the West coast, in the Bay Area. The only people I see really on some Kwanzaa “ish” are the hardcore revolutionary types you might find at the Berkeley flea market selling incense and shea butter soap (which they might consider using on themselves).

I guess what I’m saying is, I was raised on the works of Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Ivan VanSertima and Runoko Rashidi. I studied a lot about ancient Kemet, The Moorish Empire, Benin, Timbuktu etc. I love reading about African culture and history any time I can. That’s why I don’t need Kwanzaa. I have knowledge of self and kind.

It appears as though the only other people who might celebrate it are East coast college types who still work on a University campus. But I’m not even sure that’s accurate.

Dr. Maulana Karenga was an informant who hated on Geronimo Pratt and caused a lot of damage to the African American community. How do we know he didn’t “found” Kwanzaa in 1966 as a social experiment on Black people for the FBI? How could such a knowledgeable man just forget that corn is not from his homeland?

Beyond that, is it possible to love Africa and not celebrate Kwanzaa? I know Jews that do not celebrate Chanukah. I know Muslims that don’t celebrate every Ramadan or Eid (some for health reasons, others because they came from places so poor, fasting was a daily occasion). I know Christians that do not celebrate Christmas (because they read Jeremiah 10: 1-25 in the Holy Bible). They still consider themselves lovers of their individual paths though. Can I love my Blackness and still think Kwanzaa is rich in wackness? Is there anything else we can do outside of Kwanzaa to stay more authentically connected to the Motherland? What do you think?

So, when I finished reading I was like Ayize! Can you believe this bullshizzle!!?! I started typing my response and said Eff it. I’m gonna do this on my website because I want to know what ya’ll think. Here’s my thoughts:

Kwanzaa was never said to be AFRICAN. It’s AFRICAN AMERICAN. C’mon now. My question is How is it benefitting you to hate on Kwanzaa a CULTURAL not RELIGIOUS holiday? Never once did you reference the principles that Kwanzaa is based on. Yours is such a superficial critique. I guess UNITY, SELF-DETERMINATION, COLLECTIVE WORK & RESPONSIBILITY, COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS, CREATIVITY, PURPOSE, AND FAITH are WACK huh?

Naw, YOU are WACK for undermining a cultural holiday that is uplifting, positive, and powerful for people of African descent to examine where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going. “We all know it ain’t real.” Wowww. I have to wonder who you work for…..FBI maybe???

Now, don’t get me wrong–I know a lot of black folks who celebrate Kwanzaa (and more importantly practice the principles throughout the year) but I also know a whole lot of black folks who don’t officially celebrate Kwanzaa. HOWEVER, THEY GET IT. They understand the value in the principles, consider themselves to be conscious of the VALUES and do their best to live them out  in their day to day lives. And, they definitely would never have the audacity to knock the holiday and the morally and culturally affirming light it can shine in our lives–if you allow it.


11 replies
  1. Rachel Finn
    Rachel Finn says:

    I was one who shared this article and happily so. I do think that Kwanzaa is, in fact, wack. Not because it's not African but because it feels artificial, much like the construct that is soul food. The messages celebrated and embraced are wonderful and I live them everyday in my life and my work, but the holiday, not so much. I also don't think that his real point was not that the holiday is not rooted in African tradition, though he dwells on that in his assessment. I don't celebrate it (obviously) and probably won't. For me, Juneteenth means much more than Kwanzaa ever could. Perhaps in the end, it is all quite personal…
    My recent post On Yams (Part 2)… Yam Porridge

  2. Adrianne Bate
    Adrianne Bate says:

    Interesting. I've had this conversation before. I don't think the article was irresponsible either. I will say that a problem for black people is looking too hard at the messenger and ignoring the message. I personally, don't celebrate Kwanzaa formally, but the Nguzo Saba is something I carry with me daily. I have a homegirl who also told me Kwanzaa was wack. Her father was from Africa and she spent a lot of time on the continent so she says that she never felt the intense need to find out who she was culturally. I can see why she would say that. I've been to amazing Kwanzaa celebrations! We can be too sensitive to things we hold dear. If you celebrate it great, if you don't great. Do what is best for your family. And if ones are so concerned about Dr. Karenga doing dirt, I ask what have you done to hold him accountable? If nothing, sit down and hold your peace.

  3. Terrence Felder
    Terrence Felder says:

    Any tradition or ritual becomes such because over time, because people take ownership of it’s value and meaning in the lives of their family and community. Kwanzaa is a young tradition following the same path. Some will accept and embrace it while others won’t. It is about what matters to familes and individuals who except and honor Kwanzaa only. The celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. Birthday is still a hot topic among whites some Black, and even States, and the Government, we still take off to honor him, while some still try to discredit him. You can’t satisfy everyone. All you can do is enjoy teaching the principals of Kwanzaa, and hope that the examples display by familes and especially or children will make the doubters take a second look at a beautiful celebration of life and family.

  4. kzs
    kzs says:

    edit: for "invested" read "invented." kzs

  5. kzs
    kzs says:

    Disagree. Marcus Garvey invested all sorts of rituals that weren't "authentically African." but they were good for African people. Ditto for Elijah Muhammad, Kwame Nkrumah and many others. And I think the issue of corn pretty much sums up whats wrong with the logic of some of the Kwanzaa haters. Yes, corn is a New World crop that is not indigenous to Africa. But corn is now a staple in many parts of the African continent. Among the Ga people of Ghana, corn is not only a staple, it is an essential part of the origin narrative and sacred rituals. Likewise Kwanzaa originates in the New World but it borrows ideas and concepts from harvest festivals, the aim of which is simply to encourage Africans to celebrate their African heritage. The other useful aspect of Kwanzaa is that is it pan-African. African harvest festivals tend to be ethnic-specific. Kwanzaa can be celebrated across ethnic groups. I have gotten emails about Nigerians and Somalians celebrating Kwanzaa in Iceland. I'm African American and I have celebrated Kwanzaa in Ghana. Its really sad that blacks folks seem to enjoy fighting over everything instead of uniting. kzs

  6. Terrence Felder
    Terrence Felder says:

    Continent. I said country, in my post from earlier! :p

  7. Terrence Felder
    Terrence Felder says:

    We can always agree to disagree. His issue was with the founder of the celebration. You spied on your own people for J Edgar Hoover, helped break down, discredit, and destroy Black organizations that was making positive advances in our communities, but here’s a celebration for you? I can understand his distaste for the man, and his lack of knowledge of traditional African cultures(and foods native to the country) but the principals of Kwnazaa do have meaning to so many families. Sometimes, we all need to respect our of differences in opinion, and remember the strong values that we pass to our families can never be broken by one mans opinion. Peace

  8. Shante'
    Shante' says:

    I don't celebrate Kwanzaa every year but the principles are so important and I have used them to talk to my children about what we value as a family and as a way to affirm their identity because we live in a mostly white community and they attend a predominantly white school. So, I believe it's important to find ways to affirm ourselves and our children and Kwanzaa is wonderful vehicle for that. My Kinara is ready. 😉

  9. Shana
    Shana says:

    Ooooo Weeee Baby! Tell it Aiyana!! I think that was a good question-What does it benefit Mr. Banjoko to HATE like that???? That's crazy….can we say Willie Lynch?

Comments are closed.