1) it is not a holy day in any religion
2) it has not been declared a holiday by any government
3) its founder Dr. Karenga was a convicted felon
4) it divides the American people
5) it has socialist overtones
6) it is trying to replace Christmas (and it has pagan elements), and
7) it is a made-up holiday.
There are other attacks or criticisms of the holiday but these seven I will discuss in this article.
Let’s address these attacks.
1) A holiday or holy day can be religious, cultural or national. Christmas would be an example of a religious holiday, Thanksgiving is a cultural holiday, and President’s Day is a national holiday (political).
2) A holiday can be an official or an unofficial observance of (religious, cultural, or national) significance, usually accompanied by festivities or celebrations. An example of an official holiday would be Martin Luther King Jr Day, and an example of an unofficial holiday would be people taking off from work on Marcus Mosiah Garvey's or Malcolm X' (El Hajj Malik el-Shabazz) birthdays.
3) Dr. Karenga said that Kwanzaa was a means for African-Americans to reflect on their past, pay homage to their ancestors and connect with their Afrikan roots and heritage. What’s wrong with doing this? And what does this have to do with Dr. Karenga’s conviction? If you want to kill the messenger, that’s one thing, but don’t kill the message! Moreover, one should be somewhat suspicious of his conviction given the FBI's (INTELPRO) immersion in the activities of Black organizations.
4) American history is a divided history. We have a history that included chattel slavery and Jim Crow segregation; it’s a shared history that affected the races differently. Is remembering our past racist? Are movies or public and private acknowledgments of the holocaust racist? People have the right to establish events or people that they feel are worthy of adoration, commemoration, and celebration. It’s a human right!
5) Values like collective work and responsibility (Ujima) and cooperative economics (Ujamaa) have been called socialist. These are not socialist ideas or values but ones based on Afrikan communal values. They have nothing to do with Marxist or western thought. They are values that developed from the Afrikan experience of being human! The ideas of working together and sharing our wealth seems like good ideas to me.
6) Kwanzaa has never been a substitute for Christmas. Many people celebrate both. Because Kwanzaa asks that we remember our ancestors, many have identified it with paganism. This is being narrow-minded. There is undoubtedly a force that created all that there is (whether you see it as an impersonal or personal entity) but what does remembering and acknowledging those that came before you, have to do with worshiping the almighty? That’s all that Kwanzaa asks. Is to know and remember their story, because it is our story too.
7) The point that Kwanzaa is made-up, is ridiculous because all holidays are. The difference is, it is a young holiday and we are so close to it beginnings. But it is a holiday that will live and grow as long as we celebrate it.
This attack on Kwanzaa is an attack on a people's self-determination (Kujichagulia). Celebration of one's culture is a human right. Maybe those people that don't understand this, haven't become human yet? To mess with Kwanzaa is mess with our human rights!!!
Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season. Today marks the beginning of the week-long celebration honoring African American heritage and culture through the seven principles of Kwanzaa -- unity, self determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
We celebrate Kwanzaa at a time when many African Americans and all Americans reflect on our many blessings and memories over the past year and our aspirations for the year to come. And even as there is much to be thankful for, we know that there are still too many Americans going through enormous challenges and trying to make ends meet. But we also know that in the spirit of unity, or Umoja, we can overcome those challenges together.
As families across America and around the world light the red, black, and green candles of the Kinara this week, our family sends our well wishes and blessings for a happy and healthy new year.