Monday, December 04, 2006

The Story of Kwanzaa

This post was originally going to be titled, "So what the hell is Kwanzaa anyway?" But then I read about it, and you know what, count me in.

So originally it was conceived of as a pan-african celebration of a shared heritage. A guy named Ron Karenga came up with it in the '60's as an alternative for african-american's to christmas, to help them reconnect with their african roots and common humanist principles.

Kwanzaa has undergone an evolution since its origination. It began pretty clearly as a black holiday during the halcyon days of the civil rights movement. The days before you could be dismissed as "PC" with no further discussion any time you suggest that maybe we shouldn't shit all over people who are different than us.

There were (and are) seven principles of Kwanzaa. I'm not going to list them here, but instead list Karenga's alleged paraphrase: "Think black, talk black, act black, create black, buy black, vote black, and live black." This will no doubt elicit cries of "reverse" racism, but I think its nice. I think its extra nice if you replace "blacl" with something like "local" or "humanist" or "eco-friendly" or some such thing. But only because I'm white and really want to get into this Kwanzaa thing.

But that's just how it started. Like I said, it has evolved. Karenga's most recent discussions of the holiday have described it as a supplemental holiday. There's no need to stop celerating christmas or hannukah or whatever else. You can do that too.

There are many quotes from Karenga out there. Many of them contradictory. But I don't really think any of that matters. I think a creation should be judged indepently of its creator. So here's the description I like most about Kwanzaa: "[Kwanzaa] offers a clear and self-conscious option, opportunity and chance to make a proactive choice, a self-affirming and positive choice as distinct from a reactive one."

So make the choice with me. We can all celebrate our common secular heritage. After all, it is not just "african"-americans who trace their origins to Africa. The entire human species can be traced back to the continent. The last time in history that humans all lived together without all this made-up bullshit about race and creed was in Africa. When there weren't these superficial differences that some people get so hung up on. Our common heritage, not just with other humans, but with every other plant and animal on this beautiful planet; with everything that has ever breathed in or out, or converted sunlight into energy, or converted fallen trees into new soil.

That is what we should celebrate!!! That is what we can celebrate with Kwanzaa!! And you can still celebrate that day in history when [Jesus was born]. You can do that too! But why don't we all rejoice in what unites us, instead of stewing in what divides us.


Blogger Nell said...

You lost me at the end Fish Frog... how can you be all into the lovey dovey embracing unity stuff and then insult anyone who considers themselves Christian.

You may say you just got carried away... but blasphemy is blasphemy. Shame!!!

7:48 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

from wikipedia:

In 1971 Karenga, Louis Smith, and Luz Maria Tamayo were convicted of felony assault and false imprisonment for assaulting and torturing two women from the United Slaves, Deborah Jones & 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. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said." They also were hit on the heads with toasters.

At Karenga's trial, the question arose as to Karenga's sanity. It is theorized that Karenga may have had a mental breakdown due to the stress of dealing with the violence and murders surrounding his United Slaves (US) organization and the Black Panther Party (BPP). His behavior became bizarre. And, at his trial, a psychiatrist's report stated the following: "This man now represents a picture that can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and illusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment."

6:58 AM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

Two good points, Nell and Matt.

First, the line about christmas was unnecessarily insulting. But that just emphasizes the need for a holiday that celebrates our common ground. Christianity and judaism and islam are divisive.

As to Karenga's criminal past and psychological problems, I just don't think either is relevent. Kwanzaa should be judged on its merits, and nowhere does it profess to celebrate its creator. Once it was created, it began an existence independent of Karenga and evolved into the unifying, humanistic celebration of our African heritage.

We all do bad stuff. Not all of us beat and torture women, but as your next paragraph points out, Karenga suffered from mental disorders. Some of the most beautiful art and most influential ideas have come from people afflicted with psychological disorders or abusing mind-altering drugs. It takes an altered mind to break new ground.

So in conclusion, Karenga's mistakes and crimes should not have any bearing on the status of Kwanzaa.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

What is the difference between a christian and fishy?

A christian just wants to celebrate christmas in peace. Fishy wants to ruin it for christians. I debated long and hard about commenting on this at all, and when it was just nell and matt I wasnt going to, but your comment just increases the conflict. OK, you dont like religion. Fine. Why do you have to attack my beliefs? Why do you get to decide whether my beliefs are divisive? Why do you get to tell me how to celebrate this time? If all you want is a holiday that celebrates our commonalities fine, I completely agree. But every time you call for this holiday you do so by insulting other religions that you do not believe in or understand.

Just leave my religion alone, or if not, please let me know and I can cease to frequent places where you express your hateful ideas.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Nell I was with you until the end. blasphemy is blasphemy and even if you don't believe in God and Christianity, why do you have to be so mean about it? Attacking Christian organizations is one thing, but going after Jesus and Mary? Not cool. Not cool at all.

I appreciate that you realize it was insulting becuase it really was.

I agree with your point in defense of Karenga. It seems that all too often when someone with great ideas come along, the first thing anyone does is look at all the bad things that person did to negate his great ideas. As if the hypocrasy alone cancels out the great idea. No, it doesn't. It probably means than should not be celebrated, but it has little bearing on his ideas.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

typo fix: that should say "it probably means 'the man'" not 'than' Sorry...

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fishfrog edited his post while I was posting and I thought I should recognize that fact. Thanks FishFrog, you didn't have to do that, but I appreciate it. I honestly don't believe you meant to offend anyone.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

Ok. So in response to the negative comments that my incredibly incendiary and unnecessary insult to christianity, it has been removed. I thought it was more funny than insulting when I originally added the line, but on rereading and chatting with some people, it was not particularly funny at all, whereas it was very insulting to most people I know. So sorry about that.

The fact is that I celebrate christmas every year, and I enjoy for the most part. But year after year my criticisms of america's dominant religion flare up, and each year they get more personal and insulting. This is not a good thing. Nell is catholic, as are a number of my friends. Others of my friends are beling to other judeo-christian faiths. So sorry to all of you that have to deal with me around christmas time and the rest of the year when my anti-religious feelings bear their ugly head.

That being said, I don't think religion is a good thing. I don't really get how people who are reasonable in every other aspect of their lives can suspend their disbelief in this one area. I don't understand, once you've decided to accept something that flies in the face of how the natural world works every single day of our lives, how you can choose between religious faiths that contradict each other. How does one pick between LDS and Catholicism without the aid of the reasoning processes that determine every other important decision we make?

As for leaving religion alone, that seems unlikely. It is important. It guides peoples' lives and the decisions they make. It takes center stage in the government and political discourse.

Despite its importance and the massive effect it has on everyone's lives, I blog about it very little. I blog instead about taxes and oranges. But when it strikes my fancy, when I am blogging about something and religion seems like an important or interesting side topic, I'm going to discuss it. And, based on my insensitivity and arrogance, I'm probably going to be disrespectful about it.

I think Kwanzaa is good. I think religion is bad. I think christmas is good, but only because of the secular nature of the bulk of the celebrations.

11:30 AM  

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