It’s that time of year again, a time that I pull away from my everyday duties of life and take some time to explain this very misunderstood holiday. I’m black and don’t celebrate Kwanzaa, and I am more than happy to share why I don’t.
Almost every instance in which an article is written about Kwanzaa or someone is speaking on its virtues, it is usually introduced as a non-religious holiday. Schools, businesses, and the like want people to be sure that it’s not a religion. Otherwise they’ll have to begin justifying why they exclude the name of Jesus or even the word Christmas!
Unknown to many, Kwanzaa was actually created to be a new religion for black people. When the “religion” didn’t catch on as Karenga would hope it would, he shopped it mainly as a cultural celebration instead.
Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966 during the height of the black identity intellectual revolutions (US Organization, Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, and etc.) Tiring of blacks celebrating what he considered the White man’s Christmas, he created the pseudo-holiday with the hopes that many would leave Christmas and Christianity behind, and follow his new religion.
In his 1980 philosophical theory book titled Kawaida Theory, Karenga even went as far to include the seven principles of Kwanzaa (called Nguzo Saba in Swahili) in his section on the positive functions of religion:
“. . . values which protect and promote human life, development and unity. Such values as the common origin and the oneness of humankind, the sanctity and divinity of human life, self-discipline, truthtelling. The Nguzo Saba (from African religion); The Golden Rule (Buddhism) The Ten Commandments (Judeao-Christian) Maat or Justice (Ancient Egyptian religion). pg 25.
That was written over 20 years ago, but just recently an article caught my eye. Karenga was in North Carolina at North Carolina Central University on December 16, for a pre-Kwanzaa event. He was to light the kinara, or Kwanzaa candle holder with it’s seven candles, one for each principle of the Nguzo Saba. The following was said of this event:
“He referred to the ceremony as “lifting up the light that lasts.” By lighting the candles, “we are lifting up the light of our spiritual and ethical principles.” Read more: The Herald-Sun – Kwanzaa founder lights NCCU kinara
First the ceremony looks very similar to the lighting of the Menorah in the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which IS a religious holiday, and then part of the ceremony done before Karenga spoke but a crucial part of the Kwanzaa celebration included libations to honor ancestors, another borrowed religious item this time coming from ancient African religions. In the above mentioned quote Karenga says we are lifting OUR spiritual and ethical principles. This is quite of bit of religious imagery for it to be considered non-religious!
Have a ceremony like this in any classroom and not call it religious is simply mind-numbing! But even more interesting is the fact that Karenga hasn’t changed his philosophy much since his theoretical book he wrote in 1980! Kwanzaa IS meant to be spiritual, meant to be a way of life to be practiced not only in December but always! Sounds like a religion to me!
As a Christian, I already have a way of life equipped with principles in the book called the Bible. There is no need for any pseudo-religion especially from a man who created a new “religion” as an alternative to Christianity.
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
© 2010 – 2015, Carlotta Morrow. All rights reserved.