The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 2, 2013

Readers' Forum 1-2 | Writer rants on Kwanzaa; celebrant replies

— Every year at this time, the media feel obligated to laud the artificial commemoration Kwanzaa, and The Tribune-Democrat joined in on Dec. 19.

Americans should celebrate any holiday or event they want to, however phony, and Kwanzaa is phony; but we should understand that it was founded on black nationalism, racism and socialism.

When Ronald M. Everett decided to join the black-power movement of the mid-1960s and use as a name the Swahili-sounding Maulana Karenga, he wouldn’t have known how seriously America would take his hodgepodge of invented symbols and tokens, anti-capitalist dogma and borrowed Hanukkah rituals.

While articles persist in painting Kwanzaa as a harvest celebration or ancient traditions, honoring ancestors and African roots, it is not African, ancient, traditional, ancestral, religious and has nothing to do with harvests. Everett wanted blacks to separate from the dominant (i.e., white) American culture, especially during Christmas.

Most of Kwanzaa’s seven principles emphasize themes of black nationalism and socialism, especially Ujamaa, or cooperative economics. Ujamaa was invented by Julius Nyerere, the British-educated first president of Tanzania, starting in 1964. Nyerere, a hard-core Maoist, nationalized businesses, crushed opposition and left Tanzania a corrupt basket case existing on foreign aid.

Kwanzaa is only known in Africa, where Americans introduced it. Even Kwanzaa foods – fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, black-eyed peas – are southern American rather than African.

Everett was convicted of assaulting two women and did prison time in the ’70s. Sounds like a great reason for a festival.

Dwight B. Owen


Editorial note: We sought response from Marsha P. McDowell, a longtime community organizer of Kwanzaa celebrations. Her response follows:

Kwanzaa is about who you can become

I celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa. Each is special, and the faith and love I have is reflected in these celebrations.

Every holiday, we celebrate what was started when someone saw a need to commemorate what they believed was special to their religion or homeland. Kwanzaa is neither ancient nor is it an African holiday.

During the 1960s, a need presented itself to bring African-Americans together to learn and celebrate a culture that many of them had not known.

The celebration of Christmas was started by Christians in the fourth century and coincided with a pagan holiday.

Hanukkah is one of the most joyous times of year, but those eight special days came from a time of war and persecution.

The attacks made on Kwanzaa always go back to its founder, but those who celebrate it are not celebrating him.

Kwanzaa is a holiday that celebrates creativity, independence, faith and respect. Kwanzaa is not about what you get, but who you can become.

The celebratory foods of Kwanzaa reflect each family that celebrates it. After celebrating Kwanzaa, my family sits down to a meal of prime rib and champagne.

If you just look at Kwanzaa as a “black” holiday, then you must look at Christmas as a “Christians only” holiday and Hanukkah as a “Jewish” holiday and the principles, joy and lessons that each of those holidays brings must be scrutinized right along with their inaccuracies and the darkness surrounding them.

Marsha P. McDowell


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