This morning marks the fourth day of Kwanzaa, a holiday passed off as something authentically African and even ancient, but that is simply not the case. Kwanzaa began in 1966 in California. Its creator is one Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga (his real name is Ronald Everett), who is now a 75-year-old professor of African studies at California State University, Long Beach. In 1976 Karenga received a Ph.D. from United States International University (now a for-profit institution called Alliant International University). He received another Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1994.
With such accolades, Karenga seems qualified to create a holiday, but this illustrious fellow has received other honors as well – namely a conviction for felony sexual assault and a diagnosis of schizophrenia and paranoia. He was convicted in 1971 for torturing and assaulting two women who were members of his radical, paramilitary, black nationalist group called United Slaves, a rival to the black Panthers. In fact, members of Karenga’s tribe were convicted of murdering two Panthers. The murders occurred in 1969 when the Slaves and the Panthers were fighting over which group would control the then-new Afro-American Studies Center at UCLA. (What a great job California schools are doing. Just this week farmers’ markets were declared racist by two UC San Diego professors. Whatever would we do without the wisdom of these sages?).
Back to Karenga’s conviction. Deborah Jones said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton. Both women were nude for the beatings. They were also burned with a soldering iron and had detergent and running hoses put in their mouths. Why? Magic rocks. Karenga believed that the women were using crystals to poison him. A psychiatrist declared Karenga to be both paranoid and schizophrenic.
What does this have to do with Kwanzaa? A quick internet search of “Kwanzaa History” never mentions any of the above. Instead, the reader will learn that the recently concocted holiday is a pan-African celebration of family, community and culture, observed from December 26 through January 1. The word itself is Swahili and means “first fruits.” Kwanzaa, according to generic web, has its roots in the harvest celebrations of historic African cultures and civilizations. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are: unity, self-determination, collective work, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith in ourselves.
Add the word “rape” to the search and you will find out so much more. Those seven seemingly innocent principles, for instance, are carbon copies of those of the ill-famed Symbionese Liberation Army. Yes, the same group that robbed banks and murdered here and there as well as the kidnappers of the famous newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in 1974. So much for having principles.
Come New Years Day, none of this will matter. Kwanzaa has slowly but surely become a joke even among African-Americans who prefer the very Euro-centric traditions of Christmas, which are closely tied, of course, to the pagan Yule and even Saturnalia – white holidays, all of them. Perhaps a sincere advocate for the so-called African diaspora should invent a genuinely African holiday rather than a spiteful spin-off. Better yet, African-Americans, some of the staunchest pro-Christians left in this country, should celebrate Christmas without apology. As should any other believer.