As an American of Negro heritage I have always celebrated Christmas as most of my fellow Americans did. There was of course the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, the manger and the three wise men. In addition there was jolly old St. Nick, reindeer with red noses, snowmen, and a Charlie Brown Christmas. That is what we knew and how we too celebrated.
Then in the 70's I began to hear about a "Black" holiday tradition, specifically FOR Blacks BY Blacks called Kwanzaa. At first I didn't give it much attention because I was perfectly fine with my traditional Christmas celebration and thoughts. However as time went on this Kwanzaa moved more and more to the forefront until in the 80's until many of my Black friends were either replacing their traditional Christmas celebrations with Kwanzaa, or, celebrating both. It was at that time that I decided to look into this 'Black peoples" holiday. And what I found was a seemingly racist celebration that had little to do with celebrating the birth of Christ, and more to do with a Black nationalist movement.
Wikipedia states that Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 as the first specifically African-American holiday. Karenga said his goal was to "give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society." The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning first fruits of the harvest. The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, especially in the 1960s, despite the fact that most East African nations were not involved in the Atlantic slave trade that brought African people to America.
Kwanzaa was a celebration that has its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzu Saba, the "seven principles of African Heritage" which Karenga said "is a communitarian African philosophy".
During the early years of Kwanzaa, Karenga said that it was meant to be an alternative to Christmas, that Jesus was psychotic, and that Christianity was a white religion which black people should shun. However, as Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents, Karenga altered his position so that practicing Christians would not be alienated, then stating in the 1997 Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, "Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday.
Still, the entire celebration seems quite divisive to me. What are your thoughts?