Kwanzaa repairs broken communities

Published 7:22pm Wednesday, January 4, 2012

“Why Kwanzaa?” That is a question some ask repeatedly.  “Because it’s necessary,” is my response.  I realize further explanation is required for real understanding.

Kwanzaa is a special African American holiday/celebration.  It covers a seven day period from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.  It is not a religious celebration, but a community celebration.  But the question remains, “Why Kwanzaa?”

Kwanzaa was conceived by Dr. Ron Karenga and first celebrated in California in 1965.  It arose in the aftermath of the Watts riot when community people were trying to rebuild the devastated inner city.  However, the underlying need for Kwanzaa was evident far beyond the boundaries of  Watts.

The central thrust of  Kwanzaa revolves around the practice of seven principles:  Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); Imani (Faith).  Yes, but the question, “Why Kwanzaa,” still lingers.

Let me answer the question directly.  The necessity of Kwanzaa can be stated in two words:  broken communities.   These communities have been broken for a long time.  To be specific, they have been broken for centuries.  Communities were broken when Africans were brutally snatched from their families, villages, tribes and continent.  Communities were broken by the brutality of the middle passage with human beings crammed into the holds of ships like material cargo, lying in their own waste for months on end.

I see the brokenness of our communities manifested in so many ways:  broken families; huge numbers of African Americans in prison; pervasive violence; insidious self hate; debilitating joblessness; the lack of businesses owned by community people; the grinding poverty; the high percentage of children born out of wedlock; the massive mis-education of our children; the high rate of school dropout; and the crime and drugs and gangs that infest communities.

“Why Kwanzaa?”  Because something is necessary to mend the broken communities.

So I ask you, “Why not Kwanzaa?” When we recognize that something critical is broken, we must mend it as best we can.  Kwanzaa is one way to help mend our broken communities.

That’s why we have celebrated Kwanzaa for 39 straight years.


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