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Kwanzaa still relevant today

Created: 30 December, 2009
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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2 min read

 

Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration beginning on Dec. 26; but this time, the occasion is different than in past years. This Kwanzaa, we have a black man in the White House.

Kwanzaa, which was first observed more than 40 years ago and is often mistakenly called the “Black Christmas,” is undeniably about race. But it is also about cultural heritage, as it recalls the fact that millions of Americans came to this country from Africa as slaves.

The word “Kwanzaa” itself means “first fruits” in Swahili. It has seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

During this year’s celebration, which runs through Jan. 1, we will try to honor those principles, since they are still relevant. We are not yet in a post-racial world. Professor Cornel West has it right: Race does still matter.

You can see it reflected in the unemployment numbers and in the foreclosure statistics. It’s still harder to get a job or rent an apartment if you’re black, even if your qualifications are the same. And blacks are arrested more often, convicted more often and incarcerated for longer periods of time than whites accused of the same crimes.

But Kwanzaa is not just a black holiday. Many of its principles are universal. Take “creativity.” Here is the official Kwanzaa explanation of this principle: “To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.” That is something we all can get behind.

Akilah Bolden-Monifa is a freelance writer based in Oakland, Calif. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org. Reprinted from the The Progressive Media Project (www.progressive.org).