Kwanzaa Culinarians

Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora

Black People, Obama and the Kwanzaa Dilemma

Kwanzaa Tabletop

This article is republished with the author’s, Albert Phillips, permission. It was originally posted here.

As we slowly ease off the uneasy stomachs caused by Thanksgiving and the overdrawn bank accounts caused by Black Friday, there’s another significant celebration of culture and history all black Americans should be looking forward to. Started by author, activist, and scholar, Dr. Maulana Karenga in the 1960’s, Kwanzaa has grown to have an international audience and continues to reinforce the need for all people of African descent to embrace their roots and understand their history.

As great and profound as that sounds, many African Americans still aren’t buying into Kwanzaa. There are no official statistics on how many Blacks celebrate Kwanzaa, but most online searches state that less than 5 percent will celebrate this year, while nearly 30 million people will celebrate worldwide. 

In light of the recent re-election of Barack Obama, you would think more black people would be eager to engage in activities that specifically deal with their blackness. When nearly 100 percent of black Americans support a black presidential candidate, it’s hard to believe that all those people of color voted for him simply because of his policies and promises (that’s another story). It is not farfetched to assume his race played a significant factor to his black constituency.

Is our black pride still alive or is it only temporary? Do we support our own because it’s the right thing to do or because it is convenient and commercialized? On one hand we overwhelmingly support a black president, but on the other hand many black businesses are suffering and poor black communities are undervalued. This duality of love/discontent for one another is what I think leads many of us away from Kwanzaa.

I’ve heard just about all the excuses. “Kwanzaa is nothing but a Black Christmas.” “We have Black History month, why do we even need another Black holiday?” “All that Black stuff is unnecessary, we are all one people and we have a Black president now.”

On one hand we overwhelmingly support a black president, but on the other hand many black businesses are suffering and poor black communities are undervalued.

I could go on and on, but the reality is if black Americans were more involved with the principles and ideals intertwined in Kwanzaa, we would be more inclined to support one another and end the “love-hate” relationship we have towards things that are considered “Black” or “African”.

The week-long celebration of Kwanzaa brings the Nguzo Saba (seven principles) to light. Each day the participants are expected to practice the highlighted principle as a way of reconnecting spiritually, mentally, and physically with one another. The principles are Umoja (Unity), Kuji-chagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Regardless of your religious faith or what part of the African Diaspora you reside in, these principles can be used to empower your communities and invigorate change in your life.

Black people in America are called “African-American” for a few reasons, but one is because we are directly connected to the birthplace of humanity, Africa. We fully embrace the “American” side with the celebration of Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and other holidays, but we hardly consciously embrace our “African” side. Some people treat it like a curse that they can’t get rid of. For some reason, the character Uncle Ruckus from the Boondocks cartoon (a self-hating Black man who disassociates himself from other African Americans as much as possible) comes to mind.

At the end of the day I’m not asking people to join a Black Nationalist/Pan African Movement (although they may want to consider it). I’m simply urging Black Americans and African people around the world to give Kwanzaa a chance. It’s only one of 52 weeks in a year and you don’t have to purchase any gifts for someone you don’t like just to show that you love them.

Visit the official Kwanzaa website for more information on Kwanzaa and learn how to start your own Kwanzaa celebration this year.

Albert Phillips is a freelance writer and student at Morgan State University. He also manages Check out his blog at

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2012 by in 2012, Umoja and tagged , , , , , .

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Learn more about Kwanzaa

The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa." To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the Official Kwanzaa Website.

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