Kwanzaa?

  1. I've always been curious about this holiday, and have looked for information regarding it's history, purpose and meaning. Now, I have stumbled on to this article, and am now looking for feedback. Is Kwanzaa a hoax??

    By Paul Mulshine
    FrontPageMagazine.com

    On December 24, 1971, the New York Times ran one of the first of many articles on a new holiday designed to foster unity among African Americans. The holiday,
    called Kwanzaa, was applauded by a certain sixteen-year-old minister who explained that the feast would perform the valuable service of "de-whitizing" Christmas.
    The minister was a nobody at the time but he would later go on to become perhaps the premier race-baiter of the twentieth century. His name was Al Sharpton and
    he would later spawn the Tawana Brawley hoax and then incite anti-Jewish tensions in a 1995 incident that ended with the arson deaths of seven people.

    Great minds think alike. The inventor of the holiday was one of the few black "leaders" in America even worse than Sharpton. But there was no mention in the Times
    article of this man or of the fact that at that very moment he was sitting in a California prison. And there was no mention of the curious fact that this purported
    benefactor of the black people had founded an organization that in its short history tortured and murdered blacks in ways of which the Ku Klux Klan could only
    fantasize.

    It was in newspaper articles like that, repeated in papers all over the country, that the tradition of Kwanzaa began. It is a tradition not out of Africa but out of Orwell.
    Both history and language have been bent to serve a political goal. When that New York Times article appeared, Ron Karenga's crimes were still recent events. If
    the reporter had bothered to do any research into the background of the Kwanzaa founder, he might have learned about Karenga's trial earlier that year on charges
    of torturing two women who were members of US (United Slaves), a black nationalist cult he had founded.

    A May 14, 1971, article in the Los Angeles Times described the testimony of one of them: "Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African
    queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a
    hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of
    US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said."

    Back then, it was relatively easy to get information on the trial. Now it's almost impossible. It took me two days' work to find articles about it. The Los Angeles
    Times seems to have been the only major newspaper that reported it and the stories were buried deep in the paper, which now is available only on microfilm. And
    the microfilm index doesn't start until 1972, so it is almost impossible to find the three small articles that cover Karenga's trial and conviction on charges of torture.
    That is fortunate for Karenga. The trial showed him to be not just brutal, but deranged. He and three members of his cult had tortured the women in an attempt to
    find some nonexistent "crystals" of poison. Karenga thought his enemies were out to get him.

    And in another lucky break for Karenga, the trial transcript no longer exists. I filed a request for it with the Superior Court of Los Angeles. After a search, the court
    clerk could find no record of the trial. So the exact words of the black woman who had a hot soldering iron pressed against her face by the man who founded
    Kwanzaa are now lost to history. The only document the court clerk did find was particularly revealing, however. It was a transcript of Karenga's sentencing hearing
    on Sept. 17, 1971.

    A key issue was whether Karenga was sane. Judge Arthur L. Alarcon read from a psychiatrist's report: "Since his admission here he has been isolated and has been
    exhibiting bizarre behavior, such as staring at the wall, talking to imaginary persons, claiming that he was attacked by dive-bombers and that his attorney was in the
    next cell. ... During part of the interview he would look around as if reacting to hallucination and when the examiner walked away for a moment he began a
    conversation with a blanket located on his bed, stating that there was someone there and implying indirectly that the 'someone' was a woman imprisoned with him for
    some offense. This man now presents a picture which can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and elusions, inappropriate affect,
    disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment."

    The founder of Kwanzaa paranoid? It seems so. But as the old saying goes, just because you're paranoid it doesn't mean that someone isn't out to get you.

    ACCORDING TO COURT DOCUMENTS, Karenga's real name is Ron N. Everett. In the '60s, he awarded himself the title "maulana," Swahili for "master
    teacher." He was born on a poultry farm in Maryland, the fourteenth child of a Baptist minister. He came to California in the late 1950s to attend Los Angeles
    Community College. He moved on to UCLA, where he got a Master's degree in political science and African Studies. By the mid-1960s, he had established himself
    as a leading "cultural nationalist." That is a term that had some meaning in the '60s, mainly as a way of distinguishing Karenga's followers from the Black Panthers,
    who were conventional Marxists.

    Another way of distinguishing might be to think of Karenga's gang as the Crips and the Panthers as the bloods. Despite all their rhetoric about white people, they
    reserved their most vicious violence for each other. In 1969, the two groups squared off over the question of who would control the new Afro-American Studies
    Center at UCLA. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Karenga and his adherents backed one candidate, the Panthers another. Both groups took to carrying
    guns on campus, a situation that, remarkably, did not seem to bother the university administration. The Black Student Union, however, set up a coalition to try and
    bring peace between the Panthers and the group headed by the man whom the Times labeled "Ron Ndabezitha Everett-Karenga."

    On Jan. 17, 1969, about 150 students gathered in a lunchroom to discuss the situation. Two Panthers--admitted to UCLA like many of the black students as part of
    a federal program that put high-school dropouts into the school--apparently spent a good part of the meeting in verbal attacks against Karenga. This did not sit well
    with Karenga's followers, many of whom had adopted the look of their leader, pseudo-African clothing and a shaved head.

    In modern gang parlance, you might say Karenga was "dissed" by John Jerome Huggins, 23, and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter, 26. After the meeting, the two
    Panthers were met in the hallway by two brothers who were members of US, George P. and Larry Joseph Stiner. The Stiners pulled pistols and shot the two
    Panthers dead. One of the Stiners took a bullet in the shoulder, apparently from a Panther's gun.

    There were other beatings and shooting in Los Angeles involving US, but by then the tradition of African nationalism had already taken hold--among whites. That
    tradition calls for any white person, whether a journalist, a college official, or a politician, to ignore the obvious flaws of the concept that blacks should have a
    separate culture. "The students here have handled themselves in an absolutely impeccable manner," UCLA chancellor Charles E. Young told the L.A. Times. "They
    have been concerned. They haven't argued who the director should be; they have been saying what kind of person he should be." Young made those remarks after
    the shooting. And the university went ahead with its Afro-American Studies Program. Karenga, meanwhile, continued to build and strengthen US, a unique group
    that seems to have combined the elements of a street gang with those of a California cult. The members performed assaults and robberies but they also strictly
    followed the rules laid down in The Quotable Karenga, a book that laid out "The Path of Blackness." "The sevenfold path of blackness is think black, talk black,
    act black, create black, buy black, vote black, and live black," the book states.

    In retrospect, it may be fortunate that the cult fell apart over the torture charges. Left to his own devices, Karenga might have orchestrated the type of mass suicide
    later pioneered by the People's Temple and copied by the Heaven's Gate cult. Instead, he apparently fell into deep paranoia shortly after the killings at UCLA. He
    began fearing that his followers were trying to have him killed. On May 9, 1970 he initiated the torture session that led to his imprisonment. Karenga himself will not
    comment on that incident and the victims cannot be located, so the sole remaining account is in the brief passage from the L.A. Times describing tortures inflicted by
    Karenga and his fellow defendants, Louis Smith and Luz Maria Tamayo:

    "The victims said they were living at Karenga's home when Karenga accused them of trying to kill him by placing 'crystals' in his food and water and in various areas
    of his house. When they denied it, allegedly they were beaten with an electrical cord and a hot soldering iron was put in Miss Davis' mouth and against her face.
    Police were told that one of Miss Jones' toes was placed in a small vise which then allegedly was tightened by one of the defendants. The following day Karenga
    allegedly told the women that 'Vietnamese torture is nothing compared to what I know.' Miss Tamayo reportedly put detergent in their mouths, Smith turned a water
    hose full force on their faces, and Karenga, holding a gun, threatened to shoot both of them."

    Karenga was convicted of two counts of felonious assault and one count of false imprisonment. He was sentenced on Sept. 17, 1971, to serve one to ten years in
    prison. A brief account of the sentencing ran in several newspapers the following day. That was apparently the last newspaper article to mention Karenga's
    unfortunate habit of doing unspeakable things to black people. After that, the only coverage came from the hundreds of news accounts that depict him as the
    wonderful man who invented Kwanzaa.

    LOOK AT ANY MAP OF THE WORLD and you will see that Ghana and Kenya are on opposite sides of the continent. This brings up an obvious question about
    Kwanzaa: Why did Karenga use Swahili words for his fictional African feast? American blacks are primarily descended from people who came from Ghana and
    other parts of West Africa. Kenya and Tanzania--where Swahili is spoken--are several thousand miles away, about as far from Ghana as Los Angeles is from New
    York. Yet in celebrating Kwanzaa, African-Americans are supposed to employ a vocabulary of such Swahili words as "kujichagulia" and "kuumba." This makes
    about as much sense as having Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day by speaking Polish. One possible explanation is that Karenga was simply ignorant of
    African geography and history when he came up with Kwanzaa in 1966. That might explain why he would schedule a harvest festival near the solstice, a season
    when few fruits or vegetables are harvested anywhere. But a better explanation is that he simply has contempt for black people.

    That does not seem a farfetched hypothesis. Despite all his rhetoric about white racism, I could find no record that he or his followers ever raised a hand in anger
    against a white person. In fact, Karenga had an excellent relationship with Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty in the '60s and also met with then-Governor Ronald
    Reagan and other white politicians. But he and his gang were hell on blacks. And Karenga certainly seems to have had a low opinion of his fellow
    African-Americans. "People think it's African, but it's not," he said about his holiday in an interview quoted in the Washington Post. "I came up with Kwanzaa
    because black people in this country wouldn't celebrate it if they knew it was American. Also, I put it around Christmas because I knew that's when a lot of bloods
    would be partying." "Bloods" is a '60s California slang term for black people.

    That Post article appeared in 1978. Like other news articles from that era, it makes no mention of Karenga's criminal past, which seems to have been forgotten the
    minute he got out of prison in 1975. Profiting from the absence of memory, he remade himself as Maulana Ron Karenga, went into academics, and by 1979 he was
    running the Black Studies Department at California State University in Long Beach.

    This raises a question: Karenga had just ten years earlier proven himself capable of employing guns and bullets in his efforts to control hiring in the Black Studies
    Department at UCLA. So how did this ex-con, fresh out jail, get the job at Long Beach? Did he just send a résumé and wait by the phone? The officials at Long
    Beach State don't like that type of question. I called the university and got a spokeswoman by the name of Toni Barone. She listened to my questions and put me on
    hold. Christmas music was playing, a nice touch under the circumstances. She told me to fax her my questions. I sent a list of questions that included the matter of
    whether Karenga had employed threats to get his job. I also asked just what sort of crimes would preclude a person from serving on the faculty there in Long Beach.
    And whether the university takes any security measures to ensure that Karenga doesn't shoot any students. Barone faxed me back a reply stating that the university is
    pleased with Karenga's performance and has no record of the procedures that led to his hiring. She ignored the question about how they protect students.

    Actually, there is clear evidence that Karenga has reformed. In 1975, he dropped his cultural nationalist views and converted to Marxism. For anyone else, this
    would have been seen as an endorsement of radicalism, but for Karenga it was considered a sign that he had moderated his outlook. The ultimate irony is that now
    that Karenga is a Marxist, the capitalists have taken over his holiday. The seven principles of Kwanzaa include "collective work" and "cooperative economics," but
    Kwanzaa is turning out to be as commercial as Christmas, generating millions in greeting-card sales alone. The purists are whining. "It's clear that a number of major
    corporations have started to take notice and try to profit from Kwanzaa," said a San Francisco State black studies professor named "Oba T'Shaka" in one news
    account. "That's not good, with money comes corruption." No, he's wrong. With money comes kitsch. The L.A. Times reported a group was planning an "African
    Village Faire," the pseudo-archaic spelling of "faire" nicely combining kitsch Africana with kitsch Americana.

    With money also comes forgetfulness. As those warm Kwanzaa feelings are generated in a spirit of holiday cheer, those who celebrate this holiday do so in blissful
    ignorance of the sordid violence, paranoia, and mayhem that helped generate its birth some three decades ago in a section of America that has vanished down the
    memory hole.
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  2. 155 Comments

  3. by   eltrip
    After reading this article, I'm curious, too!
  4. by   KaroSnowQueen
    I knew it was a recently invented holiday, but had no idea about this nutcase that has thought it up. I think people have been fooled greatly. What a pity.
  5. by   LasVegasRN
    I had never heard of Kwanzaa until a few years ago.

    This article gives me a headache. The first thought that comes to mind is why it is even necessary. There are hardly any black people in America who are of "pure" African blood - it's mixed with Indian and whatever your ancestor's slave master's heritage was. Very few know from what part of Africa their ancestors came from and what form of religion was practiced there.

    I realize it would take growing up in the Jim Crow era to really understand the reasoning behind the black separatist movement, but for a people who have struggled, toiled, died, bled, and cried to be treated equally and fairly, why, WHY get into things to separate?? It's one thing to hold on to your identity - which each individual and family has to do to maintain integrity; but it's another to suggest separation.

    What am I trying to say? Something unpopular. I say don't whine and get offended over whites who promoted and cheered for segregation and separation when at the same time you (black separatists) are asking for national recognition and acceptance of something designed for separation.

    Yes, I understand the whole Black Power movement. It was needed. For too long blacks were made to feel less than human and treated as such - there needed to be a point in history that said, "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud". The race needed a shot of self-esteem on a grand scale, badly. I say the lesson has been learned. We're loud. We're.. caramel ... We're definitely proud.

    Retaliatory racism does not have a place in our society if the advance to get to a colorblind status is going to happen - unless... there are those who don't want a colorblind society because they would not have anything left from which to gain attention... hmm......
    Last edit by LasVegasRN on Dec 27, '02
  6. by   Stargazer
    Of course, there's always Festivus...for the rest of us!

    When my family got together Christmas Day and we started rehashing old family stories, like "Remember the first time you brought [SIL] to dinner to meet the family for the first time, and we hazed her unmercifully?", my brothers kept giggling and saying, "And now--The Airing Of The Grievances!" :chuckle
  7. by   Love-A-Nurse
    i have heard of kawanza and have attended a program that was based on african attire and singing of songs of yester-years that our ancestors song.

    to answer the question, what is kawanza, i know it is not a holiday to replace christmas (we as a society has change the meaning of christmas to dictate our beliefs) and as this site below states, it is not political or religious based.

    very good post, lvrn.

    http://www.tike.com/celeb-kw.htm

    the knowledge of kawanza is good, but i don't celebrate this event nor do i disagree with those who do.

    i find not fault in one wanting to keep alive the observance of their culture (as long has hate, violence, superiority of one race over another, etc. is not its focus) but it does not mean the race of people has total knoweldge or participate in that which is intended.

  8. by   Love-A-Nurse
    ...by the way, did i miss something? why is this topic posted on this board? did i miss the bases of your intended post susy, just curious, nothing more.
  9. by   Q.
    Stephany,
    I posted this here because this section appears to often be more than war/terrorism, but anything political as well. I posted this here because I thought it was more political than anything.

    I read your link you provided, but I have to laugh now - based on the article I posted, Kwanzaa appears to be a "made-up" celebration not even remotely based on anything related to the African-American culture. Truly sad.
  10. by   SharonH, RN
    Hmmmm....Interesting. I'm not sure of what the purpose of the article was(well I have my suspicions). At any rate, I'm not sure that Dr. Karenga's history is really revelant for many people any more than the fact that Christmas is rooted in pagan traditions to Christians.


    Personally I don't observe Kwanzaa for two reasons:


    1)I incorporate the principles of Kwanzaa into my daily life anyway


    2)I really don't believe in observing a lot of rituals which is the same reason that I don't observe Christmas at least not in the same way that most Americans do.
  11. by   SharonH, RN
    Originally posted by Susy K

    Kwanzaa appears to be a "made-up" celebration not even remotely based on anything related to the African-American culture. Truly sad.

    Could you be more specific?
  12. by   Q.
    Originally posted by SharonMH31
    Hmmmm....Interesting. I'm not sure of what the purpose of the article was(well I have my suspicions).
    Maybe because Kwanzaa is currently being celebrated across many cities, so it's somwhat relevant to understand it's roots, yes?
  13. by   SharonH, RN
    Originally posted by Susy K
    Maybe because Kwanzaa is currently being celebrated across many cities, so it's somwhat relevant to understand it's roots, yes?

    Okay.
  14. by   Q.
    Originally posted by SharonMH31
    Could you be more specific?
    Sure...

    LOOK AT ANY MAP OF THE WORLD and you will see that Ghana and Kenya are on opposite sides of the continent. This brings up an obvious question about Kwanzaa: Why did Karenga use Swahili words for his fictional African feast? American blacks are primarily descended from people who came from Ghana and
    other parts of West Africa. Kenya and Tanzania--where Swahili is spoken--are several thousand miles away, about as far from Ghana as Los Angeles is from New
    York.
    and

    One possible explanation is that Karenga was simply ignorant of
    African geography and history when he came up with Kwanzaa in 1966. That might explain why he would schedule a harvest festival near the solstice, a season
    when few fruits or vegetables are harvested anywhere. But a better explanation is that he simply has contempt for black people.
    and definitely

    "People think it's African, but it's not," he said about his holiday in an interview quoted in the Washington Post. "I came up with Kwanzaa
    because black people in this country wouldn't celebrate it if they knew it was American. Also, I put it around Christmas because I knew that's when a lot of bloods
    would be partying." "Bloods" is a '60s California slang term for black people.

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