Kwanzaa as a reflection upon past and future

Originally printed in the newsletter of Indigo Homeschool Association.

Kwanzaa represents a contribution to the on-going process of re-Africanization that many Africans in the U.S have been undertaking in the wake of the maafa—the interrelated processes of enslavement, colonialism, and their aftermaths. Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, sought to create a shared cultural experience among Africans in the United States that would serve to remind them of their African heritage, reinforce values which would serve to advance their struggle for liberation, and demonstrate the capacity of a self-determining people to create moments in time and space where they declare their intent to reflect upon themselves, their legacy, and their future.

The experience of Africans in the U.S. has been characterized as an incessant assault upon their minds, bodies, and institutions. Yet despite these efforts we have consistently looked back, struggling to reclaim an African heritage many thought lost to us. This is evident in the 19th Century when Martin R. Delany attempted to lay claim to ancient Egypt as a quintessentially Black civilization. In fact Delany’s 1859 visit to west Africa was an attempt to establish a settlement for African Americans desirous of leaving the U.S. Thus Delany’s efforts represent a process of looking back and forwards to Africa—looking back for the African American past, and looking forward for the African American future.
In short, Kwanzaa provides an occasion to engage in such lofty reflection. It enables us to take account of our past deeds, and to commit ourselves to a future which seeks to restore African people to their traditional greatness.

Tradition

Tradition is a moving target. We seize upon one of its transitive states, claiming to have captured the essence of a thing, only to glimpse a temporally and spatially contingent phenomenon.