Can We Save Kwanzaa?

With the support of Nguzo Saba, African-Americans can still celebrate the true, uncommercialized meaning of Kwanzaa.

BY: Jenny Kinscy

Kwanzaa, a holiday born in the midst of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, has experienced a resurgence in the last decade and is now part of the annual round of December holidays. Hallmark stores across the country are stocked with Happy Kwanzaa cards. Companies like McDonald's and Chevrolet tout magazine ads that say "Harambee" in popular African-American publications. Even House Beautiful magazine's website offers a Kwanzaa overview, complete with recipes and links. Everywhere we turn, we see the blanket December holiday messages emblazoned before us:

"Happy Holidays! Buy your Christmas/Hanukkah/Ramadan/Kwanzaa gift here."

And there is Kwanzaa--the newbie of the bunch. As a member of the black diaspora, I immediately think, Finally! Kwanzaa has arrived! And then, as I read a magazine page a little closer, as I click to see what the Kwanzaa link leads to, I wonder: At what cost is Kwanzaa featured among these holidays? What exactly are we celebrating when Kwanzaa is not only being featured-but it's also being used in advertisements-just like the other December holidays?

Of course, I know that this is American capitalism. Where there is a buck to be made, an American will be in on it someway, somehow. As an American, I tip my hat to the resourcefulness and forethought of advertisers, and the greeting card and gift corporations. Many companies have been successful at repackaging their current merchandise and advertising it as a possible Kwanzaa gift. As an African-American, I wrestle internally about whether to buy into this idea. Should I purchase Kwanzaa gifts from a major company or not? Would we really be buying in the spirit of the seven principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa if our gifts and products aren't meaningful?

Christopher Jean-Baptiste from Brooklyn, N.Y., is not surprised about major corporations advertising Kwanzaa. "We live in a capitalistic society. Something like that is expected," says Jean-Baptiste.

Jean-Baptiste, a desktop support technician at an internet company in New York, began to celebrate the holiday at home with his younger brother three years ago. "I mean, if organizations and companies would give to the homeless, soup kitchens, or if they will have a workshop on Kwanzaa for kids, then that would be great."

Continued on page 2: Gift ideas for Kwanzaa »

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