In late December, the holiday season is in full swing, and people of African descent will gather with loved ones beginning Dec. 26 to reaffirm the bonds of family and culture, as well as to share food and exchange gifts in celebration of Kwanzaa.
While thousands of African-Americans will celebrate the holiday throughout the Dallas, Fort Worth area, J.W Richard of Mandrake Society Radio said he doesn’t know of any celebrations planned in the Dallas GLBT community.
“Kwanzaa is more of a unique black celebration, observed by the community as a whole,” said Richard, who is also on the board of Dallas Southern Pride.
“While I’m sure that there are many individuals who celebrate Kwanzaa within our community, I’ve unfortunately run into more individuals who do not celebrate for various reasons,” said Richard.
“Even the greater black community in Dallas still struggles to find a place for Kwanzaa because of misconceptions about the holiday, including the false understanding that Kwanzaa either is anti-Christian, or a substitute for Christmas Day. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
Richard will be host for a Kwanzaa podcast on Mandrake Society Radio each day throughout the holiday.
“The great thing about podcasting is that you can listen when it’s convenient for you unlike live streaming, which is tied to specific times,” said Richard. “My Kwanzaa podcast shows on Mandrake Society Radio will be available each day of Kwanzaa by for listeners to download at their leisure.”
The word Kwanzaa means “first fruits of the harvest” in the East African language of Swahili. Maulana Karenga, an African-American scholar and activist, conceived Kwanzaa in 1966 following the Watts riot. Inspired by the civil right struggles of the 1960s, Karenga was searching for ways to bring African-Americans together as a community.
The celebration was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values, which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world. These values are called the Nguzo Saba, or seven guiding principles, one for each day of the observance. The principles are:
– Umoja (unity), which stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and community, which is reflected in the African saying, “I am We,” or “I am because We are.”
– Kujichagulia (self-determination), which requires one to define common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of family and community.
– Ujima (collective work and responsibility), which reminds everyone of obligation to the past, present and future, and that there is a role to play in the community, society and world.
– Ujamaa (cooperative economics), which emphasizes collective economic strength and encourages everyone to meet common needs through mutual support.
– Nia (purpose), which encourages everyone to look within themselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.
– Kuumba (creativity), which makes use of creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.
– Imani (faith), which focuses on honoring the best of the African-American traditions and helps strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming self-worth and confidence in the ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.
“The event of Kwanzaa is about celebrating our creativity and faith in each other as African or Black Americans, while re-focusing on self-development and community involvement,” Richard said.
“I celebrated Kwanzaa last year for the first time because it seemed analogous to my move back home and reconnecting with my family.” he said.
“This year, as I began working with groups as seemingly diverse as Dallas Southern Pride and Out Takes Dallas, the journey of umoja, or uniting all that defines me, continues.”
The principles of Kwanzaa are intended to transcend race and culture so that everyone can apply the seven principles in their lives, particularly during this time of year when reaffirmation and recommitment are on everyone’s minds.
Certainly in the gay and lesbian community there always needs to be discussion around a unified family and working toward common goals, Richard said.
Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, and thus it is available to and can be practiced by people of all religions, faiths, cultures and races. Richard said.
“So regardless of your ethnicity, tune in into the shows and share in this journey,” he said.
Richard’s Kwanzaa podcast will be available beginning Dec. 26 at www.mandrakesoci-etyradio.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of December 30, 2005.