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December 12, 2002

Redondo Kwanzaa

last night was the christmas pageant at redondo union highschool. beryl heights elementary's children took the stage and sung joyous songs in celebration of diversity in the holiday season. the third graders were first, followed by 1st then kindergarten. the fourth graders followed, then the 2nd years preceded the fifth grade and the all grades finale. there were songs of winter, christmas & hanukkah. new years songs came in mexican and japanese flavors, and of course there were songs of kwanzaa.

one might very well wonder, in these days of trent lott, why white kids would sing about kwanzaa. one might be out of one's mind, this is america. in any case kids are never quite as white as their parents are, or would have them be. nevertheless, the coughs were in evidence (as opposed to polite laughter and applause) when a poor kid choked their festival of lights speech by imporperly naming the holiday kwanzaa. i hope for her sake she gets to live it down.

but it raises an interesting point about the interchangeability of youthful hope which matures into diversity under the best circumstances and adversity by default. (elaboration goes here)

the other point it underscores for me is that undying fact about american culture, its ability to levitate in the anti-gravity field that i've called the semiotic swamp. (elaboration goes here)

what remains real is the bitter conflict which underlied the development of kwanzaa, which makes it all the more american. who else but americans would swing the blues into a song? aren't holidays supposed to take our minds away from struggle? yet kwanzaa, born of struggle, finds itself as the latest in the american pantheon of ex-pagan rituals. it is now celebrated by so called white kids in a so called suburb were so called struggle does not exist. and yet as it crosses over and blends into the fabric of more and more lives it will bring hope and purpose there as well.

i am strongly of the opinion that the african-american deed is done. we broke open america and made it, for the enduring moment, truly a place of civil liberty. while our wars on terror and drugs continue to erode this world historical accomplishment, the window was opened into which millions of foreigners found our society open enough to try. and having tried and succeeded, their incremental influence has changed and continues to change what the american middleclass is. this america needs a new name because it is no longer a european thing, resembling little in its expression of a mere 50 years ago.

to sing of imani and nia in this america will require exactly that. the only grit which survives down to the last breath is that born in the intimate knowledge of struggle. birth is such an appropriate word, for childbirth is an intimate and painful struggle. birth can always be celebrated in songs of youthful hope, it can even generate an immaculate mythology unconnected to mortal existence. at root, birth is laborious and unpredictable. its ritual of first fruits are as old as time, but only truly connected to the single passion which created it.

we witness kwanzaa some 35 years after its birth as a youthful celebration, respected by most yet fully and intimately celebrated by few. its destiny is uncertain, no matter how certain its creator's intent, and its fate lies in the spirits of its celebrants, no matter how near or far they are to the intimacy of struggle.

as american children sing songs of kwanzaa in an international mix of celebration there can be little doubt that such a light embrace of the hopeful creation of darker days bears witness to the triumph of hope. if we can always expect this of our children, then our future holds marvels.

Posted by mbowen at December 12, 2002 05:25 AM

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