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December 29, 2005

Blogospheric Kwanzaa Annex

It's always nice to have academics and sensible people around when things get hairy. I've found a swell compendium of nicely stated pieces on Kwanzaa, including some dissertation stuff that I added over at Wikipedia. Our first stop is at Rising Up where Joe puts LaShawn into context.

Kwanzaa Deserves Respect

The problem with such reasoning isn't that it's dumb; Barber makes a fine, coherent case. The problem is that critical distinctions between religion and culture simply haven't been well differentiated at the traditionalist/rationalist stage of development. At Barber's level of analysis, all religions and cultures are to be weighed against the One True Myth. Surprise, it just happens to be HERS! Yes, HER Myths. HER Church. HER Sacred Books. HER Country. HER Culture. What is reasonable is that which is in conformity with the One True Myth... and surprise! It's okay to celebrate Christmas, but not Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is bad because it's a "made-up, anti-Christian observance." And Christmas is good because it's a "deep-rooted, historical, [and] true observance."


As a celebration of culture and diversity within a context of affirming both traditional values and development to a greater stage of Unity, Kwanzaa is a premiere holiday of the multicultural pluralistic historical stage... and derives from a truly integral expression of wisdom. In this sense, Kwanzaa is an elite cultural holiday: it's based on a vision that simply could not have arisen until the arrival of modern and postmodern intellectual expressions in the African-American community in the mid 1960s. And it is a vision that has succeeded where so many other pie in the sky ideas have failed: it has become part of the cultural mainstream. By some reckoning, Kwanzaa has been celebrated by as many as 60 million individuals. Kwanzaa-related segments are regularly featured on Oprah, Martha Stewart Living, and the HGTV cable channel.

I'm not so convinced that is or should be considered post-modern. But Joe's got a good grasp on the false dichotomy forced into the premises of Christian fundamentalist attacks on Kwanzaa.

Additionally, we find some great stuff at Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Over there I found most notably, this entry which gives a good perspective on what ought to be the discussion about Kwanzaa:

This dissertation examines the creation and early development of Kwanzaa as a response to racial and cultural oppression in the 1960s and 1970s. Though Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga and the US Organization, the response in creating and celebrating a new black holiday quickly transcended Karenga, involving a broader section of black cultural nationalists, local grassroots activists, and many more attempting to raise the level of black consciousness. The dissertation also discusses the appropriation of Kwanzaa by American corporate and cultural institutions in the 1980s and 1990s. By the late 1980s and 1990s, Kwanzaa ceased being the sole property of the black nationalist community; it had been embraced by a broader segment of African-Americans, corporate and religious bodies, cultural and media institutions, and well as the Federal government. In crossing a number of historical terrains, the dissertation explores the following: Kwanzaa's place within the two-century-old black holiday tradition and the development of a black cultural calendar; the origin of Kwanzaa in Los Angeles; the growth of black cultural nationalism and Kwanzaa's diffusion within the black neighborhood public sphere in American cities; the corporate and cultural institutional commodification of Kwanzaa not only for profit, but for public relations and goodwill. In examining these areas with the use of oral histories, mainstream and community newspapers, magazines, academic periodical literature and personal collections, I have uncovered two Kwanzaas: one, the black nationalist Kwanzaa steeped in ideas about traditional Africa, the essence of race, and the absence of culturally viable representations. This Kwanzaa was designed to liberate African-Americans from white oppression by rejecting American culture. The second is the multicultural Kwanzaa-a holiday less concerned with liberation and Black Power, but more attuned to bringing people together and celebrating diversity. The multicultural Kwanzaa was a product of corporations, museums, schools, the media, and the state.

I'll continue to update this one as I find material on the subject of that is new and not covered somewhere here.

Over at Economists View is a review of the Ujamaa as the model for Cooperative Economics in Hiphop:

[T]hose who are involved in the business end of hip-hop seem to be following in Gordy’s footsteps ... These present-day entrepreneurs are not just artists, they are part owners of the labels and they produce and create distribution deals that help them build and accumulate wealth. ... The real story is who these artists are and their ability to build viable, successful businesses with friends and family as supporters. The careers of Russell Simmons and Jay-Z illustrate this point. Each has started a small business that now includes recording labels, soft drink products, and clothing lines. Russell Simmons was president of Def Jam, perhaps the most well known if not most successful hip-hop label. Simmons is currently president of Rush communications. ... Simmons has sold off his interest in many of his companies for an estimated $400 million. It is said that Simmons is more successful than Barry Gordy was during his tenure in the music industry.

Posted by mbowen at December 29, 2005 08:53 AM

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