Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
October 21, 2014

Missouri Gov Forms Commission To Look At Ferguson Unrest

Jay Nixon
ASSOCIATED PRESS

How 'Hip-Hop, As Usual, Is Ahead Of The Game'

Wiz Khalifa
Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

Labor Secretary: Lack Of Paid Parental Leave In U.S. Is Embarrassing

Labor Secretary Tom Perez
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Missouri State Senator Arrested During Ferguson Protests

Jamilah Nasheed
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Boko Haram Clashes Rage On Despite Ceasefire Reports

Boko Haram
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama Has Perfect Reaction To Woman's Jealous Boyfriend

Barack Obama
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images

Ebola Cases Rise Sharply In Western Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Shonda Rhimes Shuts Down Tweeter Who's Upset With Gay Sex Scenes

Shonda Rhimes
Frederick M. Brown via Getty Images

Skip Bayless Made Outrageous Claim About Kobe Bryant

Skip Bayless
Laura Cavanaugh via Getty Images

NYPD Still Arresting Large Number Of Minorities For Minor Marijuana Offenses

De Blasio
Andrew Burton via Getty Images

Wyoming Attorney General Says Gay Marriages Can Begin On Tuesday

Rainbow Flag
Getty

Urgency of Now: Why We Must Vote

Black Voter Turnout 2012
Getty

Cam'ron Is Selling The 'Fashionable' Ebola Masks You Never Asked For

Camron Ebola Mask
Dipsetusa.com

Man On Death Row Because In Texas, Being Black Means You're Dangerous?

Black Man Prison
Erika Kyte via Getty Images

Michael Rapaport Squashes Beef With Spike Lee

Michael Rapaport Spike Lee
James Devaney via Getty Images

Can Rand Paul Get 30 Percent Of The Black Vote In 2016?

Rand Paul
ASSOCIATED PRESS

How Becoming The First African NBA General Manager Inspires Masai Ujiri To Give Back

Nba Cares
NBA

Reggae Legend John Holt Dies

John Holt Reggae
David Corio via Getty Images

Nigeria Is Officially Ebola-Free After Containing Virus

Ebola Nigeria
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI via Getty Images

Why Are Black Women Dying of Breast Cancer, Even Though More White Women Are Diagnosed?

Tiffany Jones Pink
Andrew H. Walker via Getty Images

40 Contemporary African Artists Take On Dante's 'Divine Comedy'

Wangechi

For Battered NFL Wives, A Message From The Cops And The League

Ray Rice Janay
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Congressional Hearing On Ebola Was 'Shameful,' Janet Napolitano Says

Capitol
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Russian Tennis Czar Insults Williams Sisters

Serena Venus Williams
Elsa via Getty Images

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Pens Scathing Dissent On Texas Voter ID Law

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Liberian Leader Warns Ebola Risks Causing A 'Lost Generation'

Ebola Liberia
John Moore via Getty Images

Obama Moves Into Campaign Mode

Obama
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Joanne Borgella Dies At 32

Joanne Borgella
Neilson Barnard via Getty Images

Why Vonderrit Myers Matters

Vonderrit Myers Family
Scott Olson via Getty Images

NIH Official: Budget Cuts Can't Be Blamed For Lack Of Ebola Vaccine

Ebola Outbreak
ZOOM DOSSO via Getty Images

Michael Dunn Sentenced To Life In Prison

Michael Dunn
ASSOCIATED PRESS

I Am a Liberian. I Am Not a Virus.

I Am Liberia
Let Girls Lead

Darren Wilson Says He Feared For His Life: Report

Michael Brown
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law

Supremes
Getty

Stacey Dash: Minorities Feel 'Worthless,' 'Uneducated' Under Obama

Stacey Dash
YouTube

Greatest Magazine Cover Of 2014?

Lupita
Courtesy

Cliven Bundy Challenges Eric Holder In Video Endorsing Black Congressional Candidate

Cliven Bundy
David Becker via Getty Images

Nigerian Girls' Hometown Cautiously Hopeful For Their Release

Chibok
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI via Getty Images

Kobe Bryant Calls ESPN 'A Bunch Of Idiots'

Kobe Bryant
Jeff Gross via Getty Images

Stop And Frisk Linked To Trauma And Anxiety In Young Men

Stop And Frisk
ASSOCIATED PRESS

From Civil War In Sudan To The Silver Screen

Ger Duany Emmanuel Jal
Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP

Still No Charges 3 Months After Eric Garner's Chokehold Death

Eric Garner
STAN HONDA via Getty Images

Facebook Fight Allegedly Led To 3-Year-Old's Fatal Shooting

Amiracle Williams
WDIV-TV

GOP Congressman Gets Boost From Racially Charged Ad

Ashford
NRCC

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. Black Voices
    4. View all RSS feeds

'Racism Insurance' Is The Full Coverage Policy A LOT Of People Need

Racism Insurance
YouTube / Dear White People

London Richards Is Your New R&B Obsession

London Richards
Jared Thomas

Diddy And Nas Set For Alicia Keys' Annual Black Ball

Diddy And Nas
Richard Bord via Getty Images

WATCH:
Baby Spinach Has Never Sounded More Hardcore

Ice Cube
ABC

'Saturday Night Live' Gets More Diverse

Leslie Jones Nbc
NBC

Wyatt Cenac Describes His 'Physical Altercation' With An 'SNL' Cast Member

Wyatt Cenac
Mike Coppola via Getty Images

Kerry Washington Talks 'Awkward' 'Scandal' Sex Scenes

Allure Photo
Carter Smith

For The Love Of God, People, Do Not Dress Up As Ray Rice For Halloween

Ray Rice
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Macy Gray: 'I Was A Massive A**hole'

Macy Gray On Where Are They Now
OWN

Afroman: 'After Marijuana Is Legalized, I'm Not A Criminal'

Afroman
HuffPost Live

16 Times Floyd Mayweather Jr. Bragged About Having More Money Than You

Floyd Mayweather
Dan Harr/Invision/AP

North West Heads To A Pumpkin Patch In Leather Pants

North West Pumpkin Patch
Instagram

Tyra Banks Proves You Can Be A Feminist And A Runway Model

Tyra Banks
Michael Tran via Getty Images

Beyonce Dons A Floral Romper For Night Out With Adele

Beyonce
Keith Hewitt via Getty Images

Jada Pinkett Smith Brought A Man On A Leash To Her 'Gotham' Audition

Jada Pinkett Smith
Nomi Ellenson via Getty Images

'SNL' Nails Important Point About Aid Programs In Africa In Hilarious Sketch

Saturday Night Live 39 Cents
Saturday Night Live / YouTube

Drake Shoots Hoops, Becomes Jimmy From 'Degrassi' Again

Drake
C Flanigan via Getty Images

LeBron James Returns To Akron

Lebron
Beats by Dr. Dre

Here Are The Most Progressive 2 Minutes Of TV This Season

Viola Davis How To Get Away With Murder
Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

Jordin Sparks Wants You To See Her Without Makeup

Jordin Sparks
Slaven Vlasic via Getty Images

How One Artist Is Single-Handedly Changing The Way We See Death Row

Elkins

WATCH
Chris Rock's New Movie Gets A Really Funny Trailer

Top Five Trailer
Paramount

Sheryl Lee Ralph Breaks Down Her 24th Annual 'DIVAS Simply Singing!'

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Paul Archuleta via Getty Images

Iggy Finally Gets An Apology From Snoop Dogg

Iggy Azalea
Gary Miller via Getty Images

PHOTOS
Fly Rudeboys Remind Us What Cool Looks Like

Bevan Agyeman
Dean Chalkley

Nick Cannon Responds To Amber Rose Relationship Rumors

Nick Cannon
Tommaso Boddi via Getty Images

Let Kerry Washington Be Your Guide To 'No Makeup' Makeup

Kerry Washington
Instagram

The Best Worst Answer Ever On 'Family Feud'

Penis
Family Feud

'Real Housewives Of Atlanta' Star Confirms Pending Divorce To Husband

Phaedra Parks
ELLEN

Kwanzaa Popularity Falling? Some Say That it Is

Comments (239)

Kwanzaa Popularity Down

Some experts say that the popularity of the traditional African American holiday, Kwanzaa, is leveling off. According to research by Dr. Keith Mayes, an assistant professor of African American Studies at the University of Minnesota, the celebration of Kwanzaa among African Americans is between 500,000 to 2 million out of the 40 million people identified by the U.S. Census as black. These numbers, if accurate, imply that the number of Kwanzaa loyalists may not have grown much from the initial push 20 years ago.

The perceived slowdown obviously gives reason for pause, as we have to analyze Dr. Mayes' findings a bit more deeply. This is not to suggest that his conclusions are inaccurate, but there may be something deeper going on. Here are some thoughts on Kwanzaa and it's perceived decline in popularity.

1) A "leveling off" is not the same as a decline: Not to be nitpicky, but one can argue that leveling off is a "glass half empty" concept in the sense that it doesn't mean that the popularity of Kwanzaa is declining (which I don't think that Dr. Mayes is implying). Instead, it means that there are people who love Kwanzaa and are committed to it. The lack of growth may be connected to a lack of marketing and public education. Since the creation of Kwanzaa by Ron Karenga, executive director of the African-American Culture Center in Los Angeles, there have been shifts in the needs and priorities of people of color. In the 1960s and 1970s, black empowerment and civil rights were fundamental to our struggle. Twenty years of economic prosperity, though, can lead to a reduction in conscious activism and a greater focus on assimilation, but trends can always reverse.

2) Post-racial America anyone? One of the interesting things about Kwanzaa is that the Obamas don't celebrate the holiday. The Obamas dismissal of Kwanzaa leads some to feel that most African Americans would never be interested in the holiday. This could not be further from the truth. While they are certainly to be admired, Barack and Michelle Obama are not the essence of black America. Instead, the Obamas are a beautiful family that must behave in a way that maintains their political popularity. One piece of evidence that America is not yet post-racial is the fact that the Obamas would likely lose votes if they were to openly celebrate Kwanzaa. Yes, folks, that fact is a reminder that in America, unapologetic blackness is still heavily stigmatized.


3) More research on the trend might be needed: 500,000 to 2 million is a fairly broad range when attempting to guess the number of African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa. This is not to undermine the research of Dr. Mayes, but I'd love to see more statisticians get involved in order to get an accurate assessment of the trends of Kwanzaa celebration. When there are AP articles on Kwanzaa quoting the likes of Jesse Lee Peterson (who wrote that the black victims of Hurricane Katrina were victimized more by their "moral poverty" than by government inaction), I wonder if the alleged decline in Kwanzaa celebration is simply wishful thinking. Although he has a right to his opinion, Peterson should not be deciding the fate of black America. African Americans such as Peterson sometimes leverage the honest work of good scholars like Dr. Mayes for their own political benefit.

4) Many African Americans may not celebrate Kwanzaa, but they respect it: My family doesn't always celebrate Kwanzaa, but it's not because we think the holiday should disappear. After all of the psychological, emotional and financial energy spent on Christmas, we just don't have the "juice" for another holiday. I am willing to bet that a survey among African Americans would reveal that most black people have respect for Kwanzaa, even if they don't celebrate it themselves. So the alleged leveling off of Kwanzaa should not imply that the holiday is obsolete.

5) It's time for us to become informed: If there is indeed a "leveling off" in the celebration of Kwanzaa, then perhaps educating the public on the principles might be a great way to increase participation. In fact, I often wonder why it is out of the question for every major university to require students to study Kwanzaa as part of the college curriculum. If I am forced to learn details of George Washington, Ben Franklin, Christopher Columbus and other people who don't mean a thing to me, then why can't other students learn about the things that matter to my community?

6) Commercialization plays a role: Christmas has become more about trips to Wal-Mart than Jesus. Corporate America tells us that if your Christmas celebration doesn't involve your Visa card, then you've completely missed the point. To that extent, commercialization has played a huge role in the popularity of Christmas every year. By rejecting excessive commercialization, it is only natural that a young celebration like Kwanzaa will have a relatively weak following. This is a good thing, actually, since Christmas has become something that I can't quite recognize anymore.

7) Why not discuss Kwanzaa year round? The seven principles of Kwanzaa are not concepts that should be applied once a year. They are ideas that work for the entire year. I propose that we consider renewing our commitment to the principles of Kwanzaa once a month, making Kwanzaa a deeper part of the black social infrastructure.

The bottom line is that Kwanzaa is not dying and it is not dead. I consider the research by Dr. Mayes to be a call to refresh and remind ourselves about the beauty of being black. America is a melting pot of cultures, and if being post-racial means that we all have to be the same, then I don't want any part of it.


Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.

Comments: (239)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 24

Most Commented Articles

Daily Drama

The Best Clips From TV's Hottest Shows


More Daily Drama >>

Get Closer to BV

  • slider Image
  • slider Image
  • slider Image

BLACK MUSIC NEWS
The latest news and updates on a multitude of music stars.
Check It Out!

BLACK MUSIC NOTES

       

MEN OF MCCAFÉ SEARCH
McDonald's continues its nationwide search to find five community-service minded black men during this year's CIAA tournament.


LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN

       
 

Find a Message Board

Discover conversations on everyone from Barack to Beyonce. There are nearly 50 forums, so click on a category below and find the right one for you.