I've never known much about Kwanzaa, but DL was asking me about it, so I started reading up. I noticed on the Official Kwanzaa Website, that the biography of the holiday's founder, Maulana Karenga, read more like a resume than a bio. Nothing about his life or background, just his achievements and his titles. Well, it turns out that it's written that way because Karenga is a pretty bad dude, with a history of violence, mental troubles, and a strongly anti-religious viewpoint (I don't just mean non-religious, I mean ANTI-religious). This guy holds absolutely no appeal for me.
The seven principles of Kwanzaa are Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. These are attractive values, but Dr. Karenga interprets them in a racially divisive way. Blacks vs. the world.
Is it possible for Kwanzaa to become mainstreamed? To become a holiday that speaks to all people and unites instead of divides? Dr. Karenga has already stepped back from his some of his early anti-religion pronouncements. In 1977 he said, "Kwanzaa is not an imitation, but an alternative, in fact, an oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people . . .", but by 1997 he was saying, "Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday." He must have figured out that his holiday would have no future if he alienated Christians, who are a majority of the African-American population.
But will Kwanzaa ever be expanded to have meaning for people of all races as well as religions? I would love to see the principles discussed more, especially as they relate to geographic communities rather than racial ones. But I doubt that Kwanzaa will be going in that direction as long as Dr. Karenga is alive and maintains his influence. I would welcome it if the larger population did to Kwanzaa what the Christian church did to Saturnalia. Until that happens, Kwanzaa will not be celebrated in my home.