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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kwanzaa: An Inauthentic Holiday Created by a Torturer of Women Pt. 2

Continued from PART 1 of this post.

The socialist (actually Marxist) nature of the seven principles, the Nguzo Saba, of Kwanzaa is addressed, but once again dismissed by Riley. Of the seven principles of Kwanzaa (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), Riley writes "The ujima [collective work and responsibility] and ujamaa [cooperative economics] principles certainly sounds socialist, but any of the Kwanzaa principles can be interpreted to mean that through private means we should help others. I do think that these principles - if the focus is on private efforts, and not Big Government - have merit year-round in building black communities."

True enough. Who would have problems with the incredibly general idea of "faith" or "creativity" etc.? I mean, how many anti-faith (not necessarily religious faith-- faith here is used too generally for that) people are out there? How many people are against creativity?

But the seven principles of the Nguzo Saba were not created from an ideological vacuum, nor have they evolved from centuries of social development, such as Christmas' general "peace on Earth and goodwill toward men"-- a process that defines the general principle with a cultural understanding and imbues it with a meaning beyond the mere vague words. When scrutinized beyiond the thinnest of superficial gloss, it is evident (from Karenga's own words) that the seven principles, are, in fact, merely Marxist principles created by Karenga for the expressed purpose of promoting Marxist doctrine.

There is no question of Karenga's Marxism. He makes no effort to hide his Marxism and openly promotes it. From Scholer: "Eight years later [in 1989 according to the wikipedia entry on Karenga] California State University at Long Beach made Karenga the head of its Black Studies Department. Karenga had toned down his rhetoric and abandoned his cultural nationalism for straightforward Marxism." This "toned down" Marxism continued to be expressed in the seven priciples as detailed in the Kawaida Theory: An African Communitarian Philosophy, his book from 1980.

Karenga expounds on the intended principles of the Nguzu Saba here in 1965.

For Ujima (collective work and responsibility) he writes, "The third principle encourages self-criticism and personal evaluation, as it relates to the common good of the family/community. Without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible. The family and the community must accept the reality that we are collectively responsible for our failures, as well as our victories and achievements. Discussions concerning each family member's responsibility prove helpful in defining and achieving family goals."

For Ujamaa (cooperative economics) he writes, "Out of the fundamental concepts of 'African Communal Living' comes the fourth principle of Kwanzaa. In a community or family, wealth and resources should be shared. On the national level, cooperative economics can help African-Americans take physical control of their own destinies. On this day, ideas should be shared and discussed for cooperative economic efforts to provide for needs as related to housing, education, food, day care, health, transportation and other goods and services."

Let's see here... communal living, collective work, and a fading of the individual through "self-criticism and personal evaluation, as it relates to the common good of the family/community." I think it's perfectly reasonable to conclude that that an avowed Marxist (cultural nationalist at the time) talking in these terms is preaching to Marxist principles; therefore Ujima and Ujamaa do not just sound socialist, they are socialist.

When Karenga says Ujamaa he meant specifically the definitions I quoted above. As the originator of Kwanzaa, these are indisputably the specific meanings of Kwanzaa's founding, generalized principles. So while Riley maintains that "any of the Kwanzaa principles can be interpreted to mean that through private means we should help others," she is presenting a mis-reading that is obvious once Karenga's writings and theories are examined. If we are not a socialist or a Marxist, we should looks elsewhere for guiding principles to improve our communities.

Riley tacitly acknowledges Karenga's violent history by writing "And while Maulana Karenga’s history of abusing women is highly problematic, I believe that events can transcend problematic founders (look at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia back in 1787)." Again, an attempt to build an equivalency, in this case between Karenga and the attendees of the Constitutional Convention.

Rather than discuss in detail the myriad of differences between Karenga and various members of the Constitutional Convention (men whose births are separated by about two centuries), I will go into some detail about Karenga's acknowledged abuse as publicly reported by the Los Angeles Times and related by Scholer.

"On September 17, 1971, Karenga was sentenced to one to ten years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment. The charges stemmed from a May 9, 1970 incident in which Karenga and two others tortured two women who Karenga believed had tried to kill him by placing 'crystals' in his food and water.

"A year later the Los Angeles Times described the events: 'Deborah Jones, who once was given the title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said.'"

I'm sorry, but I don't believe that the phrase "highly problematic" really does justice to the imprisonment, stripping, binding, beating, burning, and the mangling of a toe during the systematic torture of two women by Karenga and a pair of cohorts.

Karenga's sanity can also be fairly questioned. Scholer again writes: "The shooting at UCLA [the Jan. 17, 1969 killing of Black Panthers John Jerome Huggins and Alprentice Carter by US Organization members George and Larry Stiner immediately following Huggins' and Carter's verbal attack of Karenga during a public meeting] caused Karenga to become deeply paranoid and spurred his bizarre behavior. At his trial, the question of Karenga's sanity arose. The psychiatrist's report stated, 'This man now represents a picture which can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and elusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment.' The psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by dive-bombers."

While it is, perhaps, true that at times "events can transcend problematic founders," Karenga's problems, to me, are an awful lot to transcend.

And of course, this begs the question as to what an event will become once it transcends its founder. Would Kwanzaa become transformed into something more then a racially divisive, anti-religious, Marxist promoting event?

As I wrote in part 1 of this post, as Kwanzaa became more popular within mainstream Black American communities, Karenga backed down from his virulently anti-religious bent. As I stated before, Karenga's newer books like Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture (1997) tell lies (contradicted by Karenga's earlier works) about Kwanzaa not being intended as an alternative to Christian holidays.

But this inauthentic backing away from its anti-religious roots has not been coupled with Kwanzaa backing away from the radical black separatist movement. At least none is in evidence at the Official Kwanzaa Information Center as Scholer, once again, points out. "Still, some charge that the holiday and its official black, green, and red flag promotes racial separatism and violence. Says the official Kwanzaa Information Center: 'red, or the blood, stands as the top of all things. We lost our land through blood; and we cannot gain it except through blood. We must redeem our lives through the blood. Without the shedding of blood there can be no redemption of this race.' The Kwanzaa Information Center also notes that the flag 'has become the symbol of devotion for African people in America to establish an independent African nation on the North American Continent.'"

Okay... So the official Kwanzaa Information Center is basically calling for a race war (the shedding of blood to redeem the race etc.), not unlike white supremacists. Great. Actually that quote is from the "Feel Good Information" section (I am not making this up) of the Kwanzaa Information Center's website. The quote regarding the Black Nationalist flag in full is:

"Origin of the Flag of Pan-Africanism and/or Black Nationalism Red is for the Blood. Black is the Black People. Green is for the Land.

"Red, Black and Green are the oldest national colors known to man. They are used as the flag of the Black Liberation Movement in America today, but actually go back to the Zinj Empires of ancient Africa, which existed thousands of years before Rome, Greece, France, England or America.

"The Red, or the blood, stands as the top of all things. We lost our land through blood; and we cannot gain it except through blood. We must redeem our lives through the blood. Without the shedding of blood there can be no redemption of this race. However, the bloodshed and sorrow will not last always. The Red significantly stands in our flag as a reminder of the truth of history, and that men must gain and keep their liberty, even at the risk of bloodshed.

"The Black is in the middle. The Black man in this hemisphere has yet to obtain land which is represented by the Green. The acquisition of land is the highest and noblest aspiration for the Black man on this continent, since without land there can be no freedom, justice, independence, or equality."

A little further down the page is the "devotion for African people in America to establish an independent African nation on the North American Continent" part.

For an event to transcend the problematic founders, paraphrasing Riley, the event must move beyond both the faults and the intentions of the founder. If we were to peel away from Kwanzaa the racial exclusivity of the black separatism, the anti-religious ardor, the rituals designed to replace Christmas celebrations, the Marxist doctrines contained within the Nguzo Saba's seven principles, all of this imbued by its angry founder Karenga-- what's left?

I understand that Riley was somewhat ambivalent to Kwanzaa and that the very short blurb was not intended as an endorsement of the "holiday." I have nothing against Shay Riley. I have never met Riley, never (to my knowledge) have read anything else written by Riley, and this very long posting was not meant, in any way, to be an attack against Riley personally.

But Riley's ambivalence is something very common, and found both in my own and my wife's family. There's a real lack of understanding regarding the fringe origins of Kwanzaa. The idea seems to be that if Hallmark makes Kwanzaa cards, the holiday must be legitimate and not a bad thing. My family shies away from scrutinizing "black things" (best to leave it all alone) and my wife's family generally give black opinions, theories, and views (no matter how wild or fantastic) their quick approval and then an almost completely unearned pass. I don't think there's anyone in either branches of my family that would support Kwanzaa after learning the facts about its origins and creator.

Kwanzaa is founded on principles that are incompatible with today's mores and unacceptable by mainstream America's current values-- mores and values resulting from the many years of struggles for civil rights. Kwanzaa champions racial separation, segregation, anger, and meaningless racial confrontation while rejecting racial integration and downplaying interracial understanding and tolerance. It attacks religion rather than respects it-- uses outlandish language and concocted suppositions to coerce a needless and artificial racial confrontation. Kwanzaa's seven principles sacrifice the rights of the individual upon a Marxist altar-- for the sake of communal work, collective economics, and sacrifice of self, all designed to help control Black American individuals and bring them into a black separatist fold-- making them think "correctly." Kwanzaa was founded by a radical and violent black nationalist; a man who was convicted of personally participating in the atrocious tortures of two black women, as well being very closely (if not directly) linked to the1969 murders of two members of the Black Panthers. Kwanzaa is an contrived, artifical, and inauthentic holiday champioing anger and alienation. It is not something to celebrate.

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