Habari Gani?! Kuumba! Robin Thede Embodied Creativity in 2017

Robin Thede (Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Fast Co.); photo illustration by GMG/The Root
Robin Thede (Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Fast Co.); photo illustration by GMG/The Root

This year, for each day of Kwanzaa, The Root is highlighting one person from the community who exemplifies the principle of the day.


On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, Dec. 31, the principle is Kuumba, or “creativity.” To practice Kuumba is to do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

The person who we felt best exemplified Kuumba this year is Robin Thede.

I mean, black people have basically made creativity a religion, and certainly our creativity has given the world much loved and admired culture. But we wanted to salute Thede in particular for the way she has used comedy and political satire to speak to the travesties of the world today, and for making us laugh while she does it.

For those who may not know, Thede is a 38-year-old comedian, actress, writer and sketch artist born and raised in Iowa. She has written for seminal black comedians like Mike Epps and most recently was head writer of The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore. In 2017 Thede began hosting The Rundown With Robin Thede on BET, and we finally got to see someone black—a black woman, at that—explicate the racial animus and ridiculousness of the day, smothered in our cultural Vaseline: humor.

And it is phenomenal. Thede’s sketches and “bodega concerts” give us refuge (and life) in the short span of 30 minutes. The saddest part is that it’s for only one day per week, but she checks all the boxes in making our community more beautiful through laughter—which we know is good for the souls of black folk.

Who do you think exemplified Kuumba, or creativity, this year? Sound off in the comments!

Sidenote: Those practicing Kwanzaa greet each other with the words “Habari Gani?!” roughly translated as “What’s the good news?” To which participants respond with the principle of the day, in this case, “Kuumba!” (which kinda sounds like a mix of Timon and Pumba ... with a K).

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.


Joey Bada$$ or Jordan Peele. Honorable mention to Issa Rae.