Illustration for article titled Kwanzaa Is Dame Dash to Jay-Z’s Christmas
Photo: Joe Corrigan (Getty Images)

There was a time back when Kwanzaa and Christmas were cruising on a yacht popping Cristal and truly Big Pimpin’.

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Then there was a feud, something about Christmas cozying up with Lyor Cohen or Kwanzaa promoting Cam’ron to the president of Holiday Records, and Christmas bounced, went on to marry Beyoncé and partnered with the NFL. Kwanzaa went on kicking pro-black business and going at the establishment, saying shit like: “There is no amount of money in this world someone could pay me for me to call them my boss. That’s like calling somebody ‘daddy.’”

Then, Kwanzaa kind of lost its shit and started wearing those goofy gazelle (Cazal) glasses. Basically, Kwanzaa took its tooth out and never received the success it had in the days of yesteryear. On some real shit, much like Dame Dash, Kwanzaa started out swimmingly. During The Root’s push to “Make Kwanzaa Great Again” Michael Harriot explained that Kwanzaa is like Christmas on C.P. Time. It begins the day after Christmas and lasts until Jan. 1.

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He adds:

Kwanzaa is from the Swahili matunda ya kwanza—a phrase that either means “first fruits of the harvest” or “kente cloth Christmas.” It was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966 as the first holiday explicitly for African Americans.

It was supposed to be black Christmas. It had a uniform and special days with black meanings, gifts, and a feast, but it never got off the ground as a solo act.

What Kwanzaa needed was a frontman (unless we don’t include Kwanzaa Timmy…) In short, it never had a Jay-Z.

Kwanzaa just fell flat, but, much like Dash’s position in his countless interviews, the holiday’s intentions are good. Kwanzaa wants to promote pro-blackness that doesn’t salute a fat white man bearing gifts and a keycard to enter all chimney-less apartments. Kwanzaa wanted to take the holiday opportunity to teach dashiki principles but instead, it got turned into some clown shit. Kwanzaa became the kid at school who shows up to the lunchroom with a sandwich made with sprouts and Ezekiel bread—while it was crafted with the best intentions, it’s a hard sell in a lunchroom full of PB&Js.

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Kwanzaa had a spark when it started but now...it’s confronting Lee Daniels over a loan. And reportedly asking for $500 for interviews. What’s always missing from Dame Dash interview soundbites is what he’s actually promoting. When Dame asks why there are so many culture vultures in hip-hop or why hip-hop isn’t owned and operated by blacks, that’s a fundamentally sound-ass Kwanzaa question and nothing but the Kwanzaa principle Umoja (unity). When he talks about teaching his children the value of hard work and ownership so that they never have to have a boss, that’s the combined Kwanzaa principles of Ujima (collective work and responsibility) and Ujamaa (cooperative economics). When Dame talks culture vultures taking over hip-hop and wondering why we don’t own it, he’s merely pontificating on how we can continue to “define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.” Hello, Kujichagulia (self-determination).

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Basically Dame Dash is the walking personification of Kwanzaa in all of its toothless glory, both the good and the bad, but all most people see are the weird African names and the fake menorah (which is called a kinara, btw.)

Kwanzaa watches now as Christmas goes commercial and grows its hair out and tells black news how we’ve gotten past kneeling, as it partners with the owners on the NFL plantation. Somewhere between the Marcy projects and vogueing at the Met, we lost Christmas and I don’t think there will ever be a way to get it back. Christmas is mainstream, and not even Beyoncè can save it. But there is still a chance for Kwanzaa; that is, of course, assuming that Kwanzaa continues to stay current on his child support payments and stops badmouthing Christmas.

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Because Christmas has already responded: I heard motherfuckers saying they made Christmas, which made Christmas say OK, so, make another Christmas.

But do we really want another Christmas?

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.

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