It’s become a tradition at my house to host a Christmas Eve party. This way we get to exchange gifts with family but we don’t have to leave the house on Christmas Day. This year, The Misses expanded it into an ugly sweater party with a ‘white elephant’ gift exchange. We had a signature drink, guests kept their shoes on, and it was pretty fucking hype.
But my sister didn't come. Because she's celebrating Kwanzaa instead.
Which didn't — and still doesn't — make sense to me. Because Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas and ends on New Year’s Day, so there’s not even a logistical conflict. Just take a warm rag, wipe away the Christmas euphoria, get naked, drink some Kool-Aid in the mirror, and light the Umoja candle. That means my sister’s excuse for missing my Christmas Eve party is complete bullshit. In her defense, the official guide to Kwanzaa says you’re not supposed to mix it with other cultural celebrations but every great institution has to compromise. Basically, baby sis needs to bring her Pan-African biracial ass to Fairburn Road on Christmas Eve next!
But it got me thinking: If someone’s gonna miss my wife’s mac n’ cheese in the name of Kwanzaa, then Kwanzaa needs to step it up. I remember Kwanzaa had a little momentum in the 90s but now it’s only included in the ‘Happy Holidays’ discussion so people don’t feel like racists. I live in a Black neighborhood, in Atlanta, with my Black wife, sifting through GroupMe messages from my Black fraternity, and yet I only personally know one person who actively celebrates it every year. And this needs to change.
How? Good question.
1. It's too damn serious
For anyone who doubts this, check out the official website. (Yes, Kwanzaa has an official website.) It's stuck in 1999 GeoCities Hell, and the founder looks like he’s either posing for a back page book cover or staring down the Feds. It’s apparent to me that historians are not only in the driver’s seat with this holiday, but they’re in the passenger and back seat too. Perhaps they don't need a Snapchat and some trap music, but they could use a marketing guru, a front-end web designer, and some better font.
2. An itsy bitsy teenie weenie bit of selling out wouldn't hurt
Name a popular holiday without candy, whimsical costumes, and accouterments. You can’t! K-Day should hook up with the Bronner Brothers and host an Ujamaa festival for the best Black hairstyles of winter (to be held in D.C. of course). Hold Black Friday sales on edge control and satin pillows. Have Janelle Monae teach an Ujima yoga workshop for $50 a pop. Get OWN to play Queen Sugar and Selma all week. There are soooo many options here.
3. A celebrity co-sign would be nice
Jesse Williams could work. As could Idris Elba. Shit, we could make him and K. Michelle the official Kwanzaa couple. Just imagine if Jussie Smollett Snapchatted himself singing in his Kwanzaa corner. Target would be selling Kinara candle holders by next November.
4. Allow room for Christmas
Kwanzaa wants to be that hip-hop purist when it could have a bigger impact with some crossover hits. Consider Busta Rhymes. He used to cypher with Tribe but he also made “Pass the Courvoisier.” Everyone knows Busta can spit but even Martha Stewart fucks with Busta. Think how nice it would be to hang a Kwanzaa ornament on the Christmas tree.
5. Make it another opportunity for Black people to eat Black food
Who feasts better than Black folk? I know some negroes who get excited for funerals just because the repast is guaranteed to be delicious. Most soul food has been blessed by the African diaspora so we’ll just have another reason to eat greens and sweet potatoes. Kwanzaa candy might be a little lame for a few years, but give it some time.
6. Maybe appoint someone other than Dr. Maulana Karenga as its figurehead
If Kwanzaa sincerely wants to expand, then it needs a leader with an unblemished past, not one who has some prominent and disturbing, um, blemishes. I know he's the founder, but sometimes founders need to step aside for the good of the company.
Anyway, this someone should have a super high approval rating. And unquestioned Blackness bonafides. And quite a bit of free time soon.
Michelle Obama is that someone! Someone make this happen!
As the country's political climate has changed for the worse, now’s the time for us to acknowledge as much Black exceptionalism as possible. Start this year by adding a Kwanzaa component to your holidays, and Kwanzaa needs to help us help it.
Oh, and one more thing. This year is the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa. Where’s the damn commemorative plates?!
Eric Goldson is an Atlanta Supremacist who works for a news network and even harder for his young family, both of which are unrelenting.