Monday is Kwanzaa, so Kamala Harris has a story to tell about her celebration of Kwanzaa when she was a child.
Kwanzaa was an important time in my family’s life as a child. My family and I reflect on these seven principles today. Happy Kwanzaa! pic.twitter.com/w1pFOIUU9G
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) December 26, 2022
“Doug & I wish you all a happy holiday season. Kwanzaa was a very special holiday growing up. We gathered with generations of family, friends, and neighbors. There weren’t enough chairs. My sister, me and other children used to sit together on the ground and light the Kinara candles. The elders would then talk about Kwanzaa as a time to celebrate culture and community, family, and friends. They also taught us the seven principles. Kujichagulia was my favorite principle. Self-determination is the ability to create your life and decide your future. It is an American principle that guides me as Vice President.
Doug Emhoff’s mouth movement when she talks about generations coming together is evident. This makes me wonder if Doug Emhoff thinks that this part of the story involves bull cookies.
People who believed she was manipulating the situation and doubted her story got many responses to the video.
I really love you, VP. You don’t expect people to believe that, do you?
— (@_nadelizabeth) December 26, 2022
My colleague Jennifer Van Laar previously pointed out that it was an unlikely story because Kamala was only born in 1964. Kwanzaa was not invented until 1966 and was then not widely known until later. It was therefore impossible that the “generations” could have been so attached. Her Jamaican father had divorced her Indian mother in 1971, and she was given custody by her Indian mother. Kamala moved to Canada with her mother when she was in middle school.
However, some pointed out that if the Kwanzaa story is true, it could be more problematic due to the timing. She was raised in Berkeley/Oakland, which was at that time a hotbed for radicalism. According to her sister, “experience with blackness and relationship with it is through being raised within these communities in Berkeley/Oakland and not through the lense of being Caribbean.” She might have been receiving a radical piece of it in her late sixties.
Kwanzaa was originally viewed as an alternative to Christmas. However, Karenga believed that Christmas “stood the way of Black cultural advance,” Keith Mayes, historian, wrote in his book Kwanzaa. Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition. As the holiday became more popular in the 1980s and 90s, Karenga changed his mind to avoid alienating Black religious people. Karenga stated in 1997, Kwanzaa: Celebration of Family, Culture, and Community that Kwanzaa was not meant to be an alternative to a religion or religious holiday.
It was why so many people in the 70s didn’t celebrate it, especially religious families. Also, because of the radical origins and convictions of Maulana Karenga (a black nationalist who was convicted in 1971 of felony assault, torture and false imprisonment of women), the founder of the organization, the 1970s saw him as a radical. He was released after serving only a few years. In 1975, he became a professor and is now the chair for Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach.
But maybe Kamala is trying to catch up to Joe Biden with creatively-embellished history. She said “Kwanzaa” as opposed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, who called it “Schwanzaa”. If you want to pander to the masses, make sure the holiday name is correct.