Last Saturday, Ward 8 Democrats hosted a very interesting Kwanzaa celebration at the Washington Highlands Library. Although I am African American, grew up in an inner city, and attended a historically black college, I have never given much thought to celebrating Kwanzaa. And I am not alone. When CNN's DL Hughley asked a pedestrian why she doesn't celebrate Kwanzaa, she responded by saying, "Because there are no presents, and I'm not into that homemade stuff." Christmas and Hanukkah take care of the presents, so what's wrong with the homemade stuff?
Here are some observations:
- The African methodoly legitimizing Kwanzaa is questionable
- The purpose of Kwanzaa can be considered divisive in the era of Obama
- The communitarian means of acheiving progress via Kwanzaa is widely unpopular
Despite the shortcomings listed above, Kwanzaa isn't going anywhere. In fact, it actually has a wealth of possibilities. But we have to find a way to make it relevant to today's generation of African Americans who are not black nationalists. A comprehensive solution is rebranding. Rebranding happens all the time: companies rebrand products, celebrities rebrand their image, and political parties rebrand their message.
Suggestions to rebranding Kwanzaa:
1. Develop alternative to the "cooperative economics" principle. This is largely because Marxism simply isn't cool unless you live in Cuba or North Korea.
2. Produce a deliverable – It helps to be able to point to something and say the "spirit of Kwanzaa" moved us to do x, y, and z.
3. Launch a marketing campaign – A wholesome and respectable spokesperson like Felicia Rashaad, Sydney Poitier, or Maya Angelou would serve us well.
I guess the question we should ask is, are we better off as a community because Kwanzaa exists? If not, then we need to undertake a transformational change that will make it more relevant. My friend Tom often reminds me that the two most important things in life are 1) creative thought and 2) the appreciation of creative thought. The founder of Kwanzaa obviously put a lot of thought into this holiday. Although it is not a colossal failure, there are definitely areas that can use improvement. Let's use the Kwanzaa principle of Creativity (aka Kuumba) and develop a holistic approach to making this a more sustainable celebration in our community.
Given the challenges we face in River East, investing in this feat of unity wouldn't hurt. And if it works, it will be well worth the effort.