Kwanzaa Reflections 2015

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My reflections begin with noting how difficult it is to continually generate enthusiasm to keep going every year. The fact that I never got around to writing 2014’s reflections is telling enough. Additional upheaval in my personal life certainly didn’t help either. And the unusual number of cold snaps in our area that killed the Kwanzaa plant–pot and all–was not a great omen. (Neither was the unexpected premature death of the replacement plant IN A PROTECTIVE GREENHOUSE….) If ever a year needed to begin with refocusing and re-centering on our historical greatness and future potential, this was definitely it. The unrest in Ferguson, MO catalyzed by the Michael Brown case and the continued tensions in New York City have sparked an atmosphere of protest and  polarizing viewpoints about the vast inequities in race relations. One would think in these times we as a community would embrace something that encourages a sense of pride, self-worth and unity…..but not only does it seem that we can’t come together in the face of so much vitriolic disdain, so many continue to dismiss and even mock the observance of Kwanzaa itself. I saw a post that angered me in my Kwanzaa web search this season–there was a parade scheduled somewhere in California (Los Angeles, I think) that petered out after maybe 10 minutes due to “lack of public interest.” Disappointing, of course, but what made me angry was the writer’s condescension, mocking the organizers’ efforts to push this “fake, made-up holiday.” I can understand and respect someone not wishing to participate in or celebrate Kwanzaa due to a lack of understanding or even interest, but that dig was unnecessary….and, considering the presence on the calendar and in the public esteem of such “fake, made-up holidays” as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and New Year’s Eve, wholly unjustified as an argument. I already have to face my own issues increasing participation in our New Year’s Day service; people will plan huge celebrations that revolve around staying up late and watching a clock tick down to midnight but asking for a gathering to celebrate entering that new year and committing to ideals to maximize its potential bounties is deemed ridiculous. It continues to annoy me how much resistance there is to even learn even a little something about Kwanzaa, or try to make it relatable to them. Our church’s celebration is certainly not typical, as we manage to blend a deliberately non-religious observance with our Christian faith. But we manage to embrace and hold true to both.

As always, many of the plans I have to expand our celebration’s scope and outreach have yet to be realized. I did procure a small grant this year to assist with our festivities but circumstances arose where the funds did not arrive in time to mount the larger plans. Still, we were able to put on an abbreviated version of our already written ceremony which, with the exception of our pastor leading the Harambee salute, I did all of the readings for. Admittedly, my mood was just as ho-hum as those I rail about as I put things together.  But there’s just something about reading the words and noting the meaning and intention behind the symbols and principles that always motivates and re-energizes me…and even without the planned fellowship after service, I felt encouraged to plan better for next year and to implement the principles of the Nguzo Saba in my daily life.

2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Maulana Karenga’s creation of Kwanzaa–an excellent opportunity to meet in larger numbers and face the New Year laughing and stronger. I have so many projects I want to finish–my Kwanzaa service book, a local Ujamaa directory featuring community businesses (a “Black Pages” If you will), a Kuumba Festival on the last Sunday of the year that will spotlight the artistic endeavors and rich cultural heritage our people enjoy…or should enjoy. And celebrate. Hopefully, next year’s report will see me successful at achieving those goals with determination, dedication…and a little luck.

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