Confession: I've never participated in a Kwanzaa celebration. Growing up in Ghana, my awareness of the observance was limited to pictures of African Americans lighting candles that oddly mirrored the colors of the Ghanaian flag. My family didn't observe when we resettled in the U.S., so I've remained an outsider. Honestly, I felt as though it were a diluted expression of "African" culture that caused unnecessary harm by offering participants a false sense of identity based on inauthentic expressions of African heritage. Note to educators: Don't be surprised/offended if your African immigrant students are unaware of this tradition.
As an adult (choosing my own holiday priorities) and an educator (striving to cultivate my students' positive socio-cultural identity and equity literacy), I find myself awakening to the value of Kwanzaa as a community based celebration. The context eluded me as a child; however the legacy of black Americans' liberation in the face of white-supremacy has become increasingly tangible to me as an adult. I now find that Kwanzaa resonates as a spotlight on the values underpinning the resilience and beauty of the African American community. It no longer diminishes the distinctly rich West African heritage which I claim. And so I'm joining the celebration here in Denver. Gratefully.
See what exhibits and events are available at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library.